How To Start Your Website
You’ve decided to take the plunge and get yourself a website, but finding it all a bit of a mystery? Maybe you’ve really only used the internet to search for pictures of cute cats or to stalk your school friends on facebook. Now you’ve been flung into a world of HTML, PHP, CSS, .com, .biz, .org, .rocks, www. and lots of other bewildering acronyms and phrases. Do you feel completely clueless about web design? What is required? How does it work?
In this series, I’ve decided to answer some of the frequently asked questions I have been asked over the years. I hope this will help both my clients and a passing ‘noob’. In this part I look at the ‘art’ of choosing a domain name for your new website.
Part 1: Domain Names: What’s in a name?
One of the first things you might think about is your own domain name. Often clients have already purchased their domain name(s) but some have not thought about it or even know what it is. Simply, your domain name is the address or url of your website. Your website can have more than one address. For our website the main domain address is oitp.co.uk but we also have oneintenproductions.co.uk.
So what should you be thinking about when choosing a domain name? If you have used a free website builder like wix or wordpress.org you will have had one with the builders name in the address. It is really important as part of your brand to have your own url. It’s professional, memorable and makes you credible. There are three things you should keep in mind to start with.
‘oneinten’ was long gone for us when we set out to buy a domain name, but maybe your short business name isn’t. I think where possible you should always use your business name. If people are trying to find you, if they know the name of your business that’s the first thing they’re typing into google (or at least I do). Hopefully you haven’t picked a long winded business name. If you have, how can you shorten it for the web? Do steer clear of hyphens, numbers and words that are difficult to type or spell. Also check how the words of your name site together. Here are some folk who should have.
Optimising your URL for SEO
Or in plain english – a domain name that ranks highly on google (other search engines are available). So what can you do to rank more highly?
No, not something you put on the side of your house. Extensions are .com’s and .co.uk’s of your urls.
.com is the classic, but I always feel (and I’m blogging from the UK here) that a website with a .com is not from the UK, I’ve actually skipped over sites in google with a .com address if I’m buying something as I want to keep my money in the UK. That’s why I always recommend a UK company has a .co.uk address. You can procure a .co.uk inexpensively for around £4-6 per year, although some hosting packages include them.
There is an entire world of extensions out there, so it’s worth perusing the different options. If you’re London based you can now get .london for £19.99 (chocolateteapot.london anyone?). There is also a school of thought that you should buy as many extensions (variations and mispellings of your address) as possible. Now whilst domain names are inexpensive, it does begin to add up. You need to be realistic about the size of your business. If you’re a start up one or two may suffice, if you think you’ve got a very hot product you may want to cover all your bases to protect and build your brand. I think at the end of the day it will come down to your budget. Whatever you do, you should act as soon as possible as nothing is stopping anyone else from taking that name.
It’s also worth remembering that some extensions have specific uses. Personal sites often use ‘.me’. If you’re a non-profit you would traditionally use ‘.org’.
Always do your research. Make sure you’re not using anyone else’s name or trademark. You don’t want to have established yourself only to be hit with ‘cease and desist’ or a massive lawsuit. Equally you may not want your work to be associated with anyone else’s, so don’t forget this important step.
Also check your chosen name is available on twitter, google+ and facebook. If all addresses are the same or similar it makes you much easier to find!
How Do I Get One?
So you’ve got some ideas and you think you know what web address you want. What’s the next step?
There are a multitude of domain name providers (or registrars) out there and I can certainly recommend a few if you ask me. You will want to also start thinking about hosting at this stage which I will cover in part 2. You don’t need to use the same provider for hosting, but watch out for companies that lure you in for very low introductory offers and then sting you for the usual price a year or two later. Nearly all companies offer an introductory price so do check out what you’ll eventually be paying. You can of course transfer your domain name between providers but this isn’t instant and can take a few days, so my advice would be to be reasonably happy with your provider from day one.
Ownership & Privacy
You should also be aware that for most domains your details will end up on whois (and for uk exensions Nominet). This includes your name, address and telephone number. If you are a non-trading individual you can opt out directly through Nominet. Some providers (registrars) will charge you a handsome sum for privacy so it worth researching if you can do it yourself before diving.
This is great if you want to sell your domain. About 10 years ago, a company wanted to buy my personal domain chis.co.uk and I very nearly did! (The Short Story – they wouldn’t pay what I was asking!) If I had have done there would have been a fee to pay, so do think about the details you input in the registry! It’s of course free to update your contact details at any time.
Still not sure how to start your website?
Well I’ve covered what I think are most of the basic questions about Domain Names. The next post in this series will deal with web hosting. If you’re looking for more information before then then get in touch. One In Ten can help you with all aspects of your website design including domain name registration.
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