Building your project site

To create a website for your digital project, our recommended tool is GitHub Pages.

What is GitHub Pages?

GitHub is what’s called a code repository; that is, a place where developers can store their code. Because this repository is on public servers, multiple people can work on the code simultaneously. To keep everyone’s changes from getting mixed up, GitHub employs version control: a system by which chunks of changes are labeled and registered, and therefore easily reversible. We will not be making much use of version control, but that’s what it is, in case you hear someone mention it.

As GitHub has grown, the company has added new features. One of these features is GitHub Pages. If you post HTML and CSS to a special folder within your GitHub account, GitHub will display it just like a normal webpage, and you can therefore use GitHub Pages to host your projects and personal websites.

What are the advantages to using GitHub Pages?

One of the primary reasons I’ve chosen GitHub Pages as our default is ease of maintenance. Your website will persist as long as GitHub does, and you won’t need to update it or pay any fees to keep it up.

It is also fairly easy to use, although, as we will see, some elements of GitHub’s origins as a code repository may provoke a little bit of confusion.

Finally, GitHub Pages is in wide use among technologists and digital humanists. Thus, using it will help you to understand what other people are talking about if you encounter these discussions outside of class.

What are some disadvantages to using GitHub Pages?

Every tool entails trade-offs, and GitHub Pages is no exception.

  • It’s a proprietary platform. I don’t think GitHub is going to do anything radical, like charge fees for its Pages function, but they could. They’re also a private, for-profit company with priorities and business practices that may conflict with yours. That said, it’s trivial to move your files off of GitHub if you decide you’d like to move.
  • It’s slightly more hands-on than other options. Some platforms (e.g., Tumblr, WordPress, Weebly) require little or no knowledge of the mechanics of web-building. While the learning curve of GitHub Pages is pretty minimal, you’ll need to know some basic things about how a website works. In addition, dynamic elements (like a blog) require a higher investment of time and training.

Despite these drawbacks, I’ve concluded that GitHub Pages is probably the best option for the students in this class. However, you are not required to use it. If you’d like to explore other options, such as hosting your site on your own server, please just speak to me.