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Blogging in Eleventy

Learn how to use Liquid templating to create a blog with Eleventy.

By Mike Neumegen

A simple Eleventy blog consists of two different page types:

  1. A page to list all the posts.
  2. A page to show an individual blog post.

In this lesson we’ll demonstrate how these page types work together to create your very own blog.

Collections

Collections are a way of grouping content together which allows you to list, paginate, and filter in interesting ways. We’re going to use a collection for our blog.

You add a piece of content to a collection by assigning it a string in a front matter field called tags. Pages with the same tag are grouped together in a collection.

Creating a blog list page

First let’s create the page that will list all of the blog posts. Create a file called blog.html in the root of your site. I’ve opted for HTML over Markdown for clarity. Markdown is great for content but for structuring a layout, HTML is far clearer. Add the following to blog.html:

---
title: Blog
layout: page.html
---
<h1>My posts</h1>
<ul>
{% for post in collections.posts | reverse %}
<li>
<a href="{{ post.url }}">{{ post.data.title }}</a> - {{ post.date }}
</li>
{% endfor %}
</ul>

There’s a few new concepts here; let me explain.

  1. collections.posts doesn’t exist yet. We’ll set this up in the next step.
  2. We’re calling the reverse filter on the posts. By default it returns the posts oldest to newest. A blog is the opposite.
  3. .url can be called on any page to get its output URL. It’s particularly useful if you want to link to a page.

That’s it for the list page, let’s have a look at the posts.

Creating posts

The hard part is already done. Let’s get this blog going by creating some posts.

First we’ll create a folder in the root of the site called posts. As you may have guessed, this is where our posts will live.

Let’s create three blog posts in your posts file, with a markdown .md file extension. We named them after the post title, but you can use any naming convention.

---
title: Playing dead
date: 2022-06-01
layout: post.html
tags:
- posts

---

Opossums have a physiological response to play dead when
danger is presented. They have no control over this response,
similar to fainting for humans.
---
title: Tick eaters
date: 2022-06-02
layout: post.html
tags:
- posts

---

Ticks don't stand a chance with opossums around. A single
opossum can eat up to 5,000 ticks per season.
---
title: Immunities
date: 2022-06-03
layout: post.html
tags:
- posts

---

Opossums have a wide range of natural immunities
including rabies, snake venom, honeybee stings,
and botulism toxin. (I hope they enjoy their natural wrinkles.)

We need to create a layout specifically for a post at /_includes/post.html:

---
layout: page.html
---
<h1>{{ title }}</h1>
<p>{{ date | date: "%Y-%m-%d" }}</p>
{{ content }}

One thing to note here is we have front matter in a layout, which is setting another layout. In Eleventy, this is called layout chaining: our posts call the post.html layout, which in turn calls the page.html layout. This allows us to reuse layouts in a variety of situations which promotes better maintainability.

Finally, let’s add the blog to the navigation. Open /_includes/_nav.html and add another list item:

<li><a href="/blog/">Blog</a></li>

Take a look at the site in your browser and navigate through your very own Eleventy-powered blog.

It's a date

We want to display the date each blog post was published on our blog list page. At the moment, our page will display each post with a long date format which is more complex than we need. Depending on what timezone you are in, it might look something like this:

Wed Jun 01 2022 12:00:00 UTC+0000

We want to simplify this date to something more readable, such as:

01 Jun 2022

Let’s create a filter called readableDate to modify how the publication date of each blog post is shown on the blog list page.

Eleventy doesn’t have a date time object built in, however it is easy to add with a plugin. First we’ll install the luxon plugin to our site. Use the following in your terminal:

npm install luxon

Next we’ll tell Eleventy about this plugin. This will require two lines in .eleventy.js. Add the following line to the top of the file:

const { DateTime } = require('luxon');

Then add the following line to the eleventyConfig quote block:

  eleventyConfig.addFilter('readableDate', (dateObj) => {
return DateTime.fromJSDate(dateObj, { zone: 'utc' }).toFormat(
'dd LLL yyyy'
);
})

Your .eleventy.js file should now look like this.

//Include the eleventy-sass plugin
const eleventySass = require("eleventy-sass");

//Include the luxon plugin
const { DateTime } = require('luxon');

module.exports = function(eleventyConfig) {
eleventyConfig.addPlugin(eleventySass);

//Add the filter "readableDate" to simplify the way blog dates are presented
eleventyConfig.addFilter('readableDate', (dateObj) => {
return DateTime.fromJSDate(dateObj, { zone: 'utc' }).toFormat(
'dd LLL yyyy'
);
});

};

Finally, let’s call the readableDate filter in the blog.html list page. Add | readableDate in the same curly brackets as {{ post.date }}, as shown below:

---
title: Blog
layout: page.html
---
<h1>My posts</h1>
<ul>
{% for post in collections.posts | reverse %}
 <li>
   <a href="{{ post.url }}">{{ post.data.title }}</a> - {{ post.date | readableDate }}
 </li>
{% endfor %}
</ul>

If you look at your site, the blog date format has changed! This is much more readable than the long form date.

Cleaning up

I keep harping on about repetition, but spotting and reducing repetition really does make your life so much easier in the long run.

In our blog, you may have spotted one area that has heavy repetition. Each post sets a post.html layout and a tag of posts. For this site, we’re always going to do this for a post, so how can we automate this process?

Fortunately, Eleventy has an answer for us in the form of a directory specific data file. The way it works is we create a JSON file in our posts directory named posts.json with the desired front matter data for all the pages in the directory.

Let’s break it down. First create /posts/posts.json with the following content:

{
"layout": "post.html",
"tags": ["posts"]
}

This is JSON rather than YAML, so while the syntax is slightly different from what we saw in the post files, the data structure is exactly the same.

Now we can remove the following from the post files' front matter:

layout: post.html
tags:
- posts

and voila. Hello, easier-to-maintain code!

As your blog grows, you may want to look at paginating the blog list page. Pagination is outside the scope of this tutorial, however, if you’re interested, check out the docs. Eleventy has one of the nicest built-in pagination systems.

What’s next?

In our final lesson, we’ll use a global data file to populate a map with top locations to spot an opossum.