Day 1 - Getting started with 11ty

11ty seems to be the talk of the town at the moment. A lightening fast static site generator that’s doing the rounds and everyones giving it a whirl… including me!

I was chatting with the On The Side community earlier this week when conversation got onto the, a local community we started nearly 10 years ago but fizzled out back in 2016.

For nostalgic value, I hit up the website to remind myself of some of the content, only to be greeted with a 500 error. Obviously the site hasn't been maintained. As the server upgraded it's PHP, the old codebase failed and the site errored out.

So because I’ve been meaning to update the CC website for the last 5 years, I thought I’d use it as an opportunity to give 11ty a go! After all, the CC site should now be a simple static holding page.

Step 1, the install.

So it would appear my mac is still running Node v6. Current version is 12 so a little out of date. To see what version of Node you're running, do this in your terminal

node -v

After updating node, I followed the instructions on the 11ty website to install 11ty locally

$ npm install --save-dev @11ty/eleventy

Now we’re cooking with gas.

Step 2, general site setup

First things first, I created a package.json file. I’m not too sure why, but the guide I was following suggested it.

Next, on my local dev area, I’ve created a content folder, _layouts folder and _includes folder. I like to keep things organised.

The names should be fairly self explanatory but content is where my md files live. These are my markdown files that creates my content. The _layouts folder keeps track of all my layouts; I may have different layouts for different pages and _includes is where all my partial code chunks are kept. My headers & footers etc. that get re-used throughout the site.

The CC site is fairly straight forward so the above is probably overkill but it’s good to get into the habit of keeping folders organised. In reality, the CC site will only have one page, maybe two. It’ll use the same layout and includes will be minimal.

For configuration, I created an .eleventy.js file.

And then I git init the root folder, create a .gitignore and commit everything to git for version control because I don’t do that enough at all!

Step 3, Configuration

the .eleventy.js file is where the configuration is kept for our site and it uses JS to determine what happens and where.

For the moment, we’ll just use it to tell 11ty where our includes, layouts & content are stored. My .eleventy.js file looks like this

module.exports = {
    dir: {
        includes: “../_includes",
        layouts: “../_layouts",
        input: "content"

Here, we’re telling 11ty where our includes and layouts reside, relative to where our content lives hence the ../ at the beginning of each folder name.

content is fairly self explanatory but we’ve created it’s own folder to keep the content separate from the templating & layout side of things.

It’s worth noting that it’s good behaviour to add underscores to the beginning of your includes & layouts folders & files within.

Step 4, Layouts

Layouts are for setting out your page. It’ll generally be a HTML document with the doctype, head, body & html tags but instead of actual content, we use our templating system tags. I’ve been using Nunjucks because I like the name.

For Nunjucks, we use {{ title }} in place of where the title will appear, such as in between the <title> tags and {{ content | safe }} for where we want the content to appear. The safe portion of this tag tells 11ty that this content need not be automatically escaped.

So our initial layout is called _main.njk and looks something like this:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en" dir="ltr">
    <meta charset="utf-8">
    <title>{{ title }}</title>

    {{ content | safe }}


Step 5, Content

Next up is content. We want to fill those Nunjucks tags with content right?

In the content folder, I’ve created a markdown file called which will be treated as my index or homepage. If I create a file called anything else, such as, this will tell 11ty to build this as which is neat!

So at the top of the markdown file, we use something 11ty terms as front matter; this is effectively a config portion for your content and it looks a little like this:

layout: _main.njk

The layout tag tells 11ty which layout to use, in this instance, it’s _main.njk and the title tag is the title of the document. This replaces the {{ title }} tag we include as part of the layout.

After this front matter, we continue to write our content in Markdown.

Step 6, Build

Finally, let's get 11ty running. In the command line, we'll type

$ npx @11ty/eleventy --serve

This fires up eleventy and a local server, allowing you to hit the URL terminal tells you to go to, for me its localhost:8080 in your browser to see the site. If you've followed along so far, when you visit localhost:8080, you should see the file you created in step 5.

You may also notice that now, whenever you create, modify or save a file, the 11ty server will rebuild your site, storing the static files within a folder called _site. You can upload all of this to your live site and it'll work like a normal html website.


This is the story so far. Next step is to get some includes working so that we can build out a header & footer. And then it’s adding some design flair in.

That’s the fun bit :)