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Getting set up with Eleventy

By Mike Neumegen

Welcome to this Eleventy for Beginners tutorial, brought to you by CloudCannon, the Git-based CMS for Eleventy.

In this series we’ll go through the basics of Eleventy from learning how to install the framework, creating layouts, pages, and blog posts, and an introduction to using data files. We’ll build everything from scratch and explain Eleventy concepts as we go, so no previous Eleventy knowledge is necessary. By the end of this tutorial you’ll be able to build your very own Eleventy website.

Let’s get into it!

What is Eleventy?

Eleventy is a static site generator. It’s a piece of software that takes a directory of source files — content Markdown files, layouts, images, and CSS — and builds an entirely static website.

Eleventy is beloved in the community. It takes many of the concepts from its predecessors, Jekyll and Hugo, and polishes, streamlines and improves them. While Eleventy is written in JavaScript, it’s not tied to any particular JavaScript framework. In fact, just like Jekyll and Hugo, JavaScript is entirely optional.

You may have heard of some of the high profile websites using Eleventy — EsLint, Foursquare,, and to name a few.

Installing Eleventy

As a JavaScript framework, we can install Eleventy using npm. First we’ll check if node and npm are installed. Open your terminal and run the following:

    node -v
    npm -v
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If both return a version and node is at least version 8.0.0, you’re good to go. If not, head over to the Node.js/npm installation instructions.

Set up your Eleventy site

In your terminal, create a directory for where your Eleventy site will live:

    mkdir my-first-11ty-site
    cd my-first-11ty-site
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Next we need to add a package.json to contain the dependencies for our site. Fortunately, npm can do this for us:

    npm init -y
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Now we can install Eleventy and add it as a development dependency to our package.json:

    npm install --save-dev @11ty/eleventy
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Let’s check that all went to plan:

    npx @11ty/eleventy --version
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Running this command should output the version number of Eleventy installed. If this command errored, refer to the Eleventy documentation or get help from the community on the 11ty Discord.

The directory structure of an Eleventy site is entirely configurable. As you gain confidence in the framework you may want to tweak the structure for your own preferences.

For this tutorial, we’ll be using the default directory structure which I’ll explain below. We’ll be creating these directories and files over the course of this series, so you don’t need to understand them at this stage.

  • .eleventy.js — The eleventy configuration for you site lives here.
  • _includes — Contains page layout elements.
  • _data — A place to put .json or .js files (which can fetch data at build time) that can be accessed across the site.
  • _site — The output directory for the built website.

What’s next?

In our next lesson, we’ll learn the basics of Eleventy layouts.

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