⚗ A Jekyll boilerplate theme designed to be a starting point for any Jekyll website.



Alembic is a starting point for Jekyll projects. Rather than starting from scratch, this boilerplate theme is designed to get rolling immediately. Install it, configure it, tweak it, push it.


  • Available as a theme gem and GitHub Pages theme
  • Clear and elegant design that can be used out of the box or as solid starting point
  • Tested in all major browsers, including IE and Edge
  • Built in Service Worker so it can work offline and on slow connections
  • Configurable colours and typography in a single settings file
  • Extensive set of shortcodes to include various elements; such as buttons, icons, figure images and more
  • Solid typographic framework from Sassline
  • Configurable navigation via a single file
  • Modular Jekyll components
  • Post category support in the form of a single post index page grouped by category
  • Built in live search using JavaScript
  • Contact form built in using Formspree or Netlify Forms
  • Designed with Siteleaf in mind
  • Has 9 of the most popular networks as performant sharing buttons
  • Has documentation


Here are a few examples of Alembic out in the wild being used in a variety of ways:


Quick setup

To give you a running start I've put together some starter kits that you can download, fork or even deploy immediately:

  • Vanilla Jekyll starter kit:

  • Forestry starter kit:

  • Netlify CMS starter kit:

  • GitHub Pages with remote theme kit - Download kit

  • Stackbit starter kit:

As a Jekyll theme

  1. Add gem "alembic-jekyll-theme" to your Gemfile to add the theme as a dependancy
  2. Run the command bundle install in the root of project to install the theme and its dependancies
  3. Add theme: alembic-jekyll-theme to your _config.yml file to set the site theme
  4. Run bundle exec jekyll serve to build and serve your site
  5. Done! Use the configuration documentation and the example _config.yml file to set things like the navigation, contact form and social sharing buttons

As a GitHub Pages remote theme

  1. Add gem "jekyll-remote-theme" to your Gemfile to add the theme as a dependancy
  2. Run the command bundle install in the root of project to install the jekyll remote theme gem as a dependancy
  3. Add jekyll-remote-theme to the list of plugins in your _config.yml file
  4. Add remote_theme: daviddarnes/alembic@main to your _config.yml file to set the site theme
  5. Run bundle exec jekyll serve to build and serve your site
  6. Done! Use the configuration documentation and the example _config.yml file to set things like the navigation, contact form and social sharing buttons

As a Boilerplate / Fork

(deprecated, not recommended)

  1. Fork the repo
  2. Replace the Gemfile with one stating all the gems used in your project
  3. Delete the following unnecessary files/folders: .github, LICENSE, screenshot.png, CNAME and alembic-jekyll-theme.gemspec
  4. Run the command bundle install in the root of project to install the jekyll remote theme gem as a dependancy
  5. Run bundle exec jekyll serve to build and serve your site
  6. Done! Use the configuration documentation and the example _config.yml file to set things like the navigation, contact form and social sharing buttons


When using Alembic as a theme means you can take advantage of the file overriding method. This allows you to overwrite any file in this theme with your own custom file, by matching the file name and path. The most common example of this would be if you want to add your own styles or change the core style settings.

To add your own styles copy the styles.scss into your own project with the same file path (assets/styles.scss). From there you can add your own styles, you can even optionally ignore the theme styles by removing the @import "alembic"; line.

If you're looking to set your own colours and fonts you can overwrite them by matching the variable names from the _settings.scss file in your own styles.scss, make sure to state them before the @import "alembic"; line so they take effect. The settings are a mixture of custom variables and settings from Sassline - follow the link to find out how to configure the typographic settings.


There are a number of optional settings for you to configure. Use the example _config.yml file in the repo and use the documentation below to configure your site:

Gem dependency settings

twitter, author and social values will need to be changed to the projects' social information or removed. Look for the Gem settings comment within the /_config.yml file. These values are for the jekyll-seo-tag - follow the link to find out more.

Site settings

You'll need to change the description, title and url to match with the project. You'll also need to replace the logos, default social and default offline images in the /assets/ directory with your own graphics. Setting the site language can be done with lang, the theme will default to en-US. The email needs to be changed to the email you want to receive contact form enquires with. The disqus value can be changed to your project username on Disqus, remove this from the /_config.yml file if you don't want comments enabled. Look for the Site settings comment within the /_config.yml file. The repo setting is optional, for now, and can be removed entirely, if you wish.

Google Analytics can be enabled via the site configuration too. Add your tracking ID to the /_config.yml file in the following method: google_analytics: 'UA-XXXXXXXX-1'. By default all IPs of site visitors are anonymous to maintain a level of privacy for the audience. If you wish to turn this off set the google_analytics_anonymize_ip key to false.

Date format can be customised in the /_config.yml with the option date_format (please refer to Liquid date filters documentation for learning about formatting possibilities). Only placeholder formatting is supported, do not try to use ordinal dates introduced in Jekyll 3.8.

The short_name option within /_config.yml is to add a custom name to the site's web application counterpart. When the website is added to a device this name will appear alonside the app icon. The short name will default to the site title if this isn't set.

Site performance settings

Alembic comes with a couple of options to enhance the speed and overall performance of the site you build upon it.

By default the built in Service Worker is enabled, and will work on a 'network first' method. Meaning if there's no internet connection the content the Service Worker has cached will be used until the connection comes back. It will always look for a live version of the code first. To disable the Service Worker add an option called service_worker with a value of false in the /_config.yml file.

Another option to speed up Alembic is to enable inline CSS, which is off by default. You can enable this by setting css_inline: true inside your /_config.yml file. By switching to inline styles you bypass the use /assets/styles.scss, any custom styles will need to be added in /_includes/site-styles.html or in a new custom file.

Please note that these options aren't a "silver bullet" for making your site faster, make sure to audit and debug your site to get the best performance for your situation.

There are a total of 4 different navigation types:

  • navigation_header: The links shown in the header (it is also used on the 404 page)
  • navigation_footer: The links shown in the footer
  • social_links: The social icon links that are shown in the sidebar
  • sharing_links: The social sharing buttons that are shown at the bottom of blog posts

All navigations can be edited using the _config.yml file. To see example usage either look for the Site navigation comment within the /_config.yml file or see the nav-share.html include.

If there are no items for the navigation_header or navigation_footer, they will fallback to a list of pages within the site. The social_navigation properties should either be one that is already in the list (so Twitter or Facebook) or a regular link, this is so an icon can be set for the link.

Custom fonts

Alembic comes with custom fonts served from Google fonts. By default it requests Merriweather but this can be any font from any provider assuming it supports requesting fonts in the same manner and does not require javascript.

This can be configured under the custom_fonts key.

  • urls: The urls supplied to you from your font provider (eg For best performance try to use as few urls as possible
  • preconnect: (optional) If your font provider serves the font files from another domain it can be useful to make a connection to that domain in advance. For example google load the font files from This can be omitted if not required

If you want to customise this further you can find the include for custom fonts in _includes/site-custom-fonts.html.

Using includes

There are 2 main types of includes: ones designed for the site and ones that are designed as shortcodes. Here are a list of the shortcode includes:


A button that can link to a page of any kind.

Example usage: {% include button.html text="I'm a button" link="" %}

Available options:

  • text: The text of the button required
  • link: The link that the button goes to required
  • icon: The icon that is added to the end of the button text
  • color: The colour of the button


An image with optional caption.

Example usage: {% include figure.html image="/uploads/feature-image.jpg" caption="Check out my photo" %}

Available options:

  • image: The image shown required
  • caption: A caption to explain the image
  • position: The position of the image; left, right or center
  • width & height: Optional width and height attributes of the containing image


An icon.

Example usage: {% include icon.html id="twitter" %}

Available options:

  • id: The reference for the icon required
  • title: The accessible label for the icon
  • color: The desired colour of the icon
  • width & height: Width and height attributes for the icon, default is 16

A set of buttons that share the current page to various social networks, which is controlled within the _config.yml file under the sharing_links keyword.

Example usage: {% include nav-share.html %}

Available options:

Twitter: "#1DA1F2"
facebook: "#3B5998"
Pinterest: "#BD081C"
LinkedIn: "#0077B5"
tumblr: "#36465D"
Reddit: "#FF4500"
HackerNews: "#ff6600"
DesignerNews: "#2D72D9"
Email: true

The first item is the name of the network (must be one of the ones stated above) and the second is the colour of the button. To remove a button remove the line of the same name.


A YouTube video.

Example usage: {% include video.html id="zrkcGL5H3MU" %}

Available options:

  • id: The YouTube ID for the video required


A Google map. See Google My Maps

Example usage: {% include map.html id="1UT-2Z-Vg_MG_TrS5X2p8SthsJhc" %}

Available options:

  • id: The map ID for the video required


Adds a contact form to the page. This can be used with Formspree or Netlify Forms depending on your setup.

Example usage: {% include site-form.html %}

Available options:

  • netlify_form=true: Set whether you would like to use Netlify Forms, otherwise the form will default to Formspree
  • name: Give the form a name, by default the form is called "Contact". The name will be reflected when form submissions come through in Netlify or in your email client. The name is also used in the label and input elements for accessibility

Use the email option in the /_config.yml to change to the desired email.


Adds a search form to the page.

Example usage: {% include site-search.html %}

This include has no options. This include will add a block of javascript to the page and javascript reference in order for the search field to work correctly.

site-before-start.html & site-before-end.html

Optional html includes for adding scripts, css, js or any embed code you wish to add to every page without the need to overwrite the entire default.html template.

Example usage: These are different to other includes as they are designed to be overwritten. If you create a site-before-start.html file in the _includes/ the contents of the file will be included immediately before the closing </head> tag. If you create a site-before-end.html file the contents of the file will be included immediately before the closing </body> tag.

Page layouts

As well as page, post, blog, there are a few alternative layouts that can be used on pages:

  • categories: Shows all posts grouped by category, with an index of categories in a left hand sidebar
  • search: Adds a search field to the page as well as a simplified version of the sidebar to allow more focus on the search results

Page and Post options

There are some more specific options you can apply when creating a page or a post:

  • aside: true: Adds a sidebar to the page or post, this is false by default and will not appear
  • comments: false: Turns off comments for that post
  • feature_image: "/uploads/feature-image.jpg": Adds a full width feature image at the top of the page
  • feature_text: "Example text": Adds text to the top of the page as a full width feature with solid colour; supports markdown. This can be used in conjunction with the feature_image option to create a feature image with text over it
  • indexing: false: Adds a noindex meta element to the <head> to stop crawler bots from indexing the page, used on the 404 page

Note: The Post List Page options are actually in the collection data within the _config.yml file.


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