GitHub Pages: Quick Start Guide

GitHub Pages lets any holder of a GitHub account host static HTML pages at no cost. The bigger benefit: Pages hosted at GitHub automatically become part of GitHub’s content delivery network (CDN). People who visit your site will get faster page loads because of the CDN.

This article focuses on interacting with GitHub Pages via Git at the command line. The browser-based automatic page generator is already well-documented. Another purpose of this post: To put useful information about GitHub Pages all in one post, so I won’t have to go hunting around next time I forget this procedure!

Quick Start

A quick way to launch a “Hello World!” page via GitHub Pages…

$ git clone
Cloning into 'random-repo'...
warning: You appear to have cloned an empty repository.
Checking connectivity... done.

$ cd random-repo


Don’t worry about the “cloned an empty repository” message. We’ll add something very soon!

$ git checkout -b gh-pages

$ touch index.html

$ echo "Hello World">index.html


$ git add .

$ git commit -am 'initial commit'
[gh-pages (root-commit) 0d4a0ae] initial commit
 1 file changed, 1 insertion(+)
 create mode 100644 index.html

$ git push -u origin gh-pages
Counting objects: 3, done.
Writing objects: 100% (3/3), 236 bytes | 0 bytes/s, done.
Total 3 (delta 0), reused 0 (delta 0)
 * [new branch]      gh-pages -> gh-pages
Branch gh-pages set up to track remote branch gh-pages from origin.


Congrats on your success!

GitHubber Alyson La demonstrates these steps in a 4-minute video, with some creative variations.

Hello World = Done. Enter Jekyll.

Now that Hello World! runs well, consider Jekyll. Jekyll will generate your static pages based on the rules you setup in the Jekyll templates.

Branches: gh-pages for Projects, master for Organizations

Most sites hosted through GitHub Pages will use the gh-pages branch. These are called Project Pages. For example, is a Project Page. Its files are in the gh-pages branch of

Each GitHub account can have one repo called [account_name] that uses the master branch. GitHub refers to these as Organization Pages. For example,, also reachable via, is an example of an Organization Page. Files for are in the master branch of

I do not know why GitHub Pages are configured this way. One guess: It makes it easier to keep your marketing site and application site in one repo, and they’ll never clobber each other if they’re in separate branches. If you know the official reason for the Organization vs Project page setup, feel free to share your insights in the comments below.


Enjoy GitHub Pages!