I came across Hugo recently, a ridiculously fast website framework which is perfect for setting up a simple blog, serving up static webpages (which is something I love). Two hours later, I had purchased a domain via Namecheap, setup a Debian VPS with Vultr and was ready to begin the project.

Installing Nginx

Nginx is a great, open source choice to run a simple blog like this one, it’s lightweight and fairly easy to get setup. Nginx is available in all major distro repositories, on a Debian you can install Nginx using apt:

$ sudo apt install nginx -y

On a Red Hat based distro, you can install Nginx using yum:

$ sudo yum install nginx -y

Once installed, start the service and confirm you can reach the default Nginx landing page by visiting your site.

$ sudo systemctl start nginx

Looks good! If you get to this stage, your server is accepting connections to port 80. If not, check your server is listening on port 80:

$ ss -lntp | grep 80

If you get no output, Nginx hasn’t started correctly. If you get output, but you still can’t hit the landing page, check your firewall is allowing connections to port 80.

Installing Hugo

Hugo is a fast and modern static site generator written in Go and can be installed on just about anything. Grab the latest release from Hugo’s Github repository and run the following command:

hugo version

If you get some output, Hugo is ready to go. If you don’t get any output, ensure that the Hugo binary is in your $PATH variable, this will differ based on OS. On Linux you can execute $PATH, this will print out the locations your terminal is able to run programs from.

-bash: /usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin

Creating your site

Assuming you have Hugo working as expected, you may want to create a new directory for your site contents to live in. In my case, I setup a folder in /home/ named sites, then ran the following command:

$ hugo new site sitenamehere

Hugo will go ahead and create a directory structure which looks like this:

drwxr-xr-x  2 www-data www-data 4096 Sep 10 21:00 archetypes
-rw-r--r--  1 www-data www-data  539 Sep 15 16:49 config.toml
drwxr-xr-x  3 www-data www-data 4096 Sep 11 15:58 content
drwxr-xr-x  2 www-data www-data 4096 Sep 10 21:00 data
drwxr-xr-x  2 www-data www-data 4096 Sep 10 21:00 layouts
drwxr-xr-x  6 root     root     4096 Aug 30  1754 public
drwxr-xr-x  3 www-data www-data 4096 Sep 10 21:05 resources
drwxr-xr-x  2 www-data www-data 4096 Sep 15 17:01 static
drwxr-xr-x  3 www-data www-data 4096 Sep 10 21:02 themes

To find out a bit more about how this all ties into your site generation, check the Hugo documentation.

Adding a theme to Hugo

Hugo has a great collection of themes on their website to choose from, I chose the hello-friend-ng for my blog. Follow the instructions to download your theme of choice and save the theme into your themes/ folder in your sites contents. Finally, add the theme name to your config.toml file in the root of your site contents:

baseURL = "https://jameskent.xyz"
languageCode = "en-us"
title = "James Kent"
theme = "hello-friend-ng"
paginate = 10

Creating a post

Now for the actual content. Run the following command to create a new post:

$ hugo new posts/my-first-post.md

Hugo will create a new post named my-first-post in your content/posts folder. Make all of the edits to this file you would like to make, then save your changes.

Generating your site

After all of these changes to your site, adding your theme and creating your first post you should generate your site. This is the real power behind Hugo, simply change directory into your site folder, and run:

$ hugo

                   | EN  
  Pages            |  7  
  Paginator pages  |  0  
  Non-page files   |  0  
  Static files     | 13  
  Processed images |  0  
  Aliases          |  2  
  Sitemaps         |  1  
  Cleaned          |  0  

Total in 98 ms

Configuring Nginx

You should have Nginx installed at this point, if not, refer back to the first section of this article for instruction.

We need write out a configuration file, so Nginx knows what content to serve to users visiting your site. Luckily for us, Nginx installs with a default site configuration file which we can copy and use for our site:

$ cd /etc/nginx/sites-available
$ cp default nameofmysite

Now we have a copy of the default configuration file, open your site file in your favourite text editor. A lot of this file is taken up by comments, without comments, your site config should look something like this:

server {
       listen 80; # Tells nginx which port to listen on for incoming connections.
       listen [::]:80; #

       server_name mysite.com www.mysite.com; # Enter your site name here.

       root /home/username/mysite/public/; # Enter the full path to your Hugo site here.
       index index.html;

       location / {
               try_files $uri $uri/ =404;

To enable the site, add a symlink from your site’s location into the /etc/nginx/sites-enabled:

$ sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/mysitename /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/mysitename

Finally, enable and restart the Nginx service:

$ sudo systemctl enable nginx
$ sudo systemctl restart nginx

Adding SSL to your site

Adding SSL to your site has never been easier and best of all, it’s completely free! There are a myriad of reasons to add SSL to your site which I won’t go into detail in, in this blog post. Just do it.

Visit the certbot site to get detailed instructions for installing on your OS and web server of choice.


Assuming you ran through this article without any errors, your site should be up and running! Hugo is a fantastic project and I have had a great time so far getting it installed and setup.