When googling… something1 blogdown related, I stumbled onto some slides from an R-Ladies workshop, where Alison Persmanes Hill goes through the process of setting up a website with blogdown and Hugo. The running example in the slides is the set up of a website for the R-Ladies Portland chapter, and I can assure you that the slides serve as a great tutorial for getting into blogdown, even without being actively presented by Alison!


I was already familiar with most of the topics, but her introduction of Font Awesome icons came as a (very pleasant) new discovery for me. However, it took me some time to figure out a little detail* needed to add the icons to my navigation bar – where they have now replaced the text-based links to my social media pages.

Setting up

The set up is really simple, just two steps:

  1. Go to the Font Awesome website and copy their CDN link.2
  2. Paste the code into the HTML <head> of your site.

And that’s it! Now you can effortlessly add little HTML elements (like this one <i class="fab fa-fort-awesome"></i>) to include cool icons (like this one ) on your website!

The little detail

The method that Alison used in her talk for including icons in the navigation bar in a Hugo website was to simply add a pre field to the menu declaration in the TOML config file for the site. I did that, and nothing happened. The icons just wouldn’t show up. What is this!?

After some head-scratching and additional googling I remembered that the slide before mentioned something about overriding the nav.html partial template included in the Lithium theme (Yihui Xie’s modified version, which is what I’m using as well). I opened up the template, and lo and behold, I learned something about Hugo: my navigation bar template didn’t include a {{ .Pre }} tag in it at all, so the pre field that I declared earlier simply wasn’t used anywhere.

So, to fix my issue, and include icons in the navigation bar, I just had to make sure the pre value was being added to the navigation bar elements. I ended up with the list items in my nav.html looking like this:

<a href="{{ .URL }}">{{ .Pre }} {{ .Name }}</a>

And, as you can tell, now everything works! 🎉3 Happy times. 😁

In memoriam

And finally, here’s a little memorial to my initial testing to see how I could include the Font Awesome icons in these posts:

  1. What exactly it was persistently eludes me. ↩︎

  2. I’m not including it here just so that in case it changes in the future, this post wont end up with a sneakily broken link. ↩︎

  3. Yup, emojis (… emoji? I don’t know.) too! Only for plain Markdown though, not for R Markdown. ↩︎