Hugo Content Management: Implementing Sections Without List Pages

Unpacking the problem

I was facing a problem when organizing my content. I had four files:,,, and They were all related to “about” things, so I put them all in a “content/about/” folder. There were two things I didn’t like about this setup:

  1. A url that went “about/about”
  2. A list page for these “about” related pages.

I explored the idea of leaving them in the base content/ directory, but I didn’t like the clutter and this made it less streamlined to apply common layouts to these page. I began looking for another solution.

Understanding Hugo Page Bundles

Hugo has two main options: leaf bundles and branch bundles. Leaf bundles are for bundling a single page together with its resources (i.e. images, pdfs). Branch bundles are for building content around a list page.

The problem is that I was looking for a third option. I wanted to group content together, but didn’t want to use a list page. This is similar to leaving the markdown files in the content/ directory, except it allows me to define a single layout to apply to these pages and keeps the content folder organized.

Potential Solutions

Unfortunately I didn’t find a natural solution, but I identified three slightly hacky versions.

1. Deviate from intended use of list.html

Rather than using list.html to list content in the about folder, I could paste my about page into the list layout template, even if this is not the intended purpose. This would give a short “about” url for the about page and do away with the traditional list page. Other content in the about folder would them have the url “about/foo”.

2. Make use of headless mode

Set permalink of “about” to “:filename” in order to map about/about/ to about/ (this also removes “/about” from other content in the about/ directory i.e. about/foo -> foo). Use “headless: true” in the frontmatter of _index.html in order to prevent list page from being rendered in place of the “about” single page.

One caveat is that by setting headless to true for “about/_index.html”, hugo will not render any page at the link “/about”. In order to get around this I moved the directory from “about” to “_about”. This isn’t a problem for the url’s because permalink is set to “:filename” which means the section is never in the url anyways.

3. Stop obsessing

It’s always worth taking a step back and considering practical/necessary an implementation is. In this case I wouldn’t have very much to lose by leaving an unnecessary list page and using the url “/about/about/".


In the end I went with solution number 2. It works well and checks all the boxes, even though it took more time to implement than solution number 3.


While my implementation works, I look back and conclude that maybe I shouldn’t have obsessed as much. While I learned a lot about Hugo templating in the process, I am trying to avoid going down these rabbit holes when easier implementations with comparable results are available. That being said, hopefully my experience will be helpful to someone in a similar place.