…and how to have a web address that’s readable by humans
You’ll definitely want to read all the way to the end of today’s lesson — there’s a great free download waiting there for you!
Anatomy of a Domain Name
URL is synonymous with web address. It’s the entire address of an individual web page, beginning with the “h” in “http” and ending with the very last character.
The domain name is the star of our show. It’s everything between the first period (“dot”) and the single forward slash. So yourdomain.com, yourdomain.org, and yourdomain.net are three completely separate domain names, and can be registered by three different people.
A subdomain is anything between the final slash of the http:// and the first period (“dot”). It’s optional.
The path is everything that follows the forward slash. It’s exactly the same as specifying the location of a file on your computer with an address like c:/my_files/project_1/overview.doc.
Rules of the Domain Name Game
There are a few rules set by ICANN, the international body that governs the registration and use of domain names. When choosing, keep in mind that domain names:
- Can use letters, number and hyphens
- Cannot begin or end with a hyphen
- Are limited to 63 characters in length
- Are NOT case-sensitive (though the rest of the URL can be, see definition of path above)
Domain name usability tip #1:
Aim for 5-30 characters in length.
Domain names are limited to 63 characters, which is actually pretty long. So if you can’t find YourCompanyName.com, you could consider longer and more descriptive names, slogans, or company catchphrases.
YourCompanyNameMakesTheBestWidgetsInTown.com is only 40 characters, for instance, so you could even go with YourCompanyNameAPassionForExcellenceInWidgetCraftingSince1983.com (just under the limit at 61 characters).
Silly examples, maybe, but you get the idea: You can say a lot in 63 characters. However, a 63-character domain name will be almost impossible to remember.
Studies have analyzed the length of registered domains, as well as the length of domains that are indexed by Google. These have found that domains between 11 and 30 characters seem to hit the sweet spot. They’re registered more frequently and they’re more frequently returned in Google searches.
That number actually includes the “http://” which is six characters, so we’re really talking about 4 to 24 characters for the actual domain name. I’d suggest keeping your domain name below 30 characters if you want people to be able to remember it and type it in.
There probably are not a lot of domain names being registered that take up the full 63 characters, and almost everything that is five letters or shorter has already been registered (and a considerable number of the 6-, 7- and 8-letter domains as well), so there are practical reasons for this limit as well.
Domain name usability tip #2:
Keep domains in print human readable!
When you use your domain name in print, humans are going to have to read and understand it. We are not machines, so leave off the http://www. part. If you are using another subdomain, do use that.
“In print” includes not just business cards, flyers, and print ads—it also includes e-mail, e-mail signatures, your own website, and pretty much anywhere you can read a URL.
And please, please, please, don’t create problems by asking people to remember and type something after the slash, like www.YourDomain.com/customers/survey. They. Will. Not. Remember. This is a job for a subdomain: Survey.YourDomain.com is much much better.
And keeping in mind what we told you yesterday about investing in domain names, why not just register YourDomainSurvey.com?
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