Phil Wright : Component Factory

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

microISV, Domain name mistakes

Now that we have decided on the type of software to be produced, visual components for Windows .NET developers, we need to think about a domain name (the company name will be the same as the domain name).

Coming up with a good name is actually much harder than you think. It took me several weeks to get from starting to think about possible names to actually having bought the domain names. Right at the start I was determined to avoid two mistakes I have made in the past when doing the same thing.

My first mistake was to create a domain name that was exactly the same as the name of the product. On first inspection this does not seem such a bad idea. Users that can remember the name of your product can find the website without having to remember the name of the company that produces it. I certainly sometimes struggle to recall the name of the company associated with a particular product and vica versa.

If you are definitely only ever going to be a one product company then I suppose it is an appropriate strategy. This is the way that Winzip has developed itself. Their website is www.winzip.com and we have all heard of the product.

But what happens when you create your second product? You need to have another domain name for that new product and then you have to start from scratch in building up awareness of the new name. Now if you created Winzip then it's not a problem, your laying on the beach in Hawaii sipping a gin and tonic without caring about product number two.

For the rest of us there is a good chance there will be a second product and we might as well leverage all the effort in getting the company name into the customers mind. When they come back to our website to check for a later version of product number one we have a chance to tell them how cool our second product is. When product one is discontinued because of changes in technology we still have that brand name of the company in their head.

My second mistake was to let a domain name I had registered lapse. This was not deliberate but a simple oversight because I was not keeping track of when it was due to expire. Once I realised my first years registration had lapsed, and it was only about one day afterwards, I tried to register it again. You can guess what happened. Someone else had registered the name straight away and now suddenly I had lost the domain name!

I was lucky in that the domain name was the domain name of the company and not the product and at that point the vast majority of people were using the product domain name. So although I did not lose any real business it did mean that from then on I was stuck using the product domain name as the website access to not just the product but the whole company.

From these mistakes I have come up with the following domain name rules that I intend to follow this time around:-

1. Think of a domain name for the brand
2. Register popular variants (.com, .net, .org etc)
3. Register all domain names for 5 years
4. If possible enable auto renew for after the 5 years

If your hosting company allows you to auto renew then you could just initially pay for a single year and let the automatic renew handle it from then one. That would reduce the initial costs for your own microISV.

But after the pain of losing a domain name in the past I am determined it will never happen again and instead will definitely stump up for an initial 5 years cost in one go. Actually, if your only registering a single domain name this cost is not that prohibitive anyway, it is really only when doing this for several different domain name extensions it starts to add up.

Now all I have to do is think of a decent name for the company!

4 Comments:

  • I feel your pain. I've managed to lose my domain names several times and it's always very irritating.

    On the subject of naming your domain after your product. If you've done this, you might be able to "stretch" the brand a bit by giving the new product a name based on the first. Eg. if you're called WinZip and come out with a backing up product, "WinZip Backup" is probably OK as a product name.

    By Blogger phil jones, at 11:18 pm  

  • Depending on who you register domains through you can setup automatic renewals.

    Personally I use gradwell, and have all my key domains set to renew every year.

    By Blogger Barry, at 10:39 am  

  • Another strategy regarding domain names is to have one for the company and one for each product you have. On your company site you can, of course, include information on each product along with the link to the site that is dedicated to the product. I've done this with my company (www.hillcrestsoftware.net) and my two products - one about to go beta (www.mindsitecms.com) and one vaporware (www.mindsiteportal.com).

    It's more $$$ and more management of domains/sites but I think it's a strategy that will work well. I guess I'll find out once I release and get things going!

    By Blogger MicroISV, at 3:50 pm  

  • Thanks for the feedback.

    I think you are right in that adding a product specific domain name as well as having a main company domain name is the best approach.

    Making each product domain name just forward straight onto the appropriate product page on the company site is a good way to keep them linked. Plus it has the benefit that the product domain name will be found when searches are made using google etc.

    By Blogger Phil Wright, at 9:49 pm  

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