Automated middleman deploy to Github pages

Automated middleman deploy to Github pages

I recently switched from Jekyll to Middleman for my personal website. After using Middleman for a couple projects I felt that Middleman was much easier to setup and manage than Jekyll, also I really don’t like liquid templating. The one thing I missed from Jekyll was automated deploys to Github pages. It wasn’t very difficult but you have to jump through a few hoops. Since I’m running my own build I decided to add some tests for my static site too. So here’s the how-to.

Testing setup

I wanted to add some basic testing for my site, simple things like HTML validation and link checking. For that I found HTMLProofer which can run a variety of tests against a folder of html files.

Add HTMLProofer to your Gemfile and bundle install:

gem 'html-proofer'

HTMLProofer can run via command line, but for ease of running locally and remotely with all of my configuration I chucked it in a test.rb and included a simple check for the build folder.

# test.rb

require 'html-proofer'

raise IOError, 'Directory ./build does not exist. Run `middleman build` before running tests' unless Dir.exists?('./build')

HTMLProofer.check_directory('./build', {
  :check_img_http => true,
  :check_html => true, :validation => { :report_missing_names => true },
  :check_favicon => true,
  :check_opengraph => true,
  :http_status_ignore => [0,999,403,401]
# Check out the config docs for more:

If you’re already using a Rakefile you could add the HTMLProofer code to a :test task. This test was going to be the only task in my Rakefile so I decided to stick with a plain old .rb file I could run.

Run ruby test.rb and you should see something like this:

Running ["ImageCheck", "FaviconCheck", "ScriptCheck", "OpenGraphCheck", "HtmlCheck", "LinkCheck"] on ["./build"] on *.html...

Checking 62 external links...
Ran on 13 files!

The first time I ran this I discovered a handful of links that were either just wrong or had gone stale over time. Nice to know these will be caught in advance moving forward!

Deploy configuration

The middleman-deploy gem has what you need to “deploy” your site to git. Basically what that means is that middleman will build your site, copy the files to an orphan branch, commit the changes and push. By default middleman deploys to the gh-pages branch for sites using Github pages.

Add the gem to your Gemfile and bundle install. To work with middleman v4 I had to install the pre-alpha gem. This hasn’t been a problem for what I need so far.

gem 'middleman-deploy', '~> 2.0.0.pre.alpha'

Then in your config.rb add your deploy setup:

activate :deploy do |deploy|
  deploy.deploy_method = :git
  deploy.branch = 'gh-pages'

Make sure the whole process works by running middleman build && ruby test.rb && middleman deploy.

CircleCI configuration

I’m using CircleCI for my build platform, but the configuration should be fairly similar for other platforms.

Add the following to your circle.yml in the root of your repo:

# circle.yml

    - bundle exec middleman build

    - bundle exec ruby test.rb

    branch: master
      - git config $GIT_USER_EMAIL
      - git config $GIT_USER_NAME
      - bundle exec middleman deploy

For each build, this will compile the site, run the tests, and for builds on your master branch it will run the deploy. You’ll need to configure your git details too. For ease of configuration I’m using env vars for my git user config. Head to to add your github info.

Git write access for the build

Next you need to configure CircleCI to have write access to the repo. By default Circle only has read access to the repo. Instructions for setting up a read/write deploy key are in the circle docs, but here’s the break down.

Generate a new SSH key

First we’ll need to create a new SSH key for Circle:

$ ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C ""
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key: /Users/<you>/.ssh/circleci_deploy_key
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase):

Give a location for your new ssh key and do not enter a passphrase, just hit return.

Add the public key to CircleCI

Copy the public version of your new new SSH key:

cat ~/.ssh/ | pbcopy

Go to and add the public key that you just created. Use in the Hostname field.

Add the private key to Github

Next head to your repo in GitHub and add the private key to our repo.

cat ~/.ssh/circle_deploy_key | pbcopy

Go to on GitHub and add the public key that you just created and copied. Make sure to “Allow write access” and save the key.


That should be everything you need to run the build. Here’s an example build from my site.

You should now be able to simply push changes to your master branch and have the site automatically update, plus if there are any broken links your build will fail and the deploy won’t happen. 🎉 Enjoy!

Further reading:

If anything in this post turns out to be incorrect or incomplete please comment and let me know.

About Piet


Web developer at Usabilla. Previously at Cozy and Daylight Studio. I'm addicted to functional-programming, test driven development, my greyhound Django, my wife Keven, and fries with mayo.

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