Welcome to my {distill} website!

distill distilltools R package development

Resources and sites I found inspiring when building my new site, and a sneak-peek at {distilltools}, an exciting new project for {distill} users

Ella Kaye https://twitter.com/ellamkaye

Hello, and welcome to my new site, built using the {distill} package. Here’s why I switched from {blogdown}, and the resources and inspirations that helped me in the process.

Why {distill}?

As the documentation says, {distill} for R Markdown is a web publishing format optimised for scientific and technical communication. Recent updates to the package, particularly the ability to customise the theme through the create_theme() function, have made it a really appealing choice for those wanting a personalised website based only on R Markdown. The fact that {distill} is made just in R Markdown is a big win for those not wanting to go down (or, like me, looking to get away from), the Hugo route. I’d had a Hugo Academic website for four years, built on {blogdown}, and had been stung a number of times by it breaking after updates to Hugo and Hugo Academic. Last year, I switched to {hugodown}, and that helped, but I had some serious FOMO following that shift after the release of {blogdown} v1.0 a few months later, with all its handy check functions. By then, anyway, I was also displeased with the shift from Hugo Academic to Wowchemy, and getting a little bored of that theme anyway. I had also started seeing more and more {distill} sites pop up from those I admire in the RStats community. I looked into it and and I loved the simplicity of it, both in looks and in management. No more impenetrable file structures! No more not being sure quite why my website is working/looking as it does! Attending Alison Hill’s incredible ‘Crafting Kind Tools’ talk, in which she described the care put into making the {distill} user experience an enjoyable one, was the last push I needed to start my website again (though, to be fair, that talk also described similar care put into the latest release of {blogdown}).

I’m finding working with {distill} to be an absolute joy!


This post is not a guide on how to get a {distill} site up an running. There are already great resources for that. In particular, here are the resources I found helpful.

The basics

Next steps


I’m extremely grateful to the authors of the above posts for taking the time to write up what they’ve developed and what they know/have learnt to do, therefore making it easy for others to apply. I guess that’s what blogs are for! But I’ve also learnt a lot from finding sites that I simply like the look of, or have cool features, and looking at the source code on GitHub and adapting it for my own site. Here are some sites that I’ve drawn on for inspiration and code:

site source

I particularly like his icon_link buttons (as demonstrated just above), and the second collection for talks. John tells me he is turn took inspiration for this from Emi Tanaka’s site.

site source

Ijeamaka has a really cool projects page, where she’s created a card for each project, which I’ve implemented on my site.

site source

Come for the minimalist, stylish design, stay for the fantastic blog content, not just on {distill}, but also on {gt}, R Markdown, #TidyTuesday and much more besides.

Finding out more

The above just scratches the surface. There are many more great sites built on {distill} out there, and lots more ways to customise them. Below are some good ways to find out more.

The distillery

The distillery is a {distill} blog about building {distill} blogs and websites. As the site’s GitHub README states:

This site was built for the community of distill users to find ways to build and customize their sites and to inspire one another. If you have a distill website or blog, we would love to have it included in the distillery showcasehttps://distillery.rbind.io/showcase.html! Have a post about ways to customize or add new features to your blog? We would love to have it included on the distillery tips & tricks page!

The showcase is a great place to browse sites for inspiration and the tips and tricks page has loads of great resources (many of which I want to implement on my site in the future, for example Jannick Buhr’s post on making a dark mode for your {distill} site).


There are a number of folk who tweet about {distill} (alongside other #rstats content). I’ve seen useful tweets from Shannon Pileggi @PipingHotData, Lisa Lendway @lisalendway and John Helveston @JohnHelveston. And it pretty much goes without saying that anyone with an interest in {distill} should be following its authors (and general R Markdown gurus), Alison Hill @apreshill, Christophe Dervieux @chrisderv, Rich Iannone @riannone and Yihui Xie @xieyihui (note that the author and original creator of {distill} is JJ Allaire - he does have a twitter account but doesn’t seem to use it).

A sneak-peek at {distilltools}

Inspiried by the above-mentioned posts from John Helveston and Eric Ekholm, I’ve started working on a package, {distilltools}, a collection of tools to support the creation and styling of content on websites created using {distill}.

site source

It is in the very early stages of development. I am actively seeking contributions - both ideas and code - to help build the package to be broadly useful to a wide variety of {distill} users. The idea is for the package to become a curated, collaborative, community-driven project. Please see the contributing guide for more details on how to get involved. In terms of relationship between packages, I hope in time that {distilltools} can be for {distill} something like what {xaringanExtra} and {xaringanthemer} are for {xaringan}. Some of what I have in mind may sit better within the distill package itself, and I am in touch with the {distill} team about that.

At the time of writing, there are just three functions:

Expect to hear much more from me, both on this blog and twitter, about {distilltools} in the near future.

  1. When I first tried this in {distill}, I couldn’t get it working, but it seems this has been patched now↩︎


If you see mistakes or want to suggest changes, please create an issue on the source repository.


Text and figures are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution CC BY-SA 4.0. Source code is available at https://github.com/EllaKaye/ellakaye-distill, unless otherwise noted. The figures that have been reused from other sources don't fall under this license and can be recognized by a note in their caption: "Figure from ...".


For attribution, please cite this work as

Kaye (2021, May 8). ELLA KAYE: Welcome to my {distill} website!. Retrieved from https://ellakaye.rbind.io/posts/2021-05-08-welcome-to-my-distill-website/

BibTeX citation

  author = {Kaye, Ella},
  title = {ELLA KAYE: Welcome to my {distill} website!},
  url = {https://ellakaye.rbind.io/posts/2021-05-08-welcome-to-my-distill-website/},
  year = {2021}