A Cycles material is basically made up of distinct components named shaders. They can be combined to build even more complex surface or volume shaders.
In this recipe, we'll have a look at the basic, necessary steps required to build a basic surface Cycles material, to activate the rendered preview in the 3D window, and to finally render a simple scene.
In the description of the following steps, I'll assume that you are using Blender with the default factory settings. If you aren't, start Blender and just click on the File menu item in the top main header bar to select Load Factory Settings from the pop-up menu, as shown in the following screenshot: