4 min read

How to Customize A Blogdown Website

In this post I would like to explain how I personalized my site by customizing the default blogdown theme. This was the most intimidating part for me because I know virtually nothing about html and css. I thought I would share what I did in case others want to edit a theme to make it more their own.

Of all the themes recommended in the blogdown book, I liked the default theme the best. Some of the others were a bit too minimal and I didn’t want to search for a Hugo theme and then find out it doesn’t play nice with Latex and R. So I went with the default theme (Hugo Lithium).

But, there were a few things I wanted to change to make it my own. As suggested in the blogdown book, modifying the Hugo theme directly is probably not a good idea. So instead I copied the themes/hugo-lithium-theme/layouts and themes/hugo-lithium-theme/static folders to the main directory of the site and edited those. I’m not entirely sure if this is the best way to do things but that’s what I gathered from the Custom Layouts section of the blogdown book. Just in case I wanted to revert things back to the original, I didn’t delete any of the code in the files. Instead, I commented out the lines I didn’t want and added comments to the lines I changed so I could keep track of what I did. This should also make it easier for you to see exactly where I made the changes if you want to look at the files in the GitHub repository for this site.

The first change I made was to remove the logo from the navigation bar. I had no idea what I would put there so I decided to not have it. This was done by going to the /layouts/partials/nav.html file and removing the portion corresponding to the logo:

<nav class="nav">
  <!-- remove logo
  <a href="{{ "/" | relURL }}" class="nav-logo">
    <img src="{{ print "images/" .Site.Params.logo.url | relURL }}"
         width="{{ .Site.Params.logo.width }}"
         height="{{ .Site.Params.logo.height }}"
         alt="{{ .Site.Params.logo.alt }}">
  </a> --> 

  <ul class="nav-links">
    {{ range .Site.Menus.main }}
    <li><a href="{{ .URL }}">{{ .Name }}</a></li>
    {{ end }}

I also removed the RSS feed link in the footer.html file in the same directory. I liked how there was a reference to Hugo in the footer but I also wanted to give credit to blogdown so I found a blogdown logo, copied the code in footer.html corresponding to the Hugo reference, and edited it to add the blogdown logo:

      <footer class="footer">
        <ul class="footer-links">
          <!-- remove RSS
            <a href="{{ .Site.RSSLink | relURL }}" type="application/rss+xml" target="_blank">RSS feed</a>
          </li> -->
            <a href="https://gohugo.io/" class="footer-links-kudos">Made with <img src="{{ "images/hugo-logo.png" | relURL }}" width="22" height="22"></a>
            <!-- add blogdown logo --> 
            <a href="https://bookdown.org/yihui/blogdown/" class="footer-links-kudos">Via <img src="{{ "images/blogdown-logo.png" | relURL }}" width="22" height="22"></a>

Note that the image is in the /static/images folder.

Changing the color scheme was fairly easy. I did a Google search for ‘css colors’, found one I liked, and changed the relevant portions in the /static/css/main.css file. For example, the color for headers is defined within the first few lines of the file. I changed color to #00CED1:

body {
  margin: 0;
  padding: 0;
  position: relative;

body {
  text-rendering: optimizeLegibility;
  -webkit-font-smoothing: antialiased;
  -moz-osx-font-smoothing: grayscale;
  -moz-font-feature-settings: "liga" on;

h6 {
  color: #00CED1; /* change color for headers */

The last thing I did was to add pages and links to the navigation bar. This was done in the config.toml file. For example, I added a projects page to describe some of my current/previous projects:

    name = "Projects"
    url = "/projects/"

After creating the link in config.toml, I added a projects.md file to the /content folder.

I did make a few more changes but the ones I discussed here should give you an idea of how you can customize your own site. Again, it might be helpful to go here and see the changes for yourself by looking at the files and folders I mentioned. I hope after reading this you see that it’s not too difficult to customize a blogdown site even if you don’t really know anything about html and css.