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Getting started with a web Content Management System (CMS) could not be easier. The first steps are perhaps to find a suitable domain name, a hosting service for your new website, and checking that the CMS software you wish to use can be run on their servers - or even better is made available as standard within your new account so that all you have to do is click and install the system.

If you are new to using a CMS it is worth asking whether "sample data" or "sample content" is available as part of the CMS installation. If so, ask for it to be loaded with the CMS. This provides you with a set of pages incorporating various types of content that can be used as examples as you add your own content. Initially, sample pages can even be used as drafts to be edited and changed in to your own pages. Within a matter of an hour or two it is possible to have a front page and a number of supporting pages in place.

It is important to realize that although the basic steps described above can be completed relatively quickly, it is essential to plan carefully the structure of your website content. A CMS will manage the content you upload to the server but cannot advise you on the nature of the content or how to structure you pages. Take a pad of paper, sit in a quiet room, and make a basic list of the content you wish to incorporate in your website. What is the purpose of the website, and how can the proposed content be logically divided into orderly sections and categories - just like a paper filing system? What menus will the user be offered to navigate to the page they require? It should not be too difficult to arrive at a simple structure, typically incorporating a hierarchy of about three levels. For example, you might have image galleries in one section, "How to" text in another, and "About Us" information in a third. The galleries might then be sub-divided into subjects or authors, and the "How to" texts sub-divided in to logical groups according to date, author, subject or some other criteria. The "About us" information might incorporate details of a studio, a CV and contact information.

Many other considerations must of course also be taken in to account. Be sure to estimate or take advice on how much space your proposed website will occupy on the server, and that the allocation of disk capacity allowed by your chosen account will be sufficient. Remember that the size of the website is likely to increase with time. Also consider the bandwidth requirements - ie the amount of traffic your website may attract. In most cases this will initially be small, but will grow as the search engines spider the pages and more visitors find your content. Disk space and bandwidth limitations can of course be increased in return for increased hosting fees.

Another early requirement is to set up appropriate email accounts that use the chosen domain name. Most hosting accounts offer up to 5 or 10 email accounts. If you are using a domain name "www.mydomain.com" you should expect to set up email accounts such as "admin@mydomain.com" or "dave@mydomain.com".

Whatever the nature of your business, interest or website, you can bet that there are countless comparable websites already in existence. Spend some time browsing the web and exploring these comparable sites and clarifying in your own mind what features you like and do not like. Gradually, a clearer vision of your own website begins to emerge.

One final point is hopefully fairly obvious, but may nevertheless be worth repeating. Be careful not to copy anyone's work and do not download or reuse any existing text, images or widgets. Respect the copyright of others as you would wish others to respect yours. If you want to reuse something, contact the relevant author or webmaster and seek permission.


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