Launching your first website can feel a little like diving into the great unknown (or a densely forested area). Especially, if you’re not feeling like you have everything you need for the trip.
But…you probably wouldn’t go on a backpacking trek deep into Algonquin Provincial Park without toting along shelter, food and something to keep the bears away from the picnic baskets, right?
Now, apply that thinking to your website! Here, we’ll outline a few essential website tools and services you’ll need to get up and running, keep all your information secure and work smarter.
1. Web hosting
Let’s start with what could be considered the foundation of your site: web hosting.
What is web hosting and how does it work?
Basically, web hosting both stores your website (and everything it contains) and delivers it to the internet. Think of it like renting a gigantic, digital storage locker. Only, instead of that expensive lobster trapping gear you SWORE you’d use, it’s your website’s code and files.
All that good stuff lives on a server, or virtual computer. When someone clicks on your website, the data or information they need is transported to them via a network.
Without hosting in place, all a visitor to your site is met with is a blank screen, an error message and a deep sense of disappointment.
When it comes to your options for Canadian web hosting services, there are quite a few! So, do a bit of research and choose wisely. The cheapest option may not always offer you the best page-loading speeds (which are a key part of offering a good web experience) and server reliability. Any major streaks of downtime or slowness could cost you in terms of clicks and conversions!
But say you’re in the market for a .CA domain… well, if you purchase your domain name from one of our .CA Certified Registrars, you may find that they (depending on who you choose) bundle in web hosting services as part of the deal!
2. SSL certificate
Ever notice that wee little padlock icon that appears next to the URL in your search bar? That means the website you’re visiting is protected by a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).
What is an SSL certificate and why does it matter?
A SSL certificate is a type of internet protocol that encrypts any data that’s sent between users and the websites they’re visiting.
Why is having this layer of encryption important? For a start, it ensures that nobody—especially not hackers or other internet villains—can view any of the information you’re providing to a website. SSL can also help assure people that they are actually connecting to your website, and not a malicious spam site that’s been hijacked to look like your website.
Having an SSL certificate in place is not only the current standard, but it’s also key if you’re accepting payments, and having folks enter more sensitive data, like names, addresses and credit card numbers.
Browsers like Google Chrome will even display a warning if your website isn’t SSL-secured, which means people may think twice about swapping transactional info with you.
So, how do you get your hands on a SSL certificate for your domain? Often, it’s as simple as contacting your domain registrar (where you purchased your domain).
3. WHOIS domain protection
WHOIS is—essentially—an online directory that lets people (including you) look up information about various domain names. In fact, your pals here at CIRA maintain the WHOIS directory for any websites that fall under the .CA domain.
For instance, if you looked up this totally-made-up example, chuckyscheezes.ca, the WHOIS directory could tell you:
- If the domain is available or already registered (claimed) by someone else.
- Which company (registrar) the domain is registered with (i.e., GoDaddy, Webnames, etc.).
- When the domain registration was created and when it expires.
- Who owns the domain.
- Contact, billing and technical information for the person (or company) that registered the domain.
Ah—but hang on—if you’ve registered your .CA domain as an “individual” and not a company, your name and contact information is not displayed. That’s one of the WHOIS directory’s key features.
Note: All .CA domains registered automatically come with free WHOIS privacy protection.
Why is WHOIS important?
WHOIS provides you with an additional layer of privacy, so random folks can’t look you up and contact you with unsolicited offers of fame and fortune out of the blue.
Instead, they would need to make an inquiry through WHOIS and CIRA’s message delivery form. This sends a message to you, the domain registrant, without revealing any of your contact information. Now, whether you choose to respond or not is totally up to you.
4. Custom business email
What’s another must-have for your website building experience? A business email address.
Why should you have a business email?
For one thing, it instantly makes you and your business look more credible and professional in the eyes of customers.
Think of it this way: who would you trust to re-wire your basement rec room? “[email protected]” or “[email protected]”
Branded business emails are also far less likely to end up in someone’s spam folder—a key benefit if you’re looking to convert leads to sales.
Actually creating your business email is far more streamlined a process than you might think! Often, your domain registrar or web hosting provider (sometimes those are one in the same) will offer a custom email address (or multiple addresses) as part of their package.
From there, it’s a matter of following your provider’s setup instructions—et, voila!
With these four, website must-haves in your virtual backpack, you should be well equipped to begin braving the internet wilderness!
Need a hand with picking your website building platform next? Check out our website builder guide!