Sean Boots

Technology, public services, and people. But mostly people.

Installing Jekyll locally on MacOS Big Sur

Our team often uses Jekyll and GitHub Pages to build micro-sites for project documentation. Jekyll is a static website builder, which makes it easy to build and deploy essentially indestructible (although usually not interactive) websites. Similar tools include Hugo (my go-to for most civic tech projects), Gatsby (which powers “Is this blocked in my department?”), and Eleventy (which I’ve only used once, but found really easy to use). Jekyll is the OG of static websites and it’s a bit dated nowadays, but GitHub Pages’ built-in support for it is really handy.

I recently set up Jekyll for the first time in a while on a new computer, which involves getting Ruby and the Bundler package manager to work happily. Here are the steps I used.

(Note that this is for a fresh install on a new Mac, using the default zsh shell; if you’ve upgraded to Big Sur and have older Ruby versions or packages installed, you may want to follow the steps here or here to use Homebrew, rvm, or another installation method.)

Installation steps

1. Clone the static website repository you’re working on, and cd into that folder.

2. Check that a new enough version of Ruby is installed to meet Jekyll’s system requirements:

ruby -v

The version of Ruby included with Big Sur (currently 2.6.0) is recent enough; good to go there.

3. In the past, I’ve installed Ruby gems using sudo, as part of the system Ruby installation. That’s no longer recommended, so instead I did the following:

gem install --user-install bundler jekyll

4. Then, I added Bundler (and other gems) to my path file following the instructions here:

echo 'export PATH="$HOME/.gem/ruby/2.6.0/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.zshrc

Note that for newer versions of Ruby, you should change 2.6.0 above to match your installed version. If you’re using the Bash shell the syntax is slightly different.

5. Once Bundler was installed, I needed to use a similar approach to save bundle packages locally, rather than in a system-wide location.

From within the website folder, I ran:

bundle config set --local path 'vendor/bundle'

Which saves packages to a “vendor” directory within the project folder, similar to Composer’s “vendor” folder or npm’s “node_modules” folder.

6. Then, I ran:

bundle install

7. Finally, you’ll need to exclude that vendor folder from Jekyll’s config file, so that it doesn’t try to parse and generate webpages from anything recognizable in that vendor folder. You can do that by adding a “vendor/” line to the exclude config list, for example:

- .ruby-gemset
- .ruby-version
- Gemfile
- Gemfile.lock
- Makefile
- vendor/

8. You’ll want to add the following lines to your .gitignore file as well:


9. After that, you’re good to run your Jekyll site locally! You can do that with,

bundle exec jekyll serve --watch --baseurl ''

…although this might vary slightly depending on your Jekyll setup.

Happy Jekyll’ing!