puzzling.org · mary.gardiner.id.au

Choosing a domain name

Here are the considerations that you should take into account when choosing a domain name:

  1. Availability
  2. Personality and personalisation
  3. Understandability
  4. Professionalism

These are all factors that will vary depending on what you want the domain name for and your own personal taste.

Throughout this lesson, I will use the term "vanity domain", which is a common term for domains purchased for primary use by an individual for personal websites and email addresses.


I've mentioned this several times: you'll have a bit of a hunt for an available domain. No two ways about it: you need to find a domain that is actually available. Very occasionally, you may find that the owner of the domain you want will give or sell it to you -- try asking if they don't seem to be using the domain. You may also find that it has been taken by a "squatter" (a speculator who buys up domain names to on-sell at a profit). I try not to encourage these people, but if you REALLY want the domain...

Otherwise, try the following:

  • pick a word and try grammatical variations ("puzzle", "puzzled", ... "puzzling"!)
  • pick a word in a non-English language (you'll constantly be spelling this out to people, but it can make for nice names)
  • use a slang term
  • use a name from a fictional universe
  • use a two or three word English phrase ("puzzledmind", "puzzledthoughts", "puzzledone"...)

If you're hunting for a business name:

  • trying adding your business type after the name ("smith.com" -> "smithconsulting.com" or "smithrobotics.com")
  • use an abbreviation of your business name "smithrobinson.com" -> "sr.com" -> "srconsulting.com" or "srrobotics.com")

Personality and personalisation

For vanity domains, this is a key factor. Your domain is going to be a little word or phrase that is in your email address and in your URL. It may as well be something you like. Obviously I can't give many tips here. I've known people to take three years to find a domain name that they like.

One thing to consider though is whether anyone else is going to use the address. There are, for example, a number of friends of mine using @puzzling.org email addresses and something.puzzling.org domain names. If I'd registered "mary.com" (which was taken when I decided to look for it and is still taken now) I doubt there'd be many people using an @mary.com email address aside from me. So if you want to share your domain with family and friends by giving out emails and subdomains, you may want to go for something more generic.

Understandability and ease of use

It's likely that at some point you're going to give your domain name to someone over the phone, or have to write it down for them. So here are some tips:

  • shorter is better because it minimises typos, and because the "fill in your email address" gap on most paper forms is tiny
  • don't misspell a word, or you'll be explaining "that's explanashion.org with a sh, not a t" over and over again
  • don't string more than two or three words together: abrightcolddayinapril.com was apparently a good website but it makes you squint at it a bit as a domain name


This will obviously be a big consideration if you're registering a domain for a business site. You won't want to register "iamsohot.com" for a business selling accounting software. On the other hand, the choice of a domain name for a business is fairly obvious anyway: choose a domain based on your business's name. The only trouble will be finding one which is available.

Professionalism can also be a consideration for vanity domains though. "ibrokeintoyoursystem.com" may seem funny right up until the point where you're applying for a job at a conservative software firm and sending your resume from yourname@ibrokeintoyoursystem.com.

This is clearly a personal decision. In what circumstances are people going to see the domain name and associate it with you? Are you OK with that? If you're unsure, be conservative.

Some people solve this problem by registering multiple domains: one fun one, one for their resume and professional identity. Alternatively, you could use subdomains.

Last modified: 24 July 2004