Hosting a static site on AWS using S3 and CloudFront

A few years ago, Michael Berkowski gently scolded me for hosting a site on HTTP — not HTTPS. I decided that the easiest way to fix this (ignoring Let’s Encrypt for now) was to instead host the site, a static site that hasn’t been updated in years, on AWS. Specifically, to host the site using S3 and CloudFront.

The domain was, related to a road trip adventure that didn’t go exactly as planned.

Since that time, I’ve migrated several other sites to AWS, using S3 to store the files and CloudFront as the front-end CDN. I’ve learned a few things in the process, including several of the things that can go wrong. I’ve also created a YouTube video on the process, for people who want to see this step-by-step: Hosting a Static HTML Site on AWS S3.

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DirectoryIndex on a static HTML site hosted by AWS

Apache’s mod_dir has a DirectoryIndex option so that if you request a directory, it can return the index document for that directory. For example: would return

The directive typically looks something like this:

DirectoryIndex index.html index.cgi index.php index.xhtml index.htm

(It’s been many years since I’ve seen index.cgi and!)

When I recently converted a WordPress site to a static site and hosted it via AWS CloudFront backed by AWS S3 buckets, I found that directory indexes didn’t work. A request for would return a 403 Forbidden error.

StackOverflow to the rescue (and a question from 2015, no less): How do you set a default root object for subdirectories for a statically hosted website on Cloudfront? included several possible solutions.

The solution I liked best was to deploy a pre-built Lambda function that implements similar functionality: standard-redirects-for-cloudfront.

Note that the instructions guide you to get the ARN from the CloudFormation output panel. This is important, as it is not just the ARN but also an appended version number. (In my case it was the ARN followed by :1.) Otherwise you’ll get the following error when adding it to the Origin request section of the CloudFormation behavior:

The function ARN must reference a specific function version. (The ARN must end with the version number.)