Branden Higby

Short URL Service With Jekyll & Netlify

Table of Contents
  1. Original Solution
  2. HTTP Header Solution
    1. Redirect file
  3. Bonuses
    1. Repository
    2. Script Kit Script

Original Solution

The original solution for building a Jekyll-based short URL service was to use the Jekyll Redirect From plugin. Then for each file made in the _directory folder the site would create a page that looked like this:

<html>
<script>location="/address"</script>
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0; url=/address">
<a href="/address">Click here.</a>
</html>

Some unnecessary lines removed

The primary issue with this for me is that the redirects weren’t instant (as in they weren’t proper 301 redirects) and if an individual were to have Javascript disabled they would be sat at a page telling them to click a link.

In addition, the build site ended up being polluted with pages:

_site/
├─ 404.html
├─ funnyvid.html
├─ github.html
├─ index.html
├─ pokemon.html
├─ shera.html
├─ spotify.html

Each page also contributed to the build time (even though these pages probably only added about .001 seconds).

HTTP Header Solution

Thankfully Netlify provides the very helpful ability to specify HTTP redirects via a little configuration. All one has to do is create a plaintext file named _redirects in the base of the site.

Normally Jekyll ignores any files with a leading underscore so be sure to add this to your config to make sure the file is rendered in the build:

include:
- _redirects

To fix the issue of the polluted build site I created a collection for each of the files:

collections:
directory:
output: false
permalink: /:title.html

Place this into the config file aswell

What’s important about the above is that where you place the files should match the second line, in this example and the GitHub repository linked above, I place the files in a folder name _directory.

The output: false is also important as that is what stops each page from being generated.

Redirect file

Jekyll will render anything that you toss a YAML header onto, so after that, we’ll want to tell it to render the file to Netlify’s specifications which can be read here.

Essentially we'll want it to look like this:

/home              /
/404               /https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ
/shera             https://www.shera.gay

Where the left is the link that gets forwarded to the right.

Here's my working redirect file

---
---

{% for post in site.directory %}

/{{ post.title | downcase }} {{ post.redirect_to }}

{% endfor %}

This will generate a working _redirects file when the files in the Jekyll site specify a redirect_to in the YAML header, and the title in my config being the files name ie:

---
title: '404'
redirect_to: https://www.higby.io/404
---

404.md

One last piece I needed was to add this to the bottom:

/     {% for post in site.directory %}{% if post.title == 'index' %}{{ post.redirect_to }}{% endif %}{% endfor %}

/* {% for post in site.directory %}{% if post.title == '404' %}{{ post.redirect_to }}{% endif %}{% endfor %}

Because just specifying /index and /404 in the _redirects doesn't actually redirect the user should they go to a link that doesn't exist, or if they head to /.

So I create two new records, one that matches the index and maps it to / and one that matches the 404 and maps it to /* which is a wildcard.

The wildcard must come last because it then catches everything not already specified by the other records.

Bonuses

Repository

First of all the github repository linked above (and also here) is a working implementation of this. You can easily just fork/ download it and use it for your personal short URL service. Just remember the HTTP headers solution will only work on Netlify.

Script Kit Script

That header's kinda redundant, huh.

For anyone that might be using Script Kit then you might find some use in this script that automates making a new shortlink: higby/short-url.js.