Build Your Own Website With Cloud9 and GitHub Pages

About Me

Alexandra Ulsh



Women Who Code DC Front End Hack Night (FEHN) Lead

Microsoft SharePoint technical consultant for the DoD


  • Learn Git
  • Learn GitHub
  • Learn GitHub Pages
  • Learn a little Bash
  • Learn Cloud9 

I want you to leave this class with the knowledge and tools to build your own website using GitHub Pages.

What is Open Source?

Open = Free, available, public, transparent


Source = software source code

Public repositories on GitHub are open source.

Contrast with commercial proprietary software.

What is Git?

Distributed version control software for source code


Distributed = a copy (repository) on your machine, not one copy on a central server 


Created in 2005 by Linus Torvalds (Linux kernel).


Software to help you write software

What is GitHub?

Social coding


Website that hosts public and private Git repositories


Collaborate with others


Distribute and share your code


social media 




What is GitHub Pages?

Public web site hosting on GitHub's servers via Git repositories


User pages =

Organization pages =

Project pages =

GitHub Pages Limitations

  • Can only use static files
  • HTML, CSS, JavaScript, CSV, JSON, geoJSON
  • No PHP, Node.js, Ruby, Django, or server-side frameworks
  • This means it is hard to manage pieces of code that repeat on multiple pages - menus, headers, and footers

Unless you use Jekyll!


  • GitHub the website runs on Ruby on Rails
  • Jekyll = a Ruby gem
  • Static site generator - generates static HTML files from templates
  • All GitHub Pages sites are processed via Jekyll, even regular HTML sites
  • Created by Tom Preston Warner, founder of GitHub

Why use GitHub Pages?

  • Free!
  • Easy to use and configure
  • People can easily view your website's awesome code

What is Cloud9?

Free cloud-based integrated development environment (IDE)


Each workspace is its own Linux Ubuntu Docker container


40+ programming languages

Why use Cloud9?

  • Hardware agnostic = socioeconomic accessibility
  • Saves time - pre-configured
  • Amazing productivity features
  • Live preview and cross-browser testing
  • Collaborative coding - "Google docs style"
  • Available from any computer or tablet

Why have a personal website?

  • You are in complete control of your personal brand
  • SEO when your name is Googled
  • Career advancement
  • Showcase portfolio
  • Women not socialized to self-promote...
  • Let's change that by making our own websites

It's easy to configure and develop your own website...

the hardest part is writing the content!

My goal is to help eliminate any technical barriers to setting up your own personal website so you can instead focus on the code and the content.

Let's get started!

Create a GitHub Account

Keep the Free Plan

GitHub Welcome Page

Create a New User Pages Repository

GitHub Repository

GitHub User Profile

Organization Profile

What is

.md = Markdown


"Text-to-HTML conversion tool"


GitHub uses GitHub Flavored Markdown


You can use Emojis!

Cloud9 - GitHub Sign In

Authorize application

Cloud9 Dashboard

Clone Username Repo

Create Workspace from Repo

Repository Workspace

Git is already installed

Let's add some files!

Create with GUI

GUI = Graphical User Interface

Upload Local Files

Create files via Bash

# Create a new file
touch index.html

Quick Intro to Bash

Why learn bash? Because it saves time

Builds command line interface (CLI) skills

CLIs used in SASS, bower, Node.js, and Ruby

 The Terminal

Create files via the Terminal

# Create a new file
touch index.html

# Create a new directory (folder)
# mkdir = "Make directory"
mkdir css

# Change the current directory
# cd = "Change directory"
cd css

# Create CSS stylesheet
touch styles.css

Open Files Quickly in Cloud9

# Open file in Cloud9
c9 index.html
# Where am I? What's my working directory?
# pwd = "Print working directory"
# returns /home/ubuntu/workspace/css

# List files in current directory
# ls = "list"
# returns styles.css

# Go back a directory (to the parent)
cd ..

# Go back two directories
cd ../..

# Clear all text in the terminal

Navigating the File System

# Remove a file
# rm = "Remove"
rm styles.css

# Remove a directory containing files
# -r = "Recursive"
rm -r css 

# Delete empty directory
# rmdir = "Remove directory"
rmdir js

Deleting Files and Directories

Let's add some code!


<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
	    <meta charset="utf-8">
	    <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=edge">
	    <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1">
	    <title>My Personal Website</title>
	    <link href="css/styles.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css">
        <div class="container">
            <h1>My Personal Website</h1>
            <p>Here's a puppy</p>
            <img src="img/Dougie-the-Shih-Tzu.jpg">

Preview index.html

Side by Side

Live Preview Changes

Preview In Your Browser

Run with Apache

Different URL

Test on Multiple Browsers

Let's Add Our Code to GitHub

Checking Git Status

git status

Adding Untracked Files

# Add one file
git add index.html

# Add all current untracked files
git add --all

Commiting Changes

# Commit changes to the local working directory
# -m = "Message"
git commit -m "My first commit"

Push Changes to GitHub

# Push changes to GitHub repository on the master branch
git push origin master

Let's check GitHub...

Hmm... let's wait 5-10 minutes?


Let's create a branch to test some CSS!

Branches allow us to safely isolate changes or work on multiple features in parallel

# Create a new branch
git branch css

# Switch to the new branch
git checkout css

# Shortcut - create and switch to new branch
git checkout -b css

Update styles.css

Commit and push changes to CSS branch

# Add modified styles.css to tracked files in CSS branch
git add --all

# Commit changes to CSS branch
git commit -m "Set default font family to Sans Serif"

# Push changes to CSS branch on Github
# NOTE we are pushing to "origin css" not "origin master"
git push origin css

Let's check GitHub...

New CSS branch!

Hmm... my website hasn't changed though?

For user pages, only the master branch is public.

We need to merge our changes in the css branch with the master branch.

Merging Branches

# Check out the master branch
git checkout master

# Merge the CSS branch with the master branch
git merge css

# Push changes from merge back to master branch on Github
git push origin master

Website updated!

Delete the Old Branch

# Delete the remote branch on Github
git push origin --delete css

# Delete the local branch
# -d = "Delete"
git branch -d css

# View available branches
git branch

Troubleshooting Updates

If an update is not showing on your site despite pushing the changes to GitHub, open up your browser's developer tools and disable caching.

Google Chrome Developer Tools = Ctrl + Shift + J

Make sure "Disable cache" is checked, then refresh the page.

I want to host a portfolio on my website.

Try GitHub Project Pages!

These use the gh-pages branch of any repository, as long as you have already created a User Pages repository.

Project Pages Setup

  1. Create new repository on GitHub
  2. Create new workspace in Cloud9 from GitHub repository
  3. Add files and code to new workspace
  4. Push code to master branch
  5. Create a gh-pages branch
  6. Push gh-pages branch to GitHub

Sample Project

Sample Project Repository

Setup the Project Page

# Create the gh-pages branch
git branch gh-pages

# Checkout the gh-pages branch
git checkout gh-pages

# Push the gh-pages branch to GitHub
git push origin gh-pages

Admire Your Work

NOTE: Project Pages URLs are case sensitive!

GitHub Extras!

.gitignore file

Allows certain files, file extensions, and folders to be excluded from your Git repository.


Particularly useful for Node.js applications.

To enable in Cloud9, show hidden files.

Sometimes may have to add the hidden .c9 folder to a .gitignore file.

GitHub Social and Collaboration Features

  • Watch a repo
  • Star a repo
  • Submit an issue
  • Pull requests

Watch a repo

Get notifications of any new pull requests or issues.

Star a repo

  • Bookmark interesting repositories
  • Show appreciation of good work
  • Affects ranking of repository

Log an Issue

Pull Requests

What if I want my own custom domain name for my website?

Buy your domain name

I used namecheap

CNAME = canonical name


DNS (Domain Name System) record


Points an alias (domain name), to another domain name (canonical name).


For example, is the alias for

Add a CNAME file to GitHub Repo

CNAME file does not have a file extension.

Configure DNS with your domain name provider

Domain name needs to point to Github's servers.

Cloud9 Extras

  • Node.js, PHP, Go, C++, Ruby on Rails, Django...
  • Npm already installed
  • Bower already installed

Want more to do for your website?

Check out Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Google Analytics.

Need Inspiration?

Check out some personal websites of awesome women and non-binary people in the DC Tech scene.




Come to Women Who Code DC's Front End Hack Night!


Every Monday, 6:30-8:30pm

Build Your Own Website With Cloud9 and GitHub Pages

By Alexandra Ulsh

Build Your Own Website With Cloud9 and GitHub Pages

Presented at the 2015 DC Tech Lady Hackathon

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