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Building a professional website? Here’s what you need.

Our handy build checklist can help you kickstart the creation of an eye-catching, budget friendly professional website for your small business. Check it out now.
By Meghan Graham
Digital Marketing Manager

Kickstart the creation of your professional website

Building a professional, eye-catching website for your small business can seem daunting. We get it. You’re probably short on time, tight on budget and heck—you might not even really know where to begin. That’s all more than okay.

To help you wade into those website building waters for the first time, we’ve put together a handy, 10-step checklist of what you’ll need…and what you’ll need to consider! Let’s get started, shall we?

The foolproof CIRA 10-step website build checklist 

1. What’s your website’s purpose? 

First you’ll need to do a quick bit of soul-searching to determine the overall purpose of your website. Its raison d’être, if you will. Do you intend to build an e-commerce store to sell products online? Or will your website serve as more of a personal portfolio to showcase your work, or offer up information on the services you provide?

Nailing down your website’s purpose—or at least having somewhat of an idea—will serve the foundation for everything else that follows.

2. Pick and register a domain name  

Think of your ideal domain name, search it and…if it’s available, be sure to snap it up! Oh, and did we mention we can definitely help you find and register your perfect .CA domain?

3. Break down your build into bite-sized chunks and prioritize

You don’t need to take on the whole enchilada (your website) in one caffeine-fueled session. Of course, if that’s your thing…we won’t stop you.

But we do recommend prioritizing what’s mission-critical to getting your website up and running now. Ask yourself: can you get started with a few basic pages and then continue adding more content, features, additional bells and whistles, subliminal messaging, etc., later?

4. Map out your site  

We’re almost at the meaty stuff! Now, this step might seem a bit tedious, but you’ll thank yourself later. Take the time to map out the basic framework or sitemap for your website. This will help you determine how many pages your website will be, along with whatever other content, tools, plugins, etc., you might need to bring everything to life.

An example of a super-basic sitemap might look something like this:

5. Get your content together—and make it sing! 

By “sing,” we mean make your content compelling. After all—good, useful content is what is going to drive clicks and—hopefully—conversions on your site.

Here are a few tips for creating great content:

  • Put your branding front and centre: it all starts with a great looking logo and header image to pull eyeballs in…followed by a short, catchy tagline that says exactly what your business provides.  Example: “Southpaws: Hand-crafted, Canadian-made left-handed ice-cream scoops.” 
  • Keep maximum readability in mind: nope, this isn’t the place to do your best long-winded Leo Tolstoy impression. Keep paragraphs short (aim for three to four sentences), and break things up with bullet points where appropriate. That way, even someone that’s casually skimming your content can get the gist.
  • Clear, concise calls to action: what action should your visitors take? Should they contact you to learn more about your products, do you want them to purchase, or try a free demo? Don’t be shy or subtle here—tell your visitors precisely what the next step is.
  • Keep SEO top of mind: knowing what keywords your customers are searching can give you a big advantage out of the gate. Free tools, like Google’s Keyword Planner, can help you discover the top terms your customers are searching in relation to your business. Once you have those keywords in hand, work them into your website’s headers and copy like the clever, SEO-conscious individual you are.

6.  Pick a website builder 

There’s certainly no shortage of options when it comes to website building tools, and each of them— from the Squarespaces to the Wixes of the world—come with their own unique features, perks and drawbacks. Lucky for you, we’ve assembled this handy comparison of all the major web builders to help make your decision that much easier!

7. Sort out your web hosting  

Certain web building tools—like GoDaddy offer super-affordable hosting as part of their overall package. So, it’s really just a matter of building your site with their tool, picking a hosting plan—and voila! Alternately—you can often get hosting through the company that sold you your super-awesome .CA domain. you can often get hosting through the company that sold you your super-awesome .CA domain.

8. Integrate your social media feeds 

It’s never a bad idea to give customers more ways to reach you, or to promote your business. Make your presence known on social channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram…but make sure you’re actively using those channels. Keep in mind—search engines are increasingly picking up more social media content in search results.

9. Track your website’s performance  

Without knowing who is visiting your website and what they’re clicking on, you’re flying blind. Adding free web analytics tools—like Google Analytics can help you unearth valuable insights into what’s resonating with customers and what you might need to swap out. can help you unearth valuable insights into what’s resonating with customers and what you might need to swap out.

10. Keep optimizing and improving

Just because your website’s published, that doesn’t mean everything on it is set in stone ‘til the end of all time. Keep up a consistent cycle of updates and improvements to keep your website looking current and active. Experiment with different types of content and let your creativity shine (when you have the time!).

Where to next? Read our guide to hiring a website design professional or see living proof of how simple website design can be highly effective.

About the author
Meghan Graham

Meghan Graham is the Digital Marketing Manager at CIRA. She brings over 10 years of experience in marketing and communications in non-profit, technology, SaaS, and UX. She has a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Ottawa joint program with Algonquin College.