Starter kits let you develop a particular kind of site in a hurry. Somebody somewhere has developed a complete, fully self-contained web site on a particular topic and saved it as template and made it available to you.
Download a Starter Kit
The first step is to download a starter kit of your interest. The best bet of finding a starter kit for web sites is the asp.net site: ASP.NET Community Site
Figure 1. Starter Kits for ASP.NET
You can find starter kits on MSDN here:
C# Starter Kits on MSDN
Or here: Starter Kits on MSDN
Figure 2. Starter Kits on MSDN
As you can see, a whole bunch of starter kits are available; just to name a few:
For personal needs: Personal Site Starter Kit, Club Site Starter Kit, Extended Club Site Starter Kit, My Web Pages Starter Kit, BlogEngine.NET Starter Kit, etc.
For Business Needs: Small Business Starter Kit, Paypal eCommerce Starter Kit, Time Tracker Starter Kit, etc.
For General Needs: DotNetNuke Portal Starter Kit, etc.
Some of these are very elaborate with the code available from codeplex.com. One of the simpler ones is perhaps Personal Site Starter Kit. When you download, you will get a .vsi (pers.vsi) file – vsi stands for Visual Studio Community Content Installer file.
This type (.vsi) of installer is used to download and install the Visual Studio community content like starter kits, add-ins, etc. Double-clicking on the vsi file will let you install the starter kit visually.
Figure 3. Starter Kit Installer
Web Site in a Hurry
After you installed the starter kit via the downloaded .vsi file, all you need to do is to simply click on that template icon (Personal Web Site Starter Kit) in the “New Web Site” dialog box, a project with all those original UI, source, images, database, etc. files will be set up for you.
Figure 4. Personal Starter Kit in the New Web Site dialog box
By just pressing F5, you have a complete, running web site. Of course, this site needs to be customized with your personal information. There are no logical limitations on what type of starter kits can be made. As long as you can make a project of a reasonable size on a reasonable topic, that project can be made a starter kit.
Figure 5. Site via Personal Web Site Starter Kit.
Starter kits are available for both web site development and for Windows-based projects. They are available in both VB.Net and C# languages. They are also available across the .Net Framework versions (1.0, 1.1, and 2.0).
DotNetNuke is an open source portal and content management framework written in VB.NET using the functionality available in ASP.NET. This became a considerable success during the .Net Framework 1.1 days. One of the primary reasons is the portal creation capability which was not available in .Net Framework 1.1. However, some of these features are now available in .Net Framework 2.0.
But there is a decent sized install base for DotNetNuke and the later versions work on top of .Net Framework 2.0. And some of the modules like Forums and Survey, which are available in DotNetNuke will, probably, never be included in the base .Net Framework.
Why Starter Kits and Why Not
The biggest advantage, of course, is how fast you can create a cool looking web site. Figure 5 shows the screenshot of a web site created with the Personal Web Site Starter Kit. It literally takes one click: choosing the “Personal Web Site Starter Kit” in the “New Web Site” dialog box and clicking the OK button.
With that, you get full user management features (a user being able to create login/password and use that during the subsequent visits to the site), a pretty user interface with all those shades and borders, several pages that are expected in a personal web site (resume’ page, a page for your photos, and a page with your favorite links, etc.).
Another big advantage is the learning opportunity that these kits provide. For such a small web site (of four or so pages), this personal web site uses several important ASP.NET concepts: master pages (for achieving the consistent look at the header and footer), user management (a database file named ASPNETDB.MDF which contains tables, views, and stored procedures for managing the user data is created), themes (with the appropriate image, css, and skin files), and a little bit of code. All of this provides a great opportunity for learning.
There is another very powerful usage of starter kits: Learning about a third-party (or partner) product quickly. For example, from the Microsoft starter kit site mentioned above, you can download starter kits for developing programs for Amazon, eBay, and PayPal. These starter kits are an incredibly fast way for developing first cuts of the programs that access the functionality available at these sites.
The biggest disadvantage or limitation is that there aren’t starter kits on every possible topic. There are hardly ten to twenty starter kits currently available on a bunch of popular topics. You can’t make these starter kits too big or highly functional; in that case, the user who doesn’t want a particular feature would have to delete that. Then he or she would have to worry about the ramifications of those deletions.
In essence, starter kits are ideal for creating small sites. In case of the Personal Web Site above, there are hardly five pages in the whole site. So, another disadvantage with the starter kits is that if you want complex functionality, you would have to create it yourselves.