1.6 Other themes

In Hugo, themes control the entire appearance and functionality of your site. So, if you care a lot about the appearance of your website, you will probably spend quite a bit of time in the beginning looking for a Hugo theme that you like from the collection listed at http://themes.gohugo.io. Please note that not all themes have been tested against blogdown. If you find a certain theme does not work well with blogdown, you may report to https://github.com/rstudio/blogdown/issues, and we will try to investigate the reason, but it can be time-consuming to learn and understand how a new theme works, so we recommend that you learn more about Hugo by yourself before asking, and we also encourage users to help each other there.

After you have found a satisfactory theme, you need to figure out its GitHub username and repository name,17 then either install the theme via blogdown::install_theme(), or just create a new site under another new directory and pass the GitHub repository name to the theme argument of new_site(). We recommend that you use the second approach, because Hugo themes could be very complicated and the usage of each theme can be very different and highly dependent on config.toml. If you install a theme using install_theme() instead of new_site() you’ll need to manually create the config.toml file in the root directory of your website to match the newly installed theme.18

# for example, create a new site with the academic theme
blogdown::new_site(theme = "gcushen/hugo-academic")

To save you some time, we list a few themes below that match our taste:

If you do not understand HTML, CSS, or JavaScript, and have no experience with Hugo themes or templates, it may take you about 10 minutes to get started with your new website, since you have to accept everything you are given (such as the default theme); if you do have the knowledge and experience (and desire to highly customize your site), it may take you several days to get started. Hugo is really powerful. Be cautious with power.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the more effort you make in a complicated theme, the more difficult it is to switch to other themes in the future, because you may have customized a lot of things that are not straightforward to port to another theme. So please ask yourself seriously, “Do I like this fancy theme so much that I will definitely not change it in the next couple of years?”

If you choose to dig a rather deep hole, someday you will have no choice but keep on digging, even with tears.

— Liyun Chen19


  1. For most themes, you can find this by navigating to the theme of your choice from http://themes.gohugo.io and then clicking on Homepage.

  2. In a workaround, if you used install_theme() and set the theme_example argument to TRUE, then you can access an example config.toml file. In the themes/ directory, navigate to the file for your newly downloaded theme and find exampleSite/config.toml. This file can be copied to your root directory (to replace the config.toml file from your original theme) or used as a template to correctly write a new config.toml file for your new theme.

  3. Translated from her Chinese Weibo: http://weibo.com/1406511850/Dhrb4toHc (you cannot view this page unless you have logged in).