Setting Up A New Site


  1. Set up initial GitHub repository for upcoming labs
  2. Review branching, committing and pushing to GitHub
  3. Create some basic files and folders for your repository


In the upcoming labs, we will be working through the creation of a full website, introducing various HTML concepts and components while applying them to our site. Each lesson builds off of the work completed in the last, so in this lesson, we will be going through the process of setting up your own GitHub repository to code along in. In addition to this, in the event that you get stuck or your personal repository isn't working as intended, you will have access to a repository with starter code to follow along with from each lesson.

NOTE: Videos are provided in these lessons, but contain some instructions and steps that have changed, especially if you are using the in-browser Learn IDE. For this reason, the Readme content of these lessons will differ slightly from video instructions, and will include up-to-date steps for navigating the Learn IDE and completing these lessons entirely within your browser Learn environment (instead of Sublime, the text editor used in the video). You do not need specific applications such as Sublime or iTerm.

While using the in-browser Sandbox, if you leave the page or refresh, any work completed will be lost unless it is pushed up to a remote repository, which we will be discussing in this lesson. Make sure, though, to always open a new browser tab or window when navigating away from Learn.

Setting Up Your GitHub Repository

Let's start by creating some initial folders and files before creating a remote git repository online.

  • We will be creating a website for a fake real estate company called 'Exceptional Realty Group.' Before anything else, we need a place to put our work. In your Learn terminal, create a project folder by typing mkdir exceptional-realty. Then, to navigate into that folder, type cd exceptional-realty.
  • Let's create some basic files. From inside your project folder, type touch to create an empty README file. The file will appear in the folder tree beside the text editor in the Learn IDE, within the exceptional-realty folder.
  • We can add some content to this file by clicking the file to open it. Let's add a title, 'Exceptional Realty Group Website' and on a new line, we'll add a description: 'This is an example site for the Intro to Front-End Web Development course at the Flatiron School'.
  • We should also create a .gitignore file, which is essential in preventing private and/or sensitive files from being shared publicly when your repository is online. First, type touch .gitignore to create the file. For now, we can use a list of common .gitignore configurations to populate this file, provided via GitHub. Navigate to, copy the contents of the .gitignore file provided there, and paste them into your newly created file.

Now that we've got some files in our project, let's initialize a new git repository locally, then create a remote repo and connect them.

  • To initialize a new git repository locally, in our exceptional-realty folder, type git init. You should see a line in your terminal that displays where your git file has been created:
  Initialized empty Git repository in /home/.../exceptional-realty/.git/
  • We now have a local git repository. If you type git status in your terminal, you should see the files we just created listed as 'Untracked files'. Since these files are untracked, any changes made to them won't be recognized by our git repository yet.
  • To track the files we've created and changed, type git add .. Then, we want to record, a.k.a 'commit', these changes to our git repo by typing git commit -m 'first commit'. The -m is short for --message=, which we'll use to state what we're doing during this particular commit.
  • If you type git status now, you'll see that our files are no longer listed, and that there is 'nothing to commit, the working directory is clean', meaning there are no new changes since the last commit.

We've got our local work ready to go, so now we need to set up a new remote repository to store this in.

  • Open a new browser tab and go to and make sure you are signed in.
  • In the upper right-hand corner of the page, click the + button and choose New repository
  • You'll be brought to the Create a new repository page. We can go ahead and name this repository the same name we gave our folder, so in the Repository name field, enter 'exceptional-realty'. Then, we'll add a brief description of what this repository is for in the Description field.
  • We can leave this repository set to Public. We also already have a file, so we do not need to initialize this repository with one. Click Create repository to continue.
  • GitHub provides commands in the Quick setup page for starting from scratch, pushing an existing local repository, or importing code from another repository. In our case, we need the commands for 'pushing an existing repository.' The url provided will be unique to your GitHub username and repo, so copy the first command that looks something like:

git remote add origin<your_username_here>/exceptional-realty.git...

  • Back in the Learn terminal, paste in the copied command and press return. If you have any trouble, make sure you've set up an GitHub account SSH key to your local computer. Checkout this link for more info on setting up your SSH: Adding a New SSH Key to Your GitHub Account.
  • To push up your local work to this new remote repository, we'll use the second command GitHub provides:
git push -u origin master
  • This tells our git repository to push up to our remote repository, origin, using our local repository's master branch. The -u is necessary for the first time we do this, as it also tells git to set up tracking between our local and remote master branches. You may need to enter your GitHub credentials in the terminal to complete this step. If successful, your terminal will display that it is counting and writing objects to your remote repository, and that Branch master set up to track remote branch master from origin.
  • Head back and refresh the 'Quick setup' page. Your pushed up files should appear.
  • At any point going forward, if you accidentally navigate away from these learn lessons or refresh the page, you can always re-clone a copy of your remote repo by entering the following into your terminal:

git clone<your_username_here>/exceptional-realty

This will download a copy to your Learn IDE based on whatever you last committed and pushed up to GitHub. Always push up any work you want to keep and access again! If you run into any issues while following along in these lessons, or are unable to set up your own repository, remember that you will still be able to use a demonstration repository in each of the following lessons to code along.

Adding Branches

  • From inside your repository folder in the Learn IDE, type git branch. This command will show you all the existing branches that are stored locally on your computer, and currently, we only have one, master. As a general best practice, the master branch should always be kept in a fully functional state; any new features or additions made on a repo should be done on a separate branch, allowing one or more developers to work on isolated parts of a project without interfering with the master version until the branch code is fully ready.
  • We're going to create a new branch and add some files to this repository. To do this, type:
git checkout -b main-pages

Your terminal should now display that you are on a new branch, (main-pages), instead of (master).

  • Let's create some additional web pages for our website. You can do this by choosing to click the Create New button in your Learn IDE and choosing File, or by using your terminal and the command touch, followed by the name of the file. Go ahead and create our first file, index.html, all lowercase, which will be our homepage on the website. Now, let's create the rest of our web pages:
touch index.html
touch contact.html
touch market-report.html
touch new-properties.html
touch real-estate-listings.html
  • Naming these files based on what they will contain will keep us better organized, and can also help when it comes to search engine optimization, as search engine bots can use file names to find relevant search information.

Retrieving Files Using the wget Command

  • We will need a separate folder for storing some image files. Create a directory using mkdir or your Create New button, and name it images.
  • Let's go ahead and add an image to this folder. You may be used to downloading images off the internet by simply navigating to that image, right clicking, and saving the file. We're going to employ a special terminal command that will work with the in-browser IDE, wget. First, though, we need an image. Since we're building a real estate website, let's use the image found at

Intro Pic

  • Copy the full url path of the image, navigate (cd) into your images folder, and type the following:


  • The file intro-pic.jpg should appear in your images folder. You may not be able to view this image in the Learn IDE, but that is fine; we can still use it in our site.

In the upcoming videos, whenever an image or video is downloaded from the internet, the written instructions will use wget instead to retrieve those files.

Testing our Website Using httpserver

While we build our website and add content, we need to be actively checking to see what the actual site looks like. In the Learn IDE, we can use a tool that is already built in, httpserver!

  • Navigate out of the images folder using cd .., so you are in your main exceptional-realty folder.
  • In your terminal, type httpserver and press return.
  • You will see a message Your server is running at ..., following by a string of numbers, with periods and a colon. Copy that string, open a new tab, and paste.
  • At this point, you will see a blank page because we don't have anything in our index.html file. However, you can check to see if the files are being served by adding the following to the end of the pasted numbers: /images/intro-pic.jpg
  • If all is well, the image we retrieved using wget and placed in our images folder should appear.
  • To stop httpserver, make sure your terminal is in focus and press Control + C.

We will use httpserver throughout these lessons in place of opening files via Finder, the method mentioned in the videos.

Wrapping Up

We now have a remote repository set up with a good foundation of necessary files. Before moving on, make sure you have added, committed and pushed your local work up to your remote repository. But wait! If you've been following along, you're currently on a new branch, main-pages! Our new features aren't complete, so we want to make sure this branch is stored separately from our master branch in our remote repository. Entering the following commands will push up this new branch without interfering with master:

git add .
git commit -m 'added html pages and an image'
git push -u origin main-pages

This adds any changes you've made, creates a commit record of them, and tells git to push the main-pages branch to your origin, the remote repository, setting up tracking between your local and remote main-pages branches. If you check out your repository on GitHub, you'll see that you now have 2 branches, master, and main-pages.

Always make sure to push up any new work before continuing to the next lesson. This way, at the beginning of your next lesson, you can clone down a copy of your remote repository, switch over to the main-pages branch and continue working. The following instructions will be in each lesson, but for reference, here are the steps:

git clone<your_username_here>/exceptional-realty
cd exceptional-realty
git fetch --all
git checkout main-pages

The git fetch --all is necessary, as just cloning down a repository will only pull the master branch to your local computer. We use fetch --all to retrieve all remote branches, then checkout to switch over to one.

Alternate video link.

Click here to go to the intro pic used in this code along.

Here is a direct link to the gitignore code referenced in the video.

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