Bundling up: rebuilding my Hugo site

O ye new users, run as fast as you can — away from the way I was managing my content, and toward using page bundles, as I’m doing now.


General note: This site’s appearance, configuration, hosting, and other basic considerations will change over time. As a result, certain content on this page could be at variance with what you’re currently seeing on the site, but the two were consistent when this post originally appeared.

You can think of this as hard-won wisdom.

If you’re planning to build a website with the Hugo static site generator (SSG) — or if you already have one but you don’t yet have a lot of content files — save yourself a lot of trouble and use page bundles.

Therein lies a tale, so here it is.

Not long ago, I began using Hugo’s Text filter to auto-generate the social/OG image for each of my posts, for those times when I promote a post on social media. For example: earlier this week, I tweeted about “Really getting started with Hugo,” and it looked1 like this:

Screen capture of tweet ID 1549447287625207809

The next day, I got a response from Twitter user @gaetawoo — not about my post, but about that social/OG image:

Do you auto generate the twitter card graphic?
3:31 PM • July 20, 2022 (UTC)

As we spent a few minutes discussing via Twitter how I’d used Hugo to generate the image, I began to think of ways to make it better. After all, I already wasn’t enamored with the Text filter’s inability (at least, as of this writing) to let me control either the text’s word-wrapping or its alignment.

Then, when @gaetawoo mentioned Hugo’s Overlay filter as an alternative (or maybe even for use with the Text filter), it hit me that this was the way to go. Rather than letting Hugo put text over the background gradient, I should just create a transparent title graphic with white text formatted as I wanted and then have Hugo overlay that on the gradient.

But it was easier said than done. I’d have to:

  • Make a separate title graphic for each of my posts — which amount to over 200 as of this writing.
  • Change the site code to make Hugo select the right title graphic for each post and use Overlay to superimpose it on that standard background gradient image.

And this was going to take some doing. I was keeping all my images in assets/images/. As for my content files: rather than using the page bundles approach, I’d always organized them as in this example:

.   <-- The Hugo project folder
└─ content
    └─ posts
        └─ 2022
            └─ 07
                └─ a-post.md
                └─ another-post.md
                └─ yet-another-post.md

. . . resulting in URLs at:

  • /posts/2022/07/a-post/
  • /posts/2022/07/another-post/
  • /posts/2022/07/yet-another-post/

. . . which hadn’t been a problem — until now.

My initial plan was to name each title graphic based on the filename of its corresponding content file — e.g., a post file called my-latest-post.md would have a title graphic named something like:


Then, I’d write a loop that would, for each post, locate within assets/images/ the title graphic that ended with the right filename.

A few hours later, I had the title graphics done and in assets/images/. But, when I tried to build the code to assign each post a title graphic of its own, I ran into some trouble. After hours of fruitless research into the problem, I asked for help on the Hugo Discourse; that link points to my detailed description of what was going wrong.

In the end, it turned out that I’d simply (a.) fat-fingered a few of the title graphics’ filenames and (b.) failed to make a few of the title graphics — thus, Hugo couldn’t always find what it was seeking and justifiably threw a fit.2 Once I had that resolved, the solution worked and I pushed it to the site.

But, during that process with the Discourse, I received one bit of extremely sage advice from Hugo expert and contributor Joe Mooring:

Opinion: it would be less error-prone to use page resources for these OG images. Then you could use a generic name instead of having to match file names.

When I responded that this was a good idea if I were starting from scratch but not now, given my then-current content management scheme, he doubled down:

Use leaf bundles.

 └─ posts/
    └─ 2022/
        └─ 07/
            ├── my-first-post/
            │   ├── index.md
            │   ├── og.png
            └── my-second-post/
                ├── index.md
                ├── og.png

And, although I then gave a (weak) rejoinder that this also was “in the category if I were starting over, rather than 200+ posts into my current setup,” he’d gotten me to thinking — about not only the current headache but also, perhaps in time, others that might come about if I didn’t take his advice. I’d actually considered going with page bundles before but, in the absence of resulting problems, hadn’t bothered. Now, I saw, there were potentially site-hobbling potholes to be encountered from not proceeding in that direction.

So, just a few hours after I had my original plan working, I created a new branch, pagebundles, and proceeded to rebuild my site exactly that way. For example, this post you’re reading now is arranged as follows:

.   <-- The Hugo project folder
└─ content
    └─ posts
        └─ 2022
            └─ 07
                └─ bundling-up-rebuilding-my-hugo-site
                    └─ 2022-07-23-sample-title-with-gradient_1024x512.jpg
                    └─ index.md
                    └─ title.png
                    └─ tweet-1549447287625207809-from-2022-07-19-1233CDT_1190x1494.png

In other words:

  • The post is generated by a folder with its name and a resident content file called index.md, rather than from a Markdown file by that name within content/posts/2022/07/.
  • Also within that folder, serving as page resources for this post, are:
    • title.png, the title graphic.
    • The two other graphics files specific to the post. You already saw one earlier, while the other is further down.

The key is that, now, every post on the site contains a file called title.png, which is its title graphic. As a result, as Mooring correctly suggested would occur, it was a piece of cake to code my head.html partial to handle this:

	   (Earlier, I'd defined `$socImg` as the site's fallback image,
	   such as is used by the home page and the HTML sitemap.)

	   Now, we make a `with-else` loop that uses the `title.png` file
	   **if** it exists. (If not, it does nothing and `$socImg` is
	   still the fallback image.)

	   Because `title.png` is a page resource, we use `.Page.Resources.GetMatch`.
	 {{- with .Page.Resources.GetMatch "title.png" }}
		{{- $titleImg := . -}}
	   Having obtained that `title.png` (if we can), we overlay it across the
	   site-wide gradient/logo image --- which, **because** it is site-wide,
	   remains in `assets/images/`, so we obtain it with `resources.Get`.
		{{- $finalFilter := (images.Overlay $titleImg 0 0 ) -}}
		{{- $socImg = resources.Get "images/social-OG-w-BW-logo_1024x512.jpg" -}}
		{{- $socImg = $socImg | images.Filter $finalFilter -}}
   {{- else -}}
		{{- /* $socImg remains fallback image */ -}}
	 {{- end }}
	   Finally, with `$socImg` set (either our desired gradient-with-the-title
	   or, if needed, the generic fallback), we use it as our social/OG image.
		<meta name="og:image" content="{{ $socImg.Permalink }}" />
		<meta name="twitter:image" content="{{ $socImg.Permalink }}" />

For this post in particular, that generates a social/OG image like this:

Sample title graphic for this post, with text overlay and the site’s “BW” logo

That’s the result of overlaying this post’s title.png file over the site-wide gradient/logo graphic.

My work done, I merged pagebundles into main and, voilà, the site was in Page Bundles City.

So, children, the moral of this story is:

  • Build your Hugo site with page bundles.
  • If you’ve already built your site without page bundles, seriously consider rebuilding it with them. Note that you can do it gradually, one post at a time; I simply chose to get it over with and do it all at once.

Otherwise, someday, you’ll wish you had. Don’t wait until you have hundreds of pages, or more, that you have to retro-fit into this method.

Or, to be even shorter: don’t be like me.

Update from the future: I later abandoned this approach, although while conceding that it may still be the wiser course for many other Hugo users.

  1. I’m using a screen capture, rather than doing my usual static embed of the actual tweet, because that post’s social/OG image has probably changed since then (I say, “probably,” because it depends on Twitter’s sometimes-slow-to-update image cache) and I want you to see how it originally looked. ↩︎

  2. In case you’re wondering, I did employ some degree of error-catching, but the messages I got back weren’t very helpful. I could’ve coded — and, in fact, did off-and-on during the debugging process — so that Hugo simply worked around the errors and used another safe image rather than going postal on me; but I didn’t want that fallback to occur, at least without my knowing why and being in better control of when it happened. Basically, I didn’t want any post to use the fallback if it did have an appropriate title graphic. ↩︎

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