Thinking about and planning a new website can be an exciting venture. There are so many possibilities to think about: colors, images, special features. Sometimes the possibilities get the creative juices flowing; other times, it seems too much! One of the very first decisions, which may overwhelm a new website planner, is the choice of a domain name. This is a decision you and your website will live with for a long time, so you’ll want to spend a little time thinking about it now. But it doesn’t have to be difficult. In this first of two articles, take some time to familiarize yourself with domain names and what to consider when choosing one, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful site!
Domain crash course
Domain names, quite simply, are the addresses of websites. You type these into your browser’s address bar. My website, for example, is found at
https://www.adamswebconsulting.com. So “dreamseedmultimedia.com” is my domain name. As a website planner, you decide what that part of the website address will say, and it’s the base from where all your pages will be found.
The letters that come after the “meat” of the domain name are called top-level domains, or TLDs. Common examples are
.mil. Because of a growing need for additional domain names, there are more TLDs added all the time, like
.museum. Originally, each TLD was supposed to signify a different kind of website:
.com was for commercial enterprises;
.org was for nonprofit organizations;
.mil was for the military. However, some of these domains were not for exclusive use of certain kinds of websites. So
.com became the most hotly pursued TLD and still is today, most likely because it is usually what people will search for first. (Think about it. How many times have you used
.com to look for a website, only realizing that it was something else later on?)
So many choices
There are many different options available to you. But don’t let it overwhelm you. It’s really nothing that you can get wrong in absolute terms of right or wrong, but there are ways to get the most bang for your buck.
One major reality right now is the availability (or lack thereof) of domain names, particularly .com names. Yes, there are an almost infinite number of possibilities of domains you could choose, but many of the short and memorable ones are taken. So when thinking of choosing a domain name, you may need to get a little creative.
While it may be preferable to use your company’s or organization’s name as your domain name, that may not be an option if it’s already taken. You may need to find ways to lengthen or shorten the name for your domain. For example, a bookstore called Robinson’s may not be able to get
robinsons.com as its domain. Several options include
robinsons-bookstore.com, just to name a few. If you worry that your website may be difficult to find based on your domain name, keep in mind that many people may use a search engine, like Google or Yahoo, first to find your site. It’s become fairly common now to understand that many companies and organizations do not have their exact name as their domain name, and the public realizes that.
Are there better choices over others? The answer to that question has a lot to do with personal preference. Some people prefer not to use hyphens or long acronyms at all. Others say it doesn’t matter because users will know a company’s or organization’s domain name from its advertisements and stationery or will find it through a search engine. What you may wish to consider is keeping your domain name on the shorter side (You are limited to 63 characters, but that’s rather long!); after all, misspellings have a better chance of occurring with longer domain names. And while we’re on the subject of misspellings, you may want to avoid deliberately misspelled or “cute” spellings in your domain name. There are a lot of ways to misspell words, and it may be difficult to remember which misspelling is “correct.” Just think about how many times you’ve seen spellings like “kute” for cute, or “kidz” for kids. (Now, was that “kidz” or “kydz”?)
Something else to consider while we’re talking about remembering domain names is to choose one that would be easy to remember or to give orally to someone. Long domain names, ones with tricky spellings, or long and unfamiliar acronyms that look like alphabet soup might be difficult to pass along accurately in conversation. As part of your marketing plan, you will want to consider word-of-mouth methods!
When considering domain names, it’s always advisable to come up with several options that you would be comfortable using because you may never know which ones are available and which ones are not. Additionally, domain names can come and go so quickly that one name that’s available today when you check may not be available tomorrow when you register. So this process can buy you a little time (and it is little—you don’t want to delay this decision) to check with family, friends, and colleagues about what they think of your domain name choices. Ask them how easy it is to use and remember.