in General Coding

Selecting user-friendly domain names

When graphic designers are developing logos, one common test of the quality of the logo design is to fax it and see what the faxed version looks like. Faxes flatten colors, make tiny print hard to read, and just generally put the logo to the test of withstanding less than optimal conditions. Domain names need to be able to withstand equally sub-optimal conditions. Whenever I see domain names that are hard to pronounce or include hyphens or use words for which there are several spellings or sound different from how they are spelled, like storycorps.net, a wonderful effort at documenting American oral history, I wonder if those deciding on a domain name ever did a fax test, like imagining that you need to verbally communicate the domain name, perhaps over the phone, or maybe at a cocktail party, or some other context that is less than optimal for communicating domain name. Would you need to spell it for them? Would you need to explain that there is a hyphen between the words? Or like the good people at Story Corps, would you need to use up precious seconds of radio ad time to spell out your domain name, because when you say the domain name, it really sounds like “storycore”? So what to do – after all, Story Corps can’t really be expected to change the name of the organization (though I would argue that in this webified age, thinking about the domain name of your organization should be a critical factor when coming up with a name) – what they could (and did) do, like Google has done, is to register expected alternate or incorrect spelling of your domain name (try going to gooogle.com, for example, or try going to capitolone.com, which will take you to capitalone.com), so Story Corps, knowing that even if they spelled out the domain name, storycorp.net, were smart enough to register storycore.net. In this case, they were lucky enough that the alternate spelling was not already taken. But then you’ve got domain names like real-estate.com. When giving someone this domain name over the phone, you have to call it “real hyphen estate dot com” which doesn’t quite roll off the tongue that easily. And should you forget to mention the hyphen, well, then the person you’re talking to will end up at the competitor site realestate.com. In my view, real-estate.com is actually inferior to a name like realestateonline.com, which is longer but easier to say. Shorter is not always better, not even when it comes to domain names…