How do I get started from nothing?

I have no recent experience with HTML and CSS, nor with web site design, but want to customize the look of my hosted site. Where do I go to learn that?

I couldn’t find any tutorials for those unfamiliar with templates in the help center. The gohugo website isn’t helpful, since their get started tutorial won’t run without a warning on my development machine, Raspbian version 11 (bullseye), Hugo version 0.80.0. I tried the YouTube tutorials by Mike Dane, but those just led me into the weeds of keeping too many details in my head at once, promised to be explained later, only to seemingly add even more minutia to keep track of.

So, your question can be rephrased to How do I become a hobbyist web developer?

And just like with similar questions, How do I become a hobbyist mechanic/gardener/musician?, it’s tough to answer. There’s no single way, and everybody learns differently. Some prefer books, and others want videos. Some people cannot learn by themselves; they must attend a class or hire a tutor.

I don’t think there’s a single resource out there that will take you from zero to Hugo. Hugo is a powerful tool designed and built with web developers as a target audience. The creators of Hugo expect you to already know HTML, CSS, Go, and preferably JavaScript.

It can be a non-trivial tool to learn, even for people with a background as programmers. I’ve built websites as a hobby since 1997. And I have more than two decades of experience getting paid to build websites for others. And I still struggle with Hugo sometimes. :blush: I think their documentation sucks. More than once, I’ve had to read the actual source code because the documentation is subpar.

So you’re up for an extra challenge as you want to learn Hugo, which is relatively niche compared to, say, WordPress. There are a ton of resources out there for WordPress. Hugo, not so much, unfortunately.

The good news is that we now know of a few resources that didn’t work for you. :blush: Mike’s video tutorials and the official tutorial didn’t float your boat. Maybe learning from a book is more your thing? Or taking a course a Udemy: Build a Static Website step by step using Hugo (it claims no prior knowledge of CSS or JavaScript is required). I have no idea if these resources are any good or if they fit your learning style.

Building My Hugo Website as a Noob is a blog post that might have some good pointers.

With very little web development skills, I spent over 80 hours learning how to put my site together with Hugo and Netlify.


Take a look at How to customise Micro.Blog and see if anything there will help you. I suggest starting with the Archive and going back to the earliest posts. My purpose on that site was to help people with straightforward customisations.

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Hmmm, checked the Archive page and I need to do some work — it only shows a number of recent posts, not the whole thing. Darn!

Whew! Fixed it. The first post on the site was on 30 May 2019. That now appears as the last entry on the Archive page.

My problem, all these solutions seem to assume you’re a professional (or soon to become one), as you are to own an Apple Macintosh computer. They also assume you’re efficient with your code editor. This is going to be a slow and painful process on a Raspberry Pi400. And after months of daily pain, I will only be able to modify a very simple Hugo powered website, not a micro blog website, nor can I modify CSS and JavaScript.

But I guess that’s the price one has to pay to be able to modify the look of your static website as a hobbyist. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. You either pay with money or with time you could spend earning that money.

I’m with you. Acquiring a new skill definitely requires investing time or money. Sometimes both. Just downloading a new skill to one’s brain, like in The Matrix, would be cool, but it is still fiction, as far as I know. :blush:

And I’m not surprised that many Hugo learning resources out there assume basic knowledge of how to use a text editor. Again, it’s a tool aimed at programmers.

But I’m curious about the Mac thing. Where did you read that owning a Mac is a requirement? I’ve mentored and teched programming to kids through an initiative called CoderDojo. Students use various devices like PCs and Macs, Chromebooks, and Raspberry Pis. I can’t say the choice of hardware or operating system affects how fast they learn or that learning on a Mac would be less painful than on a Raspberry Pi.

The things I would have done to have access to a machine as powerful as the Raspberry Pi 400 when I was a kid and first learned to program. :blush:

What kind of customizations do you want on your; maybe we could figure it out together?

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Hey @sod thanks very much for what you said here, it validates my experience of feeling frustrated as a newbie. I just bought the book you linked to, and grabbed that Udemy class. It helps to hear from someone much more experienced that yes, this is a difficult thing for a total beginner to jump into.

Thank you @renevanbelzen for bringing this up! I have only a little experience with HTML and CSS, and I’m trying to start my own Hugo site as an addition to my microblog, and it’s been frustrating. I’m right there with ya. I really like what Hugo can do, but under the hood I’ve been quite lost. I’m optimistic, though!

Oh, thank you, I’m glad my post was helpful to you. Please, let me know how you find the book and course. I would like to know if they are any good. :relaxed:

And yes, getting into Hugo as a newbie is way more complex than it needs to be. There are definitely alternative static site generators out there, like Jekyll or Eleventy, with better official documentation, third-party learning resources, and communities more welcoming to newbies.

But if the goal is to customize themes or make plug-ins, I’m afraid there’s no way around it. You must learn at least a little bit of Hugo and how Go templates work.

I’m happy to hear you’re still optimistic. I’m sure it will eventually click if you stick with it. Feel free to ask questions here on the forum or mention me on the timeline. I will try my best to help you out. :relaxed:

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I certainly feel blessed with a Raspberry Pi-400 homecomputer, now it’s almost impossible to get a Pi board due to chip shortages.

Then there is the idea among regular microbloggers that adjusting settings is what programming is all about. Rebuilding parts of the system never seems to occur to them. This is the sad truth of the current trend of computers as appliances and software in walled gardens. People who grew up with these ideas don’t realize there used to be a time one had to build one’s own computer, and one could, if persistent enough.

The Pi-400 recaptures some of this spirit of reimagining how computers work, tinker with its inner workings.

Therefore I think this forum needs a separate section for newbie programmers to tinker with websites at a deeper level than changing settings. Perhaps giving them challenges to reach a higher level of understanding, since many learn better by doing rather than being tutored to.

@renevanbelzen One tip I would offer is to create a test blog on You get one free test blog in addition to your regular one. You can do your tinkering on the test blog and then apply the ones that work to your main blog.

Good point.

Also, it might be good to start small. What is something that you want to change? Maybe it is a color, or positioning, or how something is worded. Then, feel free to ask how to do that, and some helpful person will show you how to do it. Once you have done a couple of these changes, you might have a better understanding of what you can and cannot do and what to look deeper into.

A lot of the tools used here are throwing you into the deep end of the pool, but there is a shallow end, too.

That shallow end is where fits in… :grinning:

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I already tried something small, which turned out to be a wild goose chase, because I had no clue how works under the hood (templating, Hugo, etc.). I’d rather not be in that situation again. Hence my question: “How do I get started from nothing.”

Luckily, there was a solution, but not very satisfactory, because it involves copying HTML source code from the /archive page, and adding categories manually. Since I can’t expect any of you to solve my particular problems, the only thing I can think of is to learn templating with Hugo and apply that to

Anyway, I found a useful tip on the discourse site:

You are expected to already know how to assemble a static web page, for which you do need some basic knowledge of html, css, command line and text editors. Or how to prepare a space to host your website. The bottom line is, if you are unwilling to invest the time required to learn these things, then Hugo is not for you.

Since JavaScript is used frequently as well, I suppose that should be added to the minimal requirements to do anything useful with website design on In short, years of study, not doing tutorials, but study.

I do not know javascript and I am able to build completely custom themes. That being said, there’s no on ramp without knowing HTML and CSS, understanding concepts the DOM and html templating, etc.

Customization beyond things that are pure CSS (adjusting colors/fonts/sizing) is going to require understanding HTML and the DOM and static site generation-style HTML templates. There’s no way around that. I know you keep asking, but the truth is there’s a very gentle “make this white thing purple” but past that, the curve is inherently steep if you have no web experience.

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Thanks for pointing out JavaScript isn’t required.

Regarding the other requirements, I realize it’s a long way ahead.