Gatsby - How to automate deployment using Github Actions

2021, Sep 02

I decided to write this blog with Gatsby and run it on Github Pages because I am on a quest to learn markdown and I like the idea of having version control over the articles. Some times I have too many ideas for the articles. Sometimes I am not able to finish the entire article at once and might need to jump between multiple posts. So, I usually start a new article on a new git branch. My articles so far have been unrelated, so I merge the finished articles to the master branch in different orders as and when they are ready.

One of the goals I have set for myself is to be consistant at writing. This means I will have to frequently publish the articles. For the first few posts, I did manual deployments from my laptop. Now, I have automated the process. As soon as I merge a post to the master branch, a deployment script will publish the website. I have achieved this using Github Actions.

Setting up the automated deployment involved writing a workflow. A workflow is nothing but a sequence of jobs, each involving a sequence of steps. I kept my workflow simple. It consists of a single job with a few steps.

Checkout the code

The first step, of course, is to checkout the master branch. This is done using the actions/checkout action, which is a pretty standard action everyone uses.

Setup Node

Next, I have to build the source code. For that I need NodeJS setup in the machine where the job is running. The runner is simply a blank server at the time of creation (of course it has the "runner" software needed to run the workflow). I use the Github-hosted runner. The default Ubuntu server that Github provides is sufficient for my usecase. I digress. On the runner server, I setup NodeJs using the action setup-node. This, again, is a fairly common action. It takes as input the node version you need. I use version 14.x

Install dependencies

The next step is pretty obvious. It is to install the library that the application needs using the command npm ci. If you are wondering why I did not use npm install, this article might help.

Build the project and Deploy to Github Pages

Yay! we are at the last step. In the package.json file of the project, I have defined a script for deployment. This script is a combination of two commands; gatsby build --prefix-paths (read about it here) and gh-pages -d public (read about it here). In the last step of the workflow, I run this command by running the following shell script.

git remote set-url origin https://git:${GITHUB_TOKEN}${GITHUB_REPOSITORY}.git
npm run deploy -- -u "github-actions-bot <>"

Before running the npm command, I have to set the remote url of the repository, which requires a secret GITHUB_TOKEN. This is a secret that is automatically created for you when you enable Github Actions on your repository. Also, the npm command needs the information of the user running it. We provide it using the param -u. Read about it here

You can find the full workflow here.

And that's it! Everytime I make a change to the master branch, my website is deployed automatically. It helps a lot when all I want to do sometimes is change the "Read", "Watch" or "Listen" links in the sidebar of the blog. By the way, have you checked these out, yet?