daily articles for founders

Running a startup in the UK (or with a UK subsidiary)? Get in touch with my company, GrantTree. We help with government funding.
How to choose a domain name  

A company or domain name seems so inconsequential in the greater scheme of things. After all, what will sell is the product, right? Google would still have stormed the world even if it was launched as searchforstuff.com, right?

Whenever starting a new business, venture, site, or other thing that needs a name, it always feels like finding the name takes a disproportionate amount of time compared to its impact. But from experience, I find that actually, the right name can be very important depending on the context.

Really, the importance of a name depends on your business. For something like GrantTree, having a clear, memorable and trustworthy business name is essential, since we often introduce ourselves over the phone, and our customers want to feel reassured that we are not some rip-off outfit. Would you get your tax credits handled by "Rapid Lobster Inc" (one of our quickly-discarded brainstorming options)? However cool that name may be in the right context, it would be disastrous in ours.

For something like Bushido, having a cool-sounding name is probably more important, and the clash with the existing concept of Bushido is not too much of a problem, given how Rails-related stuff has tended to dominate whatever word it's adopted.

On this topic, here's an excellent article by The Name Inspector about some common, older myths of selecting domain names, and how they have evolved over the last 10 years.

Some of the key points:

  • Short is good, but memorable and clear longer names are better than opaque shorter names.
  • Ideally the name should have some meaning associated with it that helps bolster your brand (I certainly agree).
  • You should be able to dominate the search engine results page for your name (i.e. avoid names with a very popular existing use).
  • Alphabetical order is not very relevant today.
  • There are no magic letters that make a domain name better.
  • All types and patterns of names can be good.

Chris Dixon also pipes in with some advice, focused more on naming startups rather than domains:

  • Your name should be easy to spell once heard in conversation.
  • Different products require different naming strategies.
  • Related Words on RhymeZone can be a great way to come up with a good domain.

All good stuff, to keep in mind when you're next looking for a domain.

I'll conclude with this quote from Umberto Eco's excellent book, "The Name of the Rose":

Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus.

Or, for those who don't speak Latin:

The name of the rose of yesteryear is but a name, but only names remain among us.

More from the library:
How designers and developers can work together
The value of time, or not
How to rely on other businesses