Create a blog with Netlify CMS and Gatsby

July 13, 2020

What is Netlify CMS?

Netlify CMS is an open source content-management tool that works using git. It allows the user to create posts and pages in a web-based UI. One or more users can sign in to an admin panel to edit, preview, and publish content.

Netlify CMS

Netlify CMS can be used with static site generators such as:

and more.

Netlify CMS works the same way with each of these sites and there are a ton of starters already available online. Alternatively, you can quickly add the CMS in to your existing project with just a few config files.

In terms of customizability, you get full access to the collections and fields of your data and also over editing the UI. Since the interface is just a React component, you can even build your own widgets and previews.

Gatsby Project Setup

To setup the project, first make sure you have Node JS installed.

We will be using the Netlify CMS Template Starter for Gatsby. Visit the link and select the Netlify deploy button for Gatsby. This will login you in to Netlify and ask your for a repo name

Netlify CMS Template

When you click Save & Deploy, the site will be deployed to Netlify’s static hosting platform. Netlify will also setup a copy of the starter repo on your Github account.

Netlify dashboard

Once the page is built, find and clone the repo of your new blog starter on github

git clone <git-repo-address>

Next navigate into the repo folder, install, and start the project locally with

cd project-name
npm install
gatsby develop

Once the starter builds, visit http://localhost:8000/ in the browser to start the project

Netlify CMS Demo

Each page on this site includes content that was added using collections in the CMS configuration file. The blog posts are written in Markdown and then transformed into pages using templates in Gatsby. In order to login and start editing, we will first need to setup a login method.

CMS Backend Options

Only users with authentication should be allowed to edit content in the CMS. We also don’t want to give repo access to just anyone. The currently available backend types are

  • Netlify’s Git Gateway
  • Github
  • Gitlab
  • Bitbucket

Git Gateway

Git Gateway is the default option for this starter and it requires that you use Netlify’s Identity service for each of your CMS users. This setup allows users to login to the CMS using their Netlify accounts. Git gateway is a simple a straightforward setup that allows users to create amd edit content right away.

In this tutorial we will instead be using Github for our backend which allows for the editorial workflow feature. You can find out more about Git Gateway in the Netlify docs.

If you would prefer to use Git Gateway instead of Github, visit /admin at either the hosted or local application to login with Netlify and skip the next section.

Github Setup (Editorial Workflow)

We will now connect our application to github for authentication using OAuth. The first step is to turn off Netlify Identity in the Netlify dashboard under Your Netlify site >> Settings >> Identity. Scroll to the bottom and click Delete instance under Delete Identity Instance. Netlify Delete Identity
Once you’ve confirmed deleting Netlify Identity, head over to Github to generate an oAuth token. Here, navigate to Settings >> Developer settings >> OAuth Apps and click New OAuth App. Netlify Github OAuth
On this page, name the application whatever you like and include the URL Netlify generated where ts says Homepage URL. We will also need to add a Authorization callback URL. Set this field to be which can be also found in Netlify’s OAuth docs.

When you register the application on github you will be provided with a Client ID and Client Secret.

Note: Make sure to keep these keys secure as they will provide access to your repo.

Head back to the Netlify Dashboard under Your Netlify site >> Settings >> Access Control and click Install Provider under the OAuth section.

Netlify Oauth setup

Add the ID and secret to the form to configure your Netlify settings for OAuth.   Lastly, we need to configure our code to reflect these changes. In the project folder we cloned earlier, open the config.yml file located in static/admin/. This file is our Netlify CMS configuration and it looks like this

  name: git-gateway
  branch: master
    create: 'Create {{collection}} “{{slug}}”'
    update: 'Update {{collection}} “{{slug}}”'
    delete: 'Delete {{collection}} “{{slug}}”'
    uploadMedia: '[skip ci] Upload “{{path}}”'
    deleteMedia: '[skip ci] Delete “{{path}}”'

media_folder: static/img
public_folder: /img

The above file is written in .yml or YAML which is a configuration language sensitive to indenting. In your config.yml file, make the following 4 changes:

  • Change name from git-gateway to github
  • Add repo config on the next line with your github username and repo name
  • Add open_authoring: true on the next line
  • Add publish_mode: editorial workflow

After making these changes your config.yml file should similar to this

  name: github
  repo: <github-username>/<github-repo-name>
  open_authoring: true
  branch: master
    create: "Create {{collection}} “{{slug}}”"
    update: "Update {{collection}} “{{slug}}”"
    delete: "Delete {{collection}} “{{slug}}”"
    uploadMedia: "[skip ci] Upload “{{path}}”"
    deleteMedia: "[skip ci] Delete “{{path}}”"

publish_mode: editorial_workflow
media_folder: static/img
public_folder: /img

Commit your changes to github to complete the Auth setup. Once the build completes, you will be able to login to your CMS by adding /admin at the end of your hosted (or local) URL.

Navigating the CMS

Now that we’ve done the heavy lifting of setting up our project, we’ve unlocked a bunch of great features to improve the content creation process for our site. Login to your CMS if you aren’t already, and you should see something like

Netlify CMS Dashboard

Blog Posting

You’ll notice there are 3 blog posts already created. These are all .md files that Netlify CMS generates and Gatsby turns into web pages for us. Whenever you submit edits for or publish a new post, Netlify CMS will update your git repo so Netlify can build a new webpage with the provided content. Create a new blog post now with New Blog to try this out

Netlify New Post

Changes you make on the left will appear in the preview on the right. Since Netlify CMS is built in React, you can even style the preview section on the right to be formatted like your site.


This starter gives us access to Blog and Pages to create. These are both collections in our config.yml file from earlier. In this file you can create new collections for different reusable data types. There are plenty of examples already in this file on how to add specific fields to a collection.


The Workflow section in the CMS allows users to create drafts, submit content for review, and queue it up as ready to publish.

netlify editorial workflow

Any content that is saved but not published will find it’s way here on one of these boards. Netlify CMS opens a pull request on your repository for each of these files. Anyone with repo access can approve and publish content from other users.

Open Authoring means that anyone with a github account can also submit posts to your site. This is an excellent feature if you are collaborating with other github users and the workflow is seamless. Try creating some blog posts now to explore the options here. Visit your github repo with a post queued up to see the pull request Netlify CMS opened up.


The last section here keeps track of our site’s media. Netlify CMS stores any images uploaded here in a folder in your git repo. Any images you add here will get commited the next time you publish content. This is a great feature as it allows you to keep images organized without having to type URLs or navigate project folders.


Netlify CMS is a powerhouse open source tool for blogging and development. There are other features we didn’t include here such as building widgets, connecting to external media libraries, and customizing previews. I highly recommend checking out Netlify CMS if you are at all interested in streamlining your site’s content creation process without relying on a paid 3rd party service.

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