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Day 15: Check the Availability of Your Company Name

Today's Prompt:

Head to namecheap.com, and check out the availability of your preferred domain name.

Today, we will use some basic tools to get your website up and running. Over the next few sessions, we'll be looking more at websites and the best way to get an online presence quickly, cheaply, and (most importantly) with limited technical requirements!

To start, we'll just be taking the first small step – looking at domain names.

How does this internet thing work?

First things first: a domain name is just the proper name for a website address.

  • Basecamp.com is a domain
  • Amazon.co.uk is a domain
  • Google.com is a domain

Think of the domain name as the street address that tells computers where your website is. People who want to find your website can type the domain name into their phone or computer, and they will be taken to your website files.

Your website files will be all of the text, images, video and code that make up your website. These website files are sitting on a computer somewhere that is turned on 24/7/365. This computer is called a host. Normally, these hosts are in giant data centers full of thousands of computers. These computers are the "physical" part of the internet.

When you type the domain name amazon.co.uk into your phone or computer, the message is sent to Amazon's host, who then sends the website files you need to your phone so you can see the site. Thankfully, you don't need to worry about the technical part of this too much. The main thing you need to know now is that you will need the following to get a website online and visible for people around the world 24/7/365:

  1. a domain name and
  2. a host

How to choose a domain name

Once a domain has been taken, it cannot be used by another site. Each domain on the internet is unique – otherwise, other people could register amazon.com and grab Amazon's visitors! Therefore, we need a way to check what domains are available and which are not.

namecheckr.com (which we used the other day to check social names) will check .com, .org, and other domains.

You can also go to a domain registration company like namecheap.com and use the domain checker on their front page. This is where we check domain availability, because it is possible to check .co.uk as well as .com

What should be in a domain name?

Like the name of your actual company, you need your domain name to be a balance of descriptive and aesthetic/interesting.

Domain names like southeastlondoncarpetcleaning.co.uk are very descriptive and will probably do well in Google because of this. But it's also a super long and ugly name! Imagine squeezing that onto your business card!

In some cases, you will need to append words on the end like "studio," "films," "marketing," "café," etc., to get a unique domain name. Be wary of having to add too many extra words here – if you need that many, then perhaps your business name is too generic.

Ideally, you want to get a .com website address. This is the best general use domain address. If you are running a non-profit or something less "business-orientated," then a .org is also a good option.

.co.uk (or any other country-specific website address) is a useful thing to have, but, generally, you want to also have the .com as well. Otherwise, there's the chance of your visitors going to the .com rather than your .co.uk website. If you have both, you can choose which you prefer and then "point" the other one to it. For example, if you want to use the .com as your primary, you can also buy .co.uk and "point" it to the .com so that visitors are automatically sent to the .com.

There are lots of other endings for websites that you can register. .net, .london, .co, .online, .website, .me, .blog, etc., are all alternatives. Generally, though, unless you have a really good reason to use one of these, it's best to stick to .com, .org, or .co.uk.

There is no golden rule for what the best domain name for your venture is. The suggestions above are simply rules of thumb that can help you narrow down your choices to something that you like.

For now, head to namecheap.com, and check some ideas that you match your potential company name.  

Doing so will also let you see the sort of costs for a domain name. They tend to be $5–10 (£4-8) per year, so not terribly expensive. The prices will be about the same no matter where you register your domain name.

You don't need to buy your domain name yet. In fact, it's better to hold off for now. In the next assignment, we'll be looking at different ways to build your website. Some of these options will come with a free domain name. It is better to simply select one you like for now, and then, later this week, we'll be registering.