Tuesday, May 2, 2017

"On Choosing That Domain Name For Our Business"

For those of us just starting out in a new business or those shifting gears into an aging in place services business, a website is a must. There was a time when it was considered nice to have. Now it's essential.

Think about all of the vacant lots we drive by or buildings we see that are being renovated or reconstructed. Not that long ago, there may have been a "Coming Soon" sign with the name of the business or business type and a phone number to contact for information. Now, every such piece of property has a web address on the sign - and why not? They're easy to get and relatively inexpensive. They can be maintained over time or discarded as necessary.

There was a prevailing opinion several years ago - relatively early in the history of websites actually - that all of the good dotcom names had been taken so all of these other domain extensions were invented. This is a little like the US Patent Office in 1898 that wanted to close their doors forever because they advanced that everything worthy of being invented had already been created. Clearly a short-sighted approach.

Website names fall into the same type of treatment. Sure, if we want to copy the name of a well known brand or company, it's taken. It's not even worth changing a consonant from a "c" to a "k" or an "f" to a "ph" although this is frequently done. If there is anyway the established brand can make the case that their brand is being damaged or that the public is being misled through another venture piggybacking off their brand, they will fight. It's that simple, but it doesn't need to come to this.

There are hundreds and hundreds of potential company names. Some involve punctuation such a dot, dash (hyphen) or underscore separating words, and some can be creating spelled with sound alike consonants or sounds (not in an attempt to mislead or copy a known quantity but because this works for the new brand).

Nevertheless, be careful of picking a name that has to be spelled each time it is mentioned - because it has too many unconventional letters in it to make it sound like a name or phrase we want but is spelled completely differently. That is going to become tiresome, and we are likely going to regret choosing it. 

Then, there's the issue of domain or URL (fancy shorthand name for a domain or website address) extension. The dotcom is the traditional extension for businesses. It's short for "commercial" or business. Some businesses choose to use dot-net (network) in addition to or in place of the dotcom. For a small, startup or sole practitioner business, a dot-net is going to sound out of place. The same with dot-org (organization) which generally designates non-profits and charities.

A close relative - too close, it seems to me - to the dotcom is the dot-co. This stands for company and is a very poor choice considering all of the other available options. The main issue is in looking at it and being able to tell with complete certainty that this is intended as a dot-co extension without the letter "m" because that's the way it exists, or it is supposed to be a dotcom and for whatever reason the "m" got left off or dropped. Makes it too confusing so let's not use it.

There are many other extensions (which will be covered in a subsequent post) to use in choosing a new domain name, but stay with what works and what the public expects to see in a business website - a dotcom name. We may have to run through a few iterations of a name before we find one that is available, but then we'll have it. Use "whois.com" or "godaddy.com" to search for available and potential names and stay with just the dotcom - keep trying until one is found.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.