Docpad with the taste of BEM

04 June 2014

Let me present a stub for docpad-run project with bem-built static assets. If you ever wanted to be a generic blog holder equiped with nice and neat static files, here we go.

How to start

You need install the docpad first. Follow their Installation Guide.

Then, the installation of the blog is super short and easy. Clone, fork or copy from the docpad-bem-stub repository. Then, go though the 3 installation steps:

npm install
docpad run

With these 3 steps you will get:

  • a local server with a generic docpad blog;
  • bem-core and bem-components libraries of reusable CSS/JavaScript/templates code;
  • fully tuned static-build instructions which run on changes in your source code;
  • initial blog structure.

How to write

In the given structure you can write either pages or blog posts. The posts are listed in the index page. Once you added a new item, you can see it in this list and navigate to its page; the docpad rebuilds from source automatically.

Place the pages as * files into src/documents/pages directory. The posts are kept into src/documents/posts.

How to develop statics

The statics is developed with BEM. You can get CSS and JavaScript files for your pages in desktop.bundles directory. The pages are built with blocks from desktop.blocks folder.

The rebuild process for statics runs under docpad server.

Sometimes you may prefer to develop static pages separately. For this run

./node_modules/enb/bin/enb server

You will get another server which rebuilds statics. It produces static html files from *.bemjson.js files in desktop.bundles. You can develop the layout inserting json there and providing BEMHTML templates for the corresponding block. Find the documentation about BEMHTML here:

For the same blocks you can provide *.css and *.js files and get them built into pages.

How to publish

The blog is tuned to be deployed on GitHub. Thus, your repository has to be named as <username> You can develop in its source branch. For deploying on <username> host run this command:

docpad deploy-ghpages

This will create master branch of the repository whose source is linked to the host.

You can also attach your own domain to the blog like I did. Also, it is possible to host your blog in differently named repository. However this will make you to provide changes on configuration file.
Study Github Pages to learn more.

Why Docpad?

This blog had been running on Jekyll for a while. This was an acceptable soltuion for a quick start. However with the growth of the posts base I started to suffer from not very fast rebuilds. Also, sometimes providing changes into the blog layout was hard, mostly due to the limitations of liquid templates.

I've decided that Docpad should be much better alternative. It is served as an npm package, possible to be extended with plugins and has an active fast-growing developers community.

The docpad-bem-stub gives you initial structure, from which you already can write and publish. If you want to provide changes into the build process, modify the templates or extend with plugins, learn at Docpad website.

Moreover, Stackoverflow indeed already has an answer to almost all the questions you have. If not, create a new one.

Why BEM?

BEM is a very flexible modular solution for frontend which enables to develop reusable CSS and JavaScript components. Plus, some code can be taken from their open source libraries.

You can learn a lot about BEM from my articles and talks or at the official BEM site.

Inside about

Above I described all you need to know for using your blog. Below there are a little more technical details on what is behind.


I use enb for building pages with block components. This solution is preferable to bem-tools because of it is much faster. When rebuilding pages on every change, this is sensetive.

i-bem.js and modules

I personally love that this solution brings i-bem.js library to the project. Hope to demonstrate its amazing capabilities here in near future. But before I stuff my blog with complex JavaScript components, you can see some examples and very detailed explanations in Step-by-step tutorial on i-bem.js.

Another JavaScript feature you can enjoy is YM modular system. These are JavaScript modules with asynchronious resolving.


As mentioned above, BEMHTML is a templating solution. Being JavaScript-based, these templates can be applied on both server and client side. There are a couple of documents for a deeper dive into it here:

bem-core and bem-components

BEM is also nice for a possibility to borrow the components from libraries. docpad-bem-stub uses 2 now available libraries:

I hope to see more in the future.

What next?

Indeed everything can be improved. These are my thoughts on how to continue.

  • detect changes in static files
    Docpad watches over the changes in src directory. This means that when developing statics you will not get the rebuild. I am thinking on running enb server under docpad run and proxy. This maybe better than watch over a lot of files in desktop.blocks, desktop.bundles and all the libraries.
  • css preprocessors
    The blog styles are in pure CSS now. But with a little change into enb configuration we can learn it to build with preprocessors.
  • fresh design
    Creating a simple layout is the most difficult design task. Don't you agree?
  • nice initial posts
    This is even harder than the desing tasks but I think the users feel much more comfortable when getting a blog with predefined texts.

If you feel your oats and want to do your bit, fork the repository and start :-)

You can hire me and the whole Bridge-the-Gap team to set up, manage, develop, and champion your design system. I can align the design and development processes in your organisation for a larger business impact.

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