Naming Your Site: No, “Bob” Isn’t a Good Name

When you’re starting a new website, you need to come up with a name as soon as possible. How soon? You should pick a name before you start building your layout and all that. Why? Well, it’s not easy to make a logo and matching color scheme for a site without a name.

So what’s in a good name? Short is good, though how short depends on the site. If your site will be a resource that people will visit several times a day (think Google, NTugo, Yahoo, etc), then you want to make it as short as possible. If you’re starting an informational site, like a blog, then the name can be longer (though try to stay under 16 characters). Why worry about the length of the name? It’s easier for a frequent visitor to type www.ShortName.com than www.AReallyLongDomainNameThatsAPainToType.com.

You should also try to make the name memorable. Users shouldn’t have to rely on bookmarks to visit your site. If no one can remember your domain, then you’ve got a major problem. Humor helps, though it may not be suitable for some sites.

Try to pick a name available as a domain with a “.com” TLD. If a potential visitor can’t remember the TLD, they’ll likely try “.com” first. You don’t want them to land at a CyberSquatter page do you? I highly recommend that you try for “.com”. If you have a really brilliant name, you can use “.net” or “.org” if you have to, just try to avoid it. Plus, a lot of people (including me) use Mozilla Firefox for web browsing and are in the habit of typing the domain and pressing “Ctrl+Enter” to add the “www.” and “.com” automatically. If you use a TLD other than “.com,” try to thoroughly educate your users to not use “.com” when they attempt to access your site. For example, Del.ico.us and Eden.cc make sure that their TLDs are prominently displayed in their logo. Eden.cc goes a step further and claims that the “cc” stands for “Creative Communications.” Use “.com” if you can, otherwise put the TLD in your logo (like BookAdvice.net).

Short, Nonsensical “Brand Names”

On June third, I launched NTugo. NTugo is a very special name. In addition to being short (yeah, it’s shorter than Google!), it’s also a brand name. NTugo is a nonsensical name I made up, it’s like “Yahoo,” “Flickr,” or “Pepsi.” It represents the site, it’s memorable, and it sounds pretty cool. Names like that are great for a lot of sites, though they don’t work well for others. They’re great for sites like NTugo, though others work better with names like “Smashing Magazine,” “The Leaky Cauldron,” or “Tutorialized.” Only you can decide which works for your site.

How do you come-up with a name like NTugo? There are several methods, and it’s worth trying-out all of them. I recommend that you get a pad of paper and keep track of all your ideas, so you can go over them later and pick out the best.

  • Method #1: I call this the “Flickr Method,” though Digg did the same sort of thing… First up, try picking a word (or two) that describes you site (like “Fast Clicks”). Next you monkey with the spelling a bit. So “Fast Clicks” could be “FastClix.” Flickr did a similar thing by dropping the “e” in “Flicker.”
  • Method #2: This is how NTugo was brainstormed. Have you ever played Parker Brothers’ fun game Boggle? This method is a lot of fun. Get out a pad of paper and grab your Boggle set! Instead of playing by the normal rules, we’re going to use it to find a good domain name. Shake the cubes around in their whatchamacallit as usual, then give yourself three minutes to find some good possibilities for your domain. Find your nonsense words as you find normal words in Boggle, but limit their length. Unlike in normal Boggle, try to limit the words to a predetermined length (5-8 letters is good). Keep a list, and re-shake the cubes after three minutes. Keep going until you find the perfect name. For more fun, try this with your friends or family. Give each player a piece of paper, and play as described above, then go over everyone’s lists at the end. Offer a reward to whoever finds the domain you like best.
  • Method #3: Word-searches are fun on rainy days (and so is YouTube…), but they can also double as a domain-picking tool. Instead of looking for real words, look for cool-sounding nonsense words. I do it all the time, even when I’m not looking for a new domain. No, I’m not insane. I got the idea from my dad, who likes to find nonsensical words in word-searches. Some restaurants (like PizzaHut) have paper placemats with advertisements and word searches printed on them, and, well, they get a little boring after awhile. While you’re waiting for your food, relax and find some names for your website.
  • Method #4: Isn’t it fun to make anagrams? Yes, they can work okay for site names. If you’re not a very good anagrammer, then you may find the Internet Anagram Server useful. Just enter a word, any word, then click the “Get Anagrams” button. You’ll be presented with an enormous list of all possible anagrams for your query. Sometimes I find that anagrams sound better when you remove some of the letters in a result.
  • Method #5: You can use a Domain Generator for inspiration, though they don’t work as well as human ingenuity.

Once you’ve got a good list of names, make a “top 10″ list of the ones you like the best. Then run some Whois searches to see if they’re available.

Descriptive Names

Is nonsense not for you? You could try using a more descriptive domain name. Here are a few examples:

You see, these names are a bit more descriptive. Webmaster-Source is, obviously, a place to find webmaster resources. BookAdvice.net is, again obviously, a site offering advice about books. The Site of Requirement? If you’ve read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, then you’ll know all about The Room of Requirement. North X East, though it doesn’t say much about the site, is very cool sounding, and a great name for a blog.

It’s fairly easy to come-up with names like the ones above. Just think about what your site is about, and start thinking. Make a list as you go, and keep at it for a week or so. It’s more fun if you get some friends together to help come up with some names. Be creative, you’ll find the perfect name eventually.

I can’t offer any for help; it’s all up to you now. Just start thinking up names!

  • http://www.problogdesign.com Michael from Pro Blog Design

    Nice article. I like your methods of coming up with brandable names like NTugo. :D

    I spent ages coming up with names as well. I actually registered a different name for Pro Blog Design first, before changing. Woops! xD

    North x East is actually a play on the popular web design conference, South by West, I guess. It doesn’t say much about blogging for sure, but it’s quite clever still. :D

  • http://www.webmaster-source.com Matt

    What was the name you previously considered? And do you still have it registered (whether or not you have future plans for it)?

    P.S. Sorry I never replied to your comment.

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  • http://www.unisoftchina.com Kate

    drop by. nice blog.