Simple Hugo VPS Deployment


Carl Colglazier


April 16, 2017

I recently moved hosting to a virtual private server and NGINX. Since I use git and Hugo to update my website, I wanted to be able to have the website build simply by pushing to the server.

I had previously used Gulp and FTP for this, but I wanted a simpler system which requires less dependencies.

To start, I set up the repository on the server. I cloned my website code by running

git clone

To be able to push to the server repository from my computer, I needed to change the way things are set up. Git does not allow pushing directly to the current branch by default. To change this, I ran

git config receive.denyCurrentBranch updateInstead

inside the repository to allow the current branch (master) to be updated from an external source. Now I could push directly to the server1.

1 : Note: This requires a git version of at least 2.3.

I needed to do the following when building the website:

  1. Run the hugo command to build the website.
  2. Compile LESS files to CSS.
  3. Minify the public content.

I ended up using the following npm packages to achieve these goals:

This gave me the following scripts in package.json:

"scripts": {
    "prebuild": "echo Building...",
    "build": "npm run-script prepare && hugo && npm run-script minify",
    "prepare": "./node_modules/.bin/rimraf public && npm run-scrip less",
    "less": "./node_modules/.bin/lessc --clean-css ./static/css/style.less ./static/css/style.css",
    "minify": "./node_modules/.bin/html-minifier --input-dir public --output-dir public -c html-minify.conf --file-ext html",
    "postbuild": "./node_modules/.bin/rimraf ./public/css/style.less",
    "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1"

For all installed npm packages, I chose to use local installs.

My first step in building the website is removing the previous build. This ensures that deleted files do not stick around by mistake. To do this, I use rimraf, which is supported on multiple operating systems. I then run the command line script to process the LESS files. After this, I run the hugo command to build the website in the public directory. I run html-minifier on each of the HTML files and finally remove the LESS file from the public-facing website.

With the build script written, I then added the following script to .git/hooks/post-receive:

sh #!/bin/sh npm run build

Now I could update my website by committing and running

git push <remote> <branch>

I can then push directly to the repository on the server and receive the output from npm on my computer while the website builds. On average, the entire build process takes a little more than a second.