Creating a website is easier than it ever was before. With drag-and-drop options like Squarespace and Wix, almost anyone can build a site. That being said, designing a website that is effective, thoughtful, and visually appealing typically can take a fair bit of work and know-how. Working with an experienced web design agency like Inclind is often better to create a website that will truly results for you.
Of course, before any of the work starts, you will need to pick a domain name or web address - the thing that people will type into the browser bar to get to your site. Sometimes, choosing a domain name will be as simple as using your organization's name. However, if that name is taken, you will need to get creative when creating a domain name. Our guide to choosing a domain name lists some top tips and what to avoid.
At Inclind, we work with businesses, nonprofits, and member organizations to help them create websites that meet their goals as an entity. We go beyond the basics to provide the highest technical support and service level, from initial design to redesigns and ongoing support and maintenance. If you'd like to learn more about our services, reach out to talk to a member of our award-winning website design and development team.
What Is a Domain Name?
A domain name is a unique address that is used to identify websites. For example, if you read this post, you will notice that the domain name is www.inclind.com. Similarly, if you want to shop, you may log into Amazon at its domain name - www.amazon.com.
A domain name consists of one or more parts that are separated by dots. The top-level domain is the part at the end, such as gov, edu, com, mil, org, net, and int. The top-level domain can help you identify what type of website you are visiting. For example, if you want to find out about a tax benefit, you would likely be looking for a government-run website with a domain name ending in .gov (such as www.irs.gov for the Internal Revenue Service).
The second-level domain is the part immediately to the left of the top-level domain (the "IRS" in www.irs.gov). The third-level domain is to the left of the second-level domain and is often "www," which stands for World Wide Web.
The Internet Corporation manages domain names for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN. It authorizes domain name registrars, which serve as a way to register and reassign domain names.
Choosing the right domain name can be critical for the success of your website. You want something that will reflect your brand and be easy for people to remember. Switching to a new domain name can be cumbersome, so it is worth the time and energy to figure out a great domain name before you take the next steps of designing and developing a website.
How to Choose a Domain Name
Now that you have a basic understanding of a domain name, the next step is to pick one that works for your business or organization. Again, remember that while changing your domain name is possible, it isn't easy to make the switch. Spending some time upfront - using our tips - can ensure that you have a domain name that will work for years.
Pick a Top-Level Domain
The first step is to choose a top-level domain, which is the part at the end of the address. While there are some new options out there, most people will use one of the basic top-level domains - like .com or .org. With domains quickly being bought up, you may have to use a country code domain like .us (the country code top-level domain for United States organizations).
Generally, if you are running a business of any type, then your top-level domain should be .com. Otherwise, if you are setting up a nonprofit website, the top-level domain should be .org. If it's a school of some sort, then you may use .edu. Keep in mind that while there aren't formal restrictions on the use of .org (i.e., you don't have to provide paperwork to prove that you are a charity to get a .org website), visitors to your website might find it untrustworthy if it is clearly a for-profit business using a .org top-level domain (TLD).
Use Your Business Name or Keywords
In an ideal world, your business name will be available for you to use as a second-level domain. That can make choosing a domain name easy - you just use your company name (like Inclind). Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen, and you might need to get creative.
For example, imagine that you run a business that sells running shoes in Scottsdale, Arizona. Unfortunately, the exact name of your company isn't available as a domain name. In this case, you can use keywords - like running shoes or sneakers - to select a second-level domain.
Keywords are exactly what they sound like - words that capture the essence of a topic or an idea. At one point in time, having keywords in your domain helped you rank higher. That is no longer the case, but having keywords in your domain can still help customers remember your URL and easily identify your main service or product.
Think of it this way: what words and phrases will customers likely use to find the product or services you sell? Start trying different combinations of words, like the name of your town + the product that you sell (such as "scottsdalerunningshoes.com").
Keep Your Domain Name Short
When choosing a domain name, you might be tempted to ensure that you get it all in - the whole name of your business or all of the most relevant keywords. But longer domain names are harder for people to remember and increase the likelihood of people making mistakes when they type it into a web browser. A good rule of thumb is that your second-level domain should be under 15 characters.
If your business name is long, you can find ways to shorten it so that it still works for your business. For example, Burger King uses the domain name www.bk.com. It's not that it is particularly hard to spell Burger King - but the initials make it even easier for people to remember and type.
Make Your Domain Name Easy to Say and Spell
Domain names are something that people type into a web browser, but they are also often spoken out loud. Whether you are telling someone how to find your website or using the website name in an ad, it is important that your domain name is easy to pronounce.
The goal here is to avoid confusion and to make it as easy as possible for people to find you. If your domain name is an unpronounceable string of letters and/or numbers, you won't be able to refer people to the site easily - and they won't remember it in order to find it.
Try Domain Name Generators If You Are Stuck
If you are unable to use your business name or a variation of it for your website, then you might need to fall back on keywords to name your website. This can be tricky, as it isn't easy to create a creative, memorable name that is ALSO easy to type, spell, and pronounce!
Fortunately, there are many tools online that can generate names for you. Shopify and GoDaddy have generators you can use to come up with a domain name. Just plug in some keywords, and it will come up with a range of potential domain names. Even if you don't choose one from the list, it may serve as inspiration for you to brainstorm a domain name of your own.
Make Sure Your Domain Name Is Consistent with Your Brand Identity
A brand identity is everything that is visible about your brand, from the name of your organization to its logo, slogan, and colors. While you may have to get creative when it comes to your domain name if your entity's name isn't available, you should make sure that whatever name you choose is consistent with your brand identity.
For example, if you are a photographer primarily focusing on bright, colorful photos of children and families, your domain name should reflect that. If the domain name references wedding photography or black-and-white photos, then that probably won't work for branding purposes.
Leave Room to Expand
Let's say that you start out with an idea for a business in a fairly niche area - such as selling bouquets of peonies available for local delivery only. You may be tempted to choose a domain name that reflects this specific purpose, like "pittsburghpeonydelivery.com," but what happens if you expand your business over time and start offering more types of flowers or a broader delivery range?
For this reason, choosing a domain name that gives you room to grow makes sense. This is particularly true if you are picking a domain name other than the name of your business or organization. Think carefully about whether a potential domain name will limit your opportunities in the future.
Throughout the process, you should be checking the availability of various website domains. You can do this fairly easily with a Google search. You can also use tools like Who Is to determine if a particular website domain is available.
You should also do a quick search through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to make sure that a particular domain name isn't trademarked. Your state's corporation database is also a good place to search to ensure no other entity already uses that particular name. Taking these steps can prevent confusion and legal liability down the line.
What to Avoid When Choosing a Domain Name
When you are choosing a domain name, the above-listed tips offer some obvious things to avoid - like a domain name that is too long, that people can't spell or pronounce, and one that isn't linked to your brand identity. There are some other things that you should probably avoid as well when picking a domain name.
As an initial matter, think carefully about your top-level domain. In the past, you were fairly limited when it came to TLD, with your main options being .com, .net, .edu, and .org. Now, there is a whole world of TLDs, so you can choose almost anything that you want to end your domain name. While you may be tempted to do something fun, keep in mind that credibility is everything when it comes to domain names. Sticking to a well-known choice, like .com or .org, is probably the best bet.
Other things to avoid include using hyphens or double letters in your domain name. Both of these may make it easier for people to make typos, which could send them to a whole different site. Generally, think hard about how to make it as straightforward as possible to get to your site - and avoid anything compromising that goal.
Build Your New Site With Inclind
Picking a domain name is the first step in what can often be a drawn-out process of mapping out a website, coming up with a design scheme, choosing functionalities, and making sure that it is accessible. A domain name is incredibly important, as it will often be the main way that people learn about your organization and what it can offer.
At Inclind, we have years of experience helping all types of organizations design and develop highly effective, beautiful websites. We offer a full range of services for corporations, healthcare providers, member organizations, and nonprofits. Our team can help you with each step of the process, from choosing a domain name and a web host to maintaining your site over time.
If you're interested in knowing more about our web design, development, and support services, we are always here to chat with you. You can fill out our online contact form or hit the live chat button to speak to one of our experts about your website.