Layouts in Jekyll

Layouts help you set up and reuse the main structure of your Jekyll site.

By Farrel Burns

What you’ll learn here:

  • Creating layouts for your pages
  • Using a layout within another layout
  • Changing a page title programmatically
# Starting repo
git clone

# Starting branch:
git checkout layouts-intro-start

# Finished branch:
git checkout layouts-intro-finish

What are Jekyll layouts?

When writing a website in HTML, you will probably notice that many sections stay the same across multiple pages, such as head, footers, and navigation. If your site contains more than a few pages, that’s a lot of content to copy and paste - and any changes need to be made across all pages. Jekyll gives us an easy solution to this problem - layouts. Read more on layouts on Jekyll's official site{: target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"}.

How to use layouts

Layouts are simple to set up and use. To begin with, we need to create a _layouts folder at the root of our project - Jekyll knows to look for this name.

Next, let’s create default.html within that folder. This will be the default “shell” of a webpage. Now let’s look at our index.html and separate the unique content from the repeatable content. We will take all of the content from index.html and paste it into default.html. Then, we need to tell Jekyll where to inject our content - simply insert this tag into the area missing content:

<!-- Content goes here: -->

We’re almost there - let’s actually use the layout. Back in our index.html, we need to use front matter to tell Jekyll that the page’s content should be injected into a layout. To do this, simply add front matter with the special layout variable and add default(without .html) as the value:

layout: page
title: Home
<p class="featured">Featured posts</p>
<h2 class="heading-secondary dark-blue">Latest posts</h2>

Now we can run our server again and view the contents of our page. As we can see, nothing has changed, but our index.html is much shorter. We can now write content without worrying about repetition and use the default (or other custom) layout.

One thing you might notice is that our page links to another layout by default - from Jekyll’s default theme. Change the layout reference to default as well.

Layout inheritance

A layout can also be referenced within another layout. But when could this be useful? Sometimes we might want to keep the content the same across all pages, such as a hero area to our default page, but not in all cases.

In our current layout, the hero section is used in default.html, which means it will appear in all pages using it. Let’s create another layout called page.html with the hero section from default removed and pasted into it, then add front matter with layout itself pointing to default:

layout: default
<div class="hero">
<h1 class="hero__header dark-orange"></h1>

To use this page, we will modify our index page’s front matter:

layout: page
Title: Home

Now our index page will load with a hero section when we visit it, but all others using the default layout will not have it.

Page variables

Remember that we also added `` to the title tag of our index page in the last lesson? Now we can continue to add title variables in each page that references a layout, and Jekyll will change this automatically. Remove “title: Home” from the default.html layout, and add these variables to index and about pages:

title: Home
title: About

Any other page variables can be referenced in the same way. This makes it easier to set content once in a layout but have different output, depending on the page. There are more variables than page - including site, which points to your _config.yml file. Check out the Jekyll Variables{: target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"} page if you are interested in more. We will deal with _config.yml more in future lessons.

What’s next?

Layouts are great for making out sites cleaner and more manageable. But Jekyll still has more to offer. Let’s look at reusing even smaller pieces of pages with includes.

Previous lesson Next lesson