Since this is the first blog post it’s almost necessary to describe how I set this up using Jekyll. Go to the link to learn about Jekyll, a blog-conscious tool for building a website. This post will also cover some information on getting your own email and setting up your own domain.

The Basics

A dear friend of mine in the bioinformatics program already has written a nice and brief post on using Jekyll and Github pages. Check out her blog post on how she set up and customize her blog. She also has an awesome About page btw ;) For a longer version of how to use Jekyll to set up your own website for free, see here.

Customize the URL

The URL of this site isn’t a site. To get a custom domain, simply purchase a domain name through Namecheap (with my referral code). Then follow these steps to create a CNAME file in your Github repo and configure your DNS in Namecheap to link it to your pages.

Get a customized email address

You already paid for a domain name, so might as well get the most out of it. In the footer of this page, you can see that I also have an email address using my domain name. Instead of paying extra money to get that, you can simply hack Gmail to use custom domains for free by signing up for Mailgun and do some simple configuration in Gmail.

When someone send me an email through my email address, it actually goes to my Gmail. I can also send email using that email address in my Gmail. With Mailgun, you can set up as many different addresses as you like, such as “” for general purposes or “” for more serious stuff. With Gmail, you can then filter those emails.

Customize your own layout

I’m new to Jekyll so rather than using a premade theme, I decided that it’d be a fun learning experience to investigate how to use Sass, a fancy version of CSS, and to see how everything is organized and configured in Jekyll.

There are things you can add to a vanilla Jekyll blog, such as tags/topics and discussion board. See this blog by Bruno, who is also creating a blog to write posts to save people’s time and have done quite some customizations with the layout and added features. I will be using his Github commits as guidelines on how to do the same for my blog.

Adding discussion board and Google analytics

Google analytics can be used to track site usage of your blog. Simply register your site with Google analytics: Sign in, click on “Admin”, create an account, and register your site. You’ll get a piece of javascript code that you can copy and paste into a new file, say google_analytics.html and save that in _includes folder. Then simply add {% include google_analytics.html %} in one of your files in _layouts folder. For me, I put it in my default.html file.

The discussion board (or the comment section) is powered by Disqus. You’ll need to register your site with them first and then copy paste the code they give you. The next few steps is about the same as adding Google analytics. Just paste the script into a html file, save that in your _includes folder, and include that somewhere, perhaps in post.html.