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Choosing Your Own Domain Name

Helpful advice about getting a good website name and avoiding some of the problems:

When deciding to set up a website there are many things which need to be considered. I have loads of helpful advice here at the page of free website advice and some useful contacts in web hosting, plus a few hints about web design. But one of the crucial things about a website which needs to be got right is: THE WEBSITE NAME. When people want to look at your website they'll type in www... [whatever it is], and the choice that you make about this matters!

Firstly, let's burst a well-known myth bubble to do with this. Your website needn't be DOT COM! Besides personal preferences that say there are much nicer looking domains available, there's also the fact that it's becoming a problematical conformist assumption which we should not fall for. However, whatever domain you choose it's best to be able to acquire the dot com in addition so as to avoid the scourge of cybersquatting (domain hijacking and blackmail).

One of the problems of choosing a website name (domain) is that you tend to find many obvious ones have gone! You may have thought of a brilliant name for a website, but when you go along to the "ALL TLDs" box (follow through the links to 123-Reg), you find your first choice may be "taken". Don't worry; There are solutions. There are also problems to be avoided.

Avoid such ideas as misspelling the domain so as to get it nearly right. Also, try to avoid buying a domain which a cybersquatter has got the "dot com" for.

One of the best approaches is to think up a variety of original new names for your website, possibly making a list as the ideas appear to you. Then try them out at the "ALL TLDs" box at 123-Reg. An ideal web name has the following characteristics:

* It's original, memorable, and has identity which is unmistakable.

* is easy to spell and to say, so no confusion can occur, either in writing or in telephone translation.

* is such that you can buy straight-off the original name and domain ending of your choice AND such other domains as are required to eliminate prospective cybersquatting.

Another thing to be careful of when choosing your website name and domain is to keep it secret while you are choosing it and working on it. Never ask people on newsgroups publically what they think of names you've got in mind! However, you can ask your friends if they've any bright ideas or suggestions. Just don't give away the secret! You're relatively safe doing your own research by typing things on search engines, for example to find what the meanings of things are, or to find if a word means anything in other languages. But, once you've got the idea of what to go for, GO FOR IT! A domain is only safe once you've paid for it, checked you have it registered, and waited a day or two just to make sure.

You can safely buy a domain name even before you have any hosting sorted out. These can be arranged separately, and this is often advisable. It's especially important to avoid getting hosting at some types of ISP where your domain is owned by the hosting company! Make sure YOU own your own domain! The current solution I recommend is to get the domain at 123-reg and to get the hosting at Vivostar. Further clarification of this kind of thing can be resolved by asking technical support at Vivostar.

Ideal names are often a single newly invented word, as per the example of Opodo and Yoox, but if you go for a multi-word name, it's best to make sure you secure variants both with and without hyphens (dashes). Also, be careful of domains which involve terms with geographically specific variances, for example if the name has "colour" in it, you have to make sure you've got the other variants with "color" in them!

Incidentally, domains needn't be expensive! UK domains are (2005) less than £5 GBP per year, and .net / .com / .org domains are less than £15 GBP per year. .TV domains are slightly dearer but they have a certain style. Also, .TK domains are free.

Note that the "country code" goes on the end of the domain, so if it's "uk" it's got to be the last part. This might sound picky, but otherwise it's only a subdomain! (Subdomains are generally given away free by such places as Supanet!)

Keep it real! The advice on the page of domains explains about the importance of buying "proper domains" which work everywhere and actually appear on search engines!

When you have successfully obtained your domains, make sure you keep a note of when they are due to expire. A future appointment diary entry is appropriate, even if it's several years hence, as you mustn't let domains expire! Another thing worth remembering about renewing domains is to make sure you are renewing with the company you trusted to get you the domain in the first place. Be forewarned that there exist various bogus companies pretending to be some kind of official registry. They know when your domains are about to expire as it's public knowledge, and they send out official-looking bills to your address. This may look scary, but it's easy to circumvent, simply by knowing where you have your domain registered in the first place! Or, you can get your ISP to mind domains for you and make sure they don't expire. Vivostar will do this for a small fee (a few pounds per year last time I checked).

Other advice about choosing your own website name / domain can be seen at Stamp Demon's What's in a Name? and Xyroth Enterprises' page about Trademarks

If you run a company, (also see how to run a company), and you haven't registered your domain yet, it is very likely that you may get a phone call from someone claiming they have knowledge that someone else is "about to register" your company name, but that they can save you from the problem by getting it first for you, for £100 per domain. Beware! This is usually a scam. The company is either a cybersquatter or a scaremonger threatening to be a cybersquatter. (I once had an incoming call saying someone was about to register www.[companyname]artisticrestorationandalteration.com and .co.uk . As if? Eh?!). If this happens to you, be nice to the people on the phone, as they aren't the company but are people employed by the company and they have an awful job phoning people and scaring them. But don't fall for the trick. Instead, go and register the domain yourself with an honest company. You can generally do this without any problem, as it's usually all a bluff. Another similar domain based scam was the eu domain scam

Having your own well chosen web domain is good. In addition to the idea of having your own website, there is also a greater freedom 123-reg.co.uk123-reg.co.ukand security in your choice of email address

I speak from personal experience and the honest contact for buying domains online I recommend is: 123-Reg