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choosing the right domain name: a marketing perspective
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book cover: choosing the right domain name

CHAPTER 4
where and how to show off your domain name


I have decided to put this chapter at the end of the book because both sections are relevant to all of the various types and applications of domain names that have been covered throughout the earlier content.

4.02 AESTHETICS; WHY IT MATTER HOW YOUR DOMAIN NAME LOOKS?

F irst impressions can be crucial. Online, the company's domain name may influence how a potential customer might perceive the organization (poor domain name = poor company, good domain name = good company to do business with). But domain names are not only used in internet browser windows, they are seen offline as well. They appear on stationery, on business cards, company literature, on vehicles and on adverts - in fact, in every other media to the Internet. For these, we must consider the aesthetics of the name, that is, how it will look when presented on all of these media. Primary in the aesthetic presentation of domain names is the use of upper and lower case to help clarify meaning by identifying separate words within that name. Indeed, if you take only one thing from this book, this is it: domain names are NOT case specific. When used to type a URL into a web browser, domain names are NOT case sensitive. Both offline and online, they can be presented in lower, upper or sentence case [Technically, a server can be set up to recognize upper and lower case characters in a domain name, but it is universal practice to set them up to accept both. Indeed, it is so common that many technical staff are not aware the option exists.]. When used offline, therefore, the aforementioned yorktoys.co.uk is presented as YorkToys.co.uk. In this particular case this is not a major issue, but with other names it can have great significance. Let me use an example from my own experience. A company that specialised in organizing and hosting trade show exhibitions of child-related products was called Children's Exhibitions Ltd. (they have since ceased trading). So they registered their business name as a domain name. Stationery bearing the name was already ordered when I pointed out how their name would look in print:
childrensexhibitions.co.uk
Because of the way we identify outstanding words within a series of letters, at first glance the phrase 'children sex' is prominent, or even 'children's sex exhibitions'. Not what the business was hoping to promote. The solution was relatively simple. In print the name could be presented as ChildrensExhibitions.co.uk. An alternative would be to use a hyphen between the two words of the domain name - Childrens-Exhibitions.co.uk. Even without the capitalization of the words this would still read childrens-exhibitions.co.uk. Note that in chapter 1.04 I make reference to the use of the hyphen. Whilst practitioners in the USA are vociferous in their defence of the all-one-word rule for domain names, surely examples such as this show that there are exceptions to the rule.

It is not only 'smutty' word associations that can cause problems when multi-word domain names are presented offline. When consecutive words end and start with the same letter, where they join will always attract the eye, but three letters the same looks like a misprint. For example, in the run-up to the ban on smoking in the work place in the UK, a TV campaign promoting the date of the event used the domain name smokefreeengland.co.uk for its online presence - notice how SmokeFreeEngland.co.uk looks much better. This example brings to the fore another issue. As a country's name is a proper noun it should always be capitalized to be grammatically correct - it can seem very strange to see words we associate with being capitalized in lower-case. This is particularly true of acronyms or where organizations are known by their initials - fbi looks wrong, for example, it is always presented as FBI.

DOMAIN NAMES IN PRACTICE :
schoolyard humour, but not funny in business
Other examples of lack of forethought when registering domain names include the following.
Sex is a popular theme in this regard - like the betting advice site, oddsexchange.com (odds exchange) and the site facilitating skill-swops, expertsexchange.com (experts exchange). Of course, the essence of this cautionary tale is that you should avoid any kind of rude misinterpretation. So it is that MP3 download site mp3shits.com (mp3s hits), and a database of contacts called 'Who Represents' that becomes whorepresents.com online both raise a giggle. An example of how a word you would never sub-divide takes on a life of its own when it is part of a domain name is the site that helps therapy seekers - therapistfinder.com (therapist finder). And what about the tourism site for the Iberian peninsula - ChooseSpain.com which becomes a masochists' holiday destination - ChoosesPain.com? Finally, just to show that wordsmiths can get it wrong too, the pen might be mightier than the sword, but as a domain name penismightier.com says something else. Note, at time of writing, all of these domain names had live sites on them.
Depending on the media, the marketer can use colour or tone to differentiate words within a domain name. This is perfectly acceptable if the marketer has control over any reproduction. An example comes from the star-studded 2005 campaign against world poverty. Their domain name was presented on various media as makepovertyhistory.org.
DOMAIN NAMES IN PRACTICE :
full marks for presentation
A good example of how to display a domain name comes from travelsupermarket.com, with the two words being segregated by making one in bold and the .com being in a different colour on a contrasting background. Simple - but effective.
domain name examples
I hope the examples I have included above will have convinced you of the importance of domain name presentation in offline environments, but if you need more evidence the following is a selection of the domain name examples I have listed throughout the book. When writing the text, I made the decision to deliberately present every domain name in lower case - so here is a sample of some as I wrote them in the text - with how they should be portrayed alongside each.
domain name examples


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