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USWDS website and documentation

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U.S. Web Design System documentation

This repo includes code and documentation for the U.S. Web Design System website. For information on the USWDS components and codebase, please visit our uswds Github repo.

Note that this README includes steps to pull the latest version of USWDS into your local instance of the documentation.

Running locally

The U.S. Web Design System documentation is built using Jekyll for the file framework, gulp for task management, and the node module for USWDS.

Before you start

Recommended before install:

  1. Ruby Version Manager - RVM Installation guides
  2. Node Version Manager - NVM Installation guides

You will need to have the following installed on your machine before following the commands below:

  1. Ruby v2.2.2+, Installation guides
  2. Node v4.2.3+, Installation guides
  3. Bundler v1.12.3+, Installation guides
  4. Chrome v59 or higher (v60 if on Windows)
  5. Python v2.7* (For node-gyp dependency)

* If you're running into node-gyp issues on

npm install
you'll need to install python v2.7, which is the recommended version as of
[email protected]
. Once installed you can reference it via
npm config set python /usr/bin/python2.7
or wherever you have installed. You can find that with
whereis python

Building the documentation with gulp

Some parts of the documentation are built using gulp.

To work on the site, switch to your local copy of the repository in terminal then run the following command to install project dependencies:

npm install

Now that all of your dependencies are installed, you can run your local server by running the following command:

npm start

Go to
in your browser — you should be viewing a local instance of

Here are a few other utility commands you may find useful:

  • npm run clean
    : Cleans out copied-over dependency assets.
  • npm run lint
    : Runs
    against JavaScript and Sass files.
  • npm test
    : Runs all tests and linters.
  • npm run watch
    : Runs a series of commands that watches for any changes in both USWDS node module and the root level asset folders in this repo.
  • npm start -- --incremental
    npm run serve
    : Runs your local server with incremental regeneration enabled to greatly improve build time. Use instead of
    npm start

Using the latest version of the

Sometimes you will want to use the latest version of the

repo. Follow these steps to do so:
  1. Clone the latest version of the
  2. Run
    npm install
    to install the dependencies required for the package in the
  3. Run
    npm run build
    to create the built version of USWDS in the
  4. Run
    npm link
    in the root level of the
    directory on your local machine.
  5. Run
    npm link uswds
    in the root level of the
    directory on your local machine.
  6. Run
    npm start
    in the
    directory, and make a note of the
    Local URL
    that Fractal is serving.
  7. In another terminal window, set the
    env var to the running Fractal instance for
    . In your terminal window in the
    directory, enter
    export FRACTAL_BASE_URL=""
    (or the
    Local URL
    noted above).
  8. In the
    window, run
    npm run serve
    in the
    directory to start the Jekyll server.
  9. Run
    npm run watch
    in the
    directory to have changes to that repo automatically built and compiled. Note:
    will not automatically rebuild when there are changes in
    , you'll need to trigger a site rebuild manually to reflect changes in the

You are now linked and using the local version of USWDS. To unlink this version, type

npm unlink uswds
from the root level of the

Fractal components

USWDS uses the fractal design system builder to organize and document the components. This documentation site pulls the components from fractal to showcase them on the site. This is done with a custom

Jekyll tag, which takes the full name of the fractal component as a parameter.

Deployment and previews

This site is deployed on Federalist, which automatically builds the public site whenever commits are pushed to

. Federalist also builds public previews for each branch pushed to GitHub.

⚠️ When generating new sections, sometimes they fail to build on Federalist. You can clear the cache by running a simple

bundle update
, which will trigger a fresh build.

Updating the USWDS version

To update the version of USWDS being used, change the version that

specifies in its

We currently pull USWDS via git rather than npm, as it allows us to use any tag or commit during development. To install a specific commit, you can use e.g.:

npm install --save "uswds/uswds#fb49e4f"

Alternatively, to use a specific version tag, use e.g.:

npm install --save "uswds/uswds#v1.3.1"

This version number or commit hash is automatically parsed when the site is built and used for display on the site (see

for details). Therefore, be sure to use an actual version tag on all
branch commits--otherwise a commit hash will show up as the version on the production site, which would be confusing.

Adding content to the "Updates" section

See the

directory for instructions on adding updates.

Dynamic content

Some of the content on the documentation site is dynamically fetched from GitHub. If you want to ensure that its API won't rate-limit you, you may want to create an access token and assign it to your

environment variable.

The dynamic content is stored in the

directory and won't be re-fetched once it's cached there. However, this means that your data can get stale over time, so if you want to ensure that your site is using the very latest data, you'll want to clear the cache by running:
rm -rf .jekyll_get_cache


Please read through our contributing guidelines. These guidelines are directions for opening issues and submitting pull requests, and they also detail the coding and design standards we follow.

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