Troubleshooting Preview Problems
As Forestry moves to support more Static Site Generators and workflows, we need to make our preview environment more flexible to support this variety. Unfortunately, this means there are many more opportunities for things to go wrong 🤷.
If you’re having problems previewing your site, this guide is for you! In general, preview problems can be broken down into two broad categories:
- Forestry can’t build your preview: Something went wrong running your preview build command, or while setting your site up on our preview hosting server.
- Forestry can’t find your preview: The preview site was generated successfully, but our previewing webserver couldn’t locate it.
If you’re attempting to preview your site and you encounter an error like failed to build preview, error generating preview, or failed to create preview, there was a problem building your preview.
On the other hand, if you receive a successful Preview created message, but instead of your site you see an error page declaring “There’s nothing here… 🤔”, then we were able to build the site, but aren’t sure where it ended up!
Either way: if you’re encountering one of these two problems, this guide can help you resolve it!
Error Generating Preview
If Forestry is unable to build your site, check the following:
Does your build command look correct?
Head to Settings > Previews to check your preview build command and ensure it looks correct.
For more information on build commands, consult the following resources:
Does your site build locally?
If your build command looks correct, it’s possible that your build is still throwing an error. Errors in your template code, or missing files in your repository, may cause the static site generator to throw an error.
To determine if this is the case, clone a fresh copy of your site, install your dependencies (via NPM and bundler, if applicable,) and run your build command locally. The command you run locally should be equivalent to the command you have configured in Forestry.
If you receive an error at this point, there is a problem with your code that needs to be addressed before your Forestry preview will work. Plugging the error message you receive into Google is often a quick way to find a solution to your problem, but it isn’t always that easy.
If you’re struggling, the following communities are a good place to seek help from fellow developers:
Are your project’s dependencies being installed correctly?
If your site builds locally, but Forestry still encounters an error when trying to build your site, it’s possible that your project may require some dependencies that exist in your local environment, but are not being installed in Forestry’s preview environment. The preview environment will automatically install the following types of dependencies if their corresponding metadata is present:
- Ruby gems
- NPM packages
- Git submodules
To make your project as portable as possible, ensure that you are not relying on external or globally-installed dependencies in order to build your site. For Ruby (Jekyll) projects, this means that your project must have a Gemfile. For projects that use NPM modules, ensure that all packages are tracked in package.json. For submodules, ensure that Forestry can install the necessary submodules.
Is your site in a subdirectory?
If your site is located in a subdirectory of your Git repo, you need to provide some special configuration to your build command.
Ensure that the output directory correlates to your build command
The output directory in your preview settings is where Forestry will look for your preview website after it’s generated. Your build command is what determines the directory that your site will be generated in. If your output directory doesn’t match up with your build command, your preview will not work.
For example: the default output directory for Hugo is
public/. This means that, if your build command is just
hugo -E -F -D, your output directory should be set to
public. However, you can use the
-d flag to change the output directory in your build command. If you wanted your site to build to
www/, for example, you could run
hugo -E -F -D -d www, and change your output directory to
www. For the most part, the build directory doesn’t matter, but it should meet the following criteria:
- It does not already exist in your site (or else those files will be overwritten,) and
- It is in your
.gitignore(recommended, but not required.)
Sticking with the default value is recommended unless you have a specific reason for changing it.
If your output directory does not map to the directory created by your build command, and the directory does not exist in your project, your build will fail. If the directory already exists in your project, but is not the directory generated by your build command, you will likely encounter the Page Not Found error discussed below.
Try to identify errors in your build log
If none of the above seem to apply to your situation, see if you can parse the build output to determine if an error occurred. Open your notification panel and, underneath the “Failed to create preview” message, click the button labeled Failed, show log. This will display the output from the preview environment.
This output log can be hard to parse sometimes, and the last line of the log is usually not where the error will be reported. Most of the time, errors will be reported shortly after the line containing the phrase
Executing user command:. This is where your custom build command is run.
Even if you can’t locate a problem in the output log, if you decide to send us a support request, go ahead and include the log in your request.
Ensure you’ve performed the migration to key-based authentication
If your site was added to forestry before August 28, 2018, ensure that you’ve performed the migration to key-based authentication. View the following article for instructions on how to do this:
Page Not Found
If your preview builds successfully, but you’re faced with an error page proclaiming that “There’s nothing here… 🤔”, then there are a couple things you can try:
Check the URL
When you click the preview button, Forestry attempts to open your preview site at the page you’re currently editing. To do this, we make an educated guess on what the URL for that specific content is. However, your SSG conventions and configuration may cause your URLs to look different than we’re expecting, and we guess wrong. In this case, try navigating to the homepage of your preview. If the homepage works, the preview is working, but we aren’t able to determine the correct URL for your content. Unfortunately, there’s nothing further you can do here. You will have to manually correct the URLs in your browser’s URL bar, or navigate to the content from the homepage.
Check your output directory
If your preview output directory is misconfigured, but maps to an existing directory in your project, your build will appear successful but you will receive this error when trying to access the preview. View the output directory instructions located above for help in resolving this.
Still Need Help?
If you made it through this guide, and still think there’s something else going on, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! Click on the Support link in the Forestry sidebar, and we will respond to you as soon as we’re able.
Caught a mistake or want to contribute to the docs? Edit this page on Github!