A student emailed me today to ask about how to come up with a good domain name. I don’t make any claim that any of my domain names are “good,” per se, but I can certainly talk about what they mean to me and the process that I used to come up with them.
It’s always some kind of a brainstorming process. I like to sit down with a blank, white sheet of paper and write out ideas, values, draw pictures, and as many words that are related to the theme of the website as I can. I talk to people and bounce ideas off of them, and ask them questions like, “How does _____.com feel to you?” When I come up with something I like, it’s like something just clicks, and the name feels right. Here’s how I’ve come up with some of the names of sites that I’ve built, host, or am currently building.
How I Developed My Domain Names
“Morphatic” (morphatic.com) is a mashup of “Morgan” (my name), “morph”, “phat”, and “automatic”. I liked it because it sounds techie, echoes my name, hints at change (morph, metamorphosis, morphing), echoed a “cool” word (“phat” was a meme at the time I came up with this…over 10 years ago!). It’s also short enough that I can use it as a handle, e.g. @morphatic, on Twitter, StackOverflow and various other forums. It’s been over 10 years since I came up with that, but I kinda feel it has held up well. Also it’s not a real word so I can repurpose it to mean anything that I want it to mean. The downside of not using real words is that you have to teach people what your site is about.
UMatter2Us (umatter2.us) is a double entendre. “You matter to us” is a clear statement of value and community. “U Matter, to us” is like “how we see the stuff you study in college.” For that one, I originally just wanted umatter.net, but the guy who owned it wouldn’t sell it to me for a reasonable price. I kinda like what I came up with better now.
Bountify (bountify.net) and Portphilio (portphil.io) are both plays on familiar words. Bountify (which is NOT live yet, at the time of this writing) is going to be a site kind of like Craig’s List, but for the sharing economy. Bountify is designed to help people “realize abundance,” or capitalize on the bounty that exists all around us. Porphilio is a mashup of “portfolio” and the Greek root “phil” which means “to love” (think Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love). Portphilio, which is targeted for soft launch before January 11, 2016, is a site where college students (or anyone, really) can create portfolios of their work and tell stories about how all the puzzle pieces of their life fit together. It is designed to replace the standard resume, and help create a 3D picture of a person that will allow potential employers, teachers, and others to develop an honest impression of who people are, what they’re about, and what they can do.
Closing Thoughts and Rules of Thumb
At the end of the day, the domain name itself is much less important than the content on the site. I mean, when Google first appeared, few people had any clue what that meant. (Hint, a googolplex a REALLY BIG number, equivalent to a 1 with 100 zeroes behind it.) That “google” has become a household word is testament to the amazing functionality provided by the products they produce. So it doesn’t really matter what you call your site, as long as what you provide creates value for your site visitors.
Yes, you can spend a lot of time worrying about SEO (search engine optimization), and working on coming up with names that will boost your site’s rankings in search engine queries, but again, your content is going to drive traffic MUCH more than your name. I don’t really recommend making this your number one priority.
In some ways, registering a new domain name is like having a child, and although I don’t want to carry this simile too far, your new domain requires care and feeding or it will die, and it is going to be around for a long time–hopefully longer than you. To that extent, it seems much more important to me to pick a name that you like, that you will want to associate yourself with, that will make you excited to contribute to it.
Pragmatically, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Make it logical enough that it’s easy for people to remember
- Make it easy to type, i.e. no hyphens or numbers, and not too long
The bottom line for me is does it feel right? Nobody can answer that question for you, but you. Have fun!