Note: I can’t vouch as to the best-practise compliance of this technique, but it’s worked well for me.

One of the neat things about using a Javascript framework such as Ember.js is that you can host it just about anywhere you like - it’s just static files after all. My first stop for hosting things like this is Github Pages - it means the site is backed by Git (as it should be anyway), and your files are being served by Github’s pretty solid platform.

If you’ve got a Github Pages site though, generally you are deploying to a branch named gh-pages. The files you push to the gh-pages branch should also be the files you would normally place at the root location of your web server (i.e. there should be a file named index.html that will be served by default. This becomes a bit tricky with git, as you need the files contained in one particular folder of your repository to be pushed to a different branch than the one your on.

Based on a bit of research, I found that Git has a way of doing this, and it’s a pretty neat technique. The subcommand is called subtree push, and it basically let’s you push a particular folder of your repository to a remote branch. In the context of Ember (Ember CLI in particular), this means pushing your dist folder to the gh-pages branch, or:

git subtree push --prefix dist origin gh-pages

It’s not quite as simple as that though! Applications generated with ember-cli (quite rightly in most cases), add the dist folder to the .gitignore file, which will cause that subtree command to ignore files in that directory when pushing (i.e. it appears to succeed, but nothing is pushed). I haven’t yet found a good solution for this, so for now I’ve just stopped ignoring the dist folder. This invovles checking in changes every time I build, however it seems to be necessary for this deploy process to work.

My workflow for making changes to an Ember CLI application now then is:

  • Make the changes
  • Run the tests (if any, this is an area of Ember I need to catch up on)
  • Run ember build production to update the contents of the dist folder
  • Run git subtree push --prefix dist origin gh-pages

Most of the time, I’ll put those last two commands into a shell script I can invoke, and call that - but then - that’s it, that’s my deploy process. My changes go up in a couple of seconds and are live straight away. I can then check in my changes to master as I normally would, and master will continue to include a full copy of the Ember application that anyone can clone and hack away on.

Tips, Tricks and Notes

  1. If you’ve got any files that you just want to go into the dist folder, put them in the public folder of your Ember CLI application. A perfect use case for this is the CNAME file that Github requires be in your gh-pages branch if you wish to direct a custom domain name to your Github Pages site.
  2. If you are not using a custom domain, and you’re pushing to a project repository, then your Github pages site will be available at: https://[github username][your repository name]. In order to get your assets, etc. loading correctly (because the site is in a subfolder), you need to add the following to your config/environment.js:
      if (environment === 'production') {
        ENV.baseURL = '/name-of-your-repo'
  1. If you would prefer a more integrated approach, you might be interested in the ember-cli-github-pages addon for Ember CLI. Personally, it’s not for me, as I prefer to put together my own git commands - I’m not so sure it’s an Ember addon should be taking care of the whole deployment like that.