Automated build process for my JavaScript documentation website

My last blog post demonstrated how to build a JavaScript documentation website using JSDoc and have it deployed on Netlify. The process was a bit manual though so in this post I improve upon the solution by automating the build using a GitHub Action to ensure my documentation website is never out of sync with the documentation in my code base.

Have you read the last post? Good, we can crack on with the automation! First up, create a new file at .github/workflows/jsdoc.yml which is where the GitHub Action config will live:

name: Jsdocs
      - main

    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
        shell: bash
        working-directory: docs/jsdoc
      - uses: actions/checkout@v2

      - uses: actions/setup-node@v2
          node-version: "14"
      - name: Install and build docs
        run: |
          yarn install
          yarn build_jsdoc
      - name: Commit changes in jsdoc build folder
        run: |
          git config --global "GitHub Actions"
          git config --global ""
          git add ./build
          git commit -m "Updating Jsdoc documentation" || echo "No changes to commit"
          git push

This GitHub Action will only trigger on pushes to my main branch as I only want to update my documentation when I have deployed to production. The action will use docs/jsdoc as my working directory so all other commands will be relative to that directory. All dependencies are installed and yarn build_jsdoc builds my static site in the build directory as dictated by the script in package.json. Finally, only changes in the build directory are committed and then pushed to production.

This is where it gets a little confusing about when builds kick off in Netlify. If I make a documentation change in one of my JavaScript files and commit the change then the Netlify build for will start as expected. The Netlify build for will also begin but then is quickly cancelled by Neltify because there are currently no changes in my docs/jsdoc folder. The GitHub Action will also kick in at this point and run the above steps. There are now changes in docs/jsdoc so the Netlify build for will run all the way through this time. However the Netlify build for will also run again even though the only changes are in docs/jsdoc and have no effect on this site.

Still with me?! I wanted to prevent this final unnecessary build so in the root of my repo I updated the netlify.toml file to include a new ignore attribute:

  ignore = "git show -s --format=%s | grep 'Updating Jsdoc documentation'"

So now if my commit message includes "Updating Jsdoc documentation" then the build will be cancelled for my site. At this point I also updated my netlify.toml file in the docs/jsdoc folder to look as follows:

  ignore = "git diff --quiet $CACHED_COMMIT_REF $COMMIT_REF ."

so it continues to only run a Netlify build if there are changes in the docs/jsdoc folder.

With these changes made, any time I make an update to my JavaScript documentation I no longer have to remember to manually run the JSDoc command as the process is now automated and my documentation website will always be up to date.