Providing responsive and intuitive documentation is a key concern for every software business, from SaaS to desktop applications. Whether you're documenting a series of steps or explaining precisely how to get the most from your product, you'll need a fast and SEO-friendly website for your knowledge base.
The Hugo static site generator (SSG) provides speed in spades, with an average page speed of <1ms at build time. With a global content delivery network (CDN) like CloudCannon's, you can rely on speed at the user's end as well. But what about the appearance of your online documentation?
Luckily for Hugo users, there are many clean, modern themes available for documentation. Some offer additional features, like blogging support, while others are as minimal as possible, aiming for the fastest road possible to minimal viable documentation. We've chosen a dozen of the best documentation themes available for Hugo, for a range of use-cases. While the following themes take a range of approaches to documentation, all are well-designed and support Hugo's amazing speed and flexibility.
Docsy is a feature-rich documentation theme, providing autogenerated site navigation for ease of use. Other features include optimizing page layouts for different content types; feedback, contribution, and contact links; and internationalization for multiple language sites, building on Hugo's multi-language support.
Docsy's default template includes built-in integration with GitHub, Google Analytics, Google Custom Search, Algolia DocSearch, and Lunr, and can be easily configured with your custom colours, images and page layouts. Docsy offers your users an organized and navigable documentation experience, leaving you to focus on the content itself.
Note: Though Docsy sits within Google's GitHub account, it is not an officially supported Google product. It is, however, actively maintained, and very popular.
The Book documentation theme promises docs "as simple as a plain book" — it's a clean and simple design that won't interfere or clash with other layouts. Book also offers simple blog support for section
posts, and with no initial configuration necessary, Book is a prime candidate for getting Hugo documentation up and running as soon as possible.
With automated search, multilingual mode, unlimited menu levels, and automative next/prev buttons for user navigation, Learn is practically a turnkey Hugo template for documentation.
It also features image tools such as resizing and drop shadows, mermaid diagram support (flowchart, sequence, gantt), and has a range of customizable options for your site's look and feel.Learn also has clearly documented instructions for installation and initial setup.
The three-panel layout and optional popout nav bar, along with tabbed language controls for code blocks, provides a beautifully clear and quickly navigable user experience.
Kube is a beautiful and responsive Hugo the for documentation sites, aimed at both designers and developers. In addition to its documentation section, it offers a landing page and blogging support, meaning users will be able to create fully fledged sites by default.
Based on the Kube Framework, every element in Kube is designed for mobile-first, with responsive design throughout, and is based on a 4px vertical grid. Kube is design-focused with excellent typography, and also supports a range of popular and frequently used features, including rich post data, list pagination, post reading time, block templates, and an accessible table of contents.
Themefisher's Dot documentation theme is an attractive and user-friendly template for Hugo, with support for contact forms, Google Analytics and multiple languages.
Shadocs is a relatively new multilingual documentation theme for Hugo, built on the Bulma CSS framework. As its name suggests, its aim is to provide shared documentation with a focus on user navigation — each content page in Shadocs generates its own table of contents associated with titles on the page. Shadocs also supports Mermaid diagrams, importing libraries or third-party code such as SASS files, and as a final touch, QR codes for each page.
Eureka is a feature-rich and customizable multilingual Hugo theme, which supports landing pages and blogging. While it's not solely a documentation theme, Eureka has a minimal documentation mode, with an information architecture modelled on chapters and automatic page sidebar navigation based on the page's title headings.
Doks is an easily customizable Hugo theme for building secure, fast, and SEO-ready documentation websites. Even better, its initial installation is amazingly well optimized: it's secure and speedy by default, with A+ scores on Mozilla Observatory and 100 scores on Google Lighthouse out of the box. Doks automatically removes unused CSS, prefetches links, and lazy loads images. Doks also uses FlexSearch for full-text search, and allows you to customize you're site's search index settings.
And as an added bonus, Doks supports dark mode, with single-button switch to a (configurable) low-light UI.
Geekdoc is another clean and simple theme for your documentation website, built for speed but highly customizable via CSS variables and Hugo parameters. If you'd like to spin up your docs site in minutes with zero config, it's a great option.
For light-sensitive users, Geekdoc's dark mode can be controlled by a toggle switch or respond to users' system preferences.
There we have it — a dozen top free Hugo documentation themes for any use case. Once you've built your Hugo site with your chosen theme, check out our Getting Started with Hugo tutorial to find out how to deploy with CloudCannon and its intuitive editor for documentation teams.
Give your content team full autonomy on your developer-approved tech stack with CloudCannon.
Jaimie McMahon · 27 Nov 2023
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