Choosing a domain
Choosing a domain that suits your business is an important first step when it comes to getting started with website creation. You’ll need to choose a domain, then register it before you can even begin to get started on your site. As we’ve already discussed, every business needs a website.
Put in simple terms the domain is the begining part of your website address (minus the www.), it’s also the part that comes after an @ sign in an email address.
You’ll direct people to your website, mentioning your domain when doing so. You’ll give your customers your email address, which includes your domain.
Your domain is is a fundamental part of your company’s brand and identity, so choosing a domain that suits your business is strongly adviseable.
TOP TIP: Start as you mean to go on.
Domain registrations can’t be undone, or changed to something else. It can also be awkward to change the address of your site. If you register a domain, then work with this for a while then decide you want a different domain, this will have an additional cost to purchase, and it might mean that you also have to update a lot of things you’ve already done (changing your website address on business cards, for example).
It’s due to this that it’s a good idea to start as you mean to go on. Choosing a domain that will be with your business for it’s life time is better than switching domains.
The time and effort you spend thinking about choosing a domain that’s good for your business is time and effort well spent as it will save you time, effort, money and avoid confusion in the future.
A domain is made of two parts, the part you completely choose and the top level domain, which is effectively chosen from a list. The top level domain is the part at the end of a domain. So .com, .net, .org and .co.uk are all top level domains.
Fun fact: There are over 1500 top level domains. Some of these (in my opinion) are just ridiculous.
There’s a top level domain available that’s .horse. I mean who wants that? I know! I’ll make a website for my horse called dobbin! I’ll register dobbin.horse! There’s also .ooo, .off, .ninja, .mrmuscle(?), and many other top level domains that were apparently invented the morning after the office party.
The best thing to consider when choosing a domain, is to use a top level domain that people are used to, something that’s commonly used, and something people will remember. Don’t try and be too clever with this, it tends not to work out very well. Domains also differ in price according to the top level domain. To give you a rough idea, the company I currently work for (at the time of writing this) offer:
- .co.uk £6.99 plus VAT for a 1 year registration
- .com £11.99 plus VAT for a 1 year registration
- .cafe £23.99 plus VAT for a 1 year registration
- .cheap (ironically) £23.99 plus VAT for a 1 year registration
- .plumbing £39.99 plus VAT for a 1 year registration
There are also domains called premium domains. These are effectively short domains with word based top level domains, such as my.plumbing or iam.cheap. These can be very expensive to register, sometimes costing in excess of £1000 for a 1 year registration. Again, not being too clever tends to avoid this and will most likely save you money. Unless you really really want it, a premium domain is maybe not the best choice when it comes to choosing a domain.
The other thing to watch out for is very cheap domains. These are often cheap only for the first year, and more expensive than normal thereafter. Nobody gives these things away for free.
You can’t really go wrong with a .com and if you’re in the uk .co.uk is also a good choice. If your website is for a community group you might consider .org or .org.uk. Considering the type of organisation or business that you’re running is worth taking in to account when choosing a domain.
BUT WHAT’S BEST FOR A DOMAIN?
There is no “this is best” when it comes to choosing a domain for your business. What’s best is essentially dictated by how you want to represent your company.
Think of it more along the lines of “the company dictates the best domain registration”. If you think along these lines you’re more likely to end up choosing a domain that suits your business.
An electrician that operates in East Yorkshire that specialises in installing electric car charging points locally might end up choosing a domain that represents this, such as:
But a geographic location isn’t going to suit and online shop that sells skincare products. They might want something like:
Or if someone wanted to make a parody blog about ridiculous top level domains (not that I’ve considered it, or anything) they might go with:
tlds.wtf (Yes, there’s a wtf top level domain).
Now it’s your turn
Does your business target a geographically specific audience?
Do you provide a particular product or service?
What’s your target demographic?
Is there any instant impression you want to give people?
These are the types of questions it’s worth asking yourself before settling on a domain and it will help you arrive at something that suits you. The more questions you ask the more definitive your domain registration will be.
Things to avoid when choosing a domain.
Here’s a list of things to avoid when it comes to choosing a domain to register:
- Really long domain names
- Domains containing words that are hard to spell, or commonly misspelt
- Don’t be “trendy” (clothespegs4u.co.uk, for example)
- Accidentally registering a rude or inappropriate domain (a firm that recycles computers registering itscrap.com would be a prime example, and I feel for psychotherapists trying to think of a domain to register…. I’ll let you work that one out). Run your idea for a domain past someone with a dirty mind if you’re in doubt about this.
- Misspelt domains. Check your spelling when you register a domain (it can’t be corrected post registration).
- Domains names with unfamiliar extensions (people tend to add what they think “should” be on the end even if it’s not part of your domain).
What to aim for when choosing a domain.
Good things to aim for when choosing a domain are:
- something catchy and easy to remember (says the person with a 24 character domain)
- Something short(ish) and easy to spell
- Something that represents what your company offers
- Something unique (if you can)
Why did You choose your domain?
Well, for starters, I am actually called Ralph, which isn’t the most common of names. I’m also quite generic in appearance. I’m also male.
The “catchy” part is:
Who made your website?
Some guy called Ralph.
Also, if you google this: some guy called Ralph
Who’s going to be top of the results? That’s the unique part, there.
It took me about 3 weeks to settle on my domain name. I had a LOT of ideas, some were really bad (youwant.website), some were expensive (website.ventures £34.99 plus VAT for a 1 year registration) and some were just silly (websites.wang). The first idea might not be the best, so put some time in to thinking about it.
OK, I know what domain I want how do I get it?
Easy tiger. You’ve got to check it’s available first (see if anyone else has already registered it).
Most hosting providers will have a domain lookup tool on their sites (ours is on our front page: netnerd.com). These will show the cost and maybe provide alternatives should the domain you want already be registered.
There are also whois lookup tools. Whois is a domain lookup, and shows domain registration details such as the registrar (who the domain is registered with) and expiry dates. There are a lot of websites you can use to see domain registration information such as:
You could go ahead and register a domain now if you wanted to, but I’d suggest holding off for the moment. You also need to buy some hosting (some publicly accessible webspace where your website will be held).
If you’re starting out doing this for the first time it’s a VERY good idea to buy the domain and hosting from the same company as a lot of things will be done for you and you won’t need to have to do things like change nameservers or manage DNS records (more about this later).