Your Website Name Doesn’t matter

April 15, 2008 - By 

beatlescover
Ladies and gentlemen…. The Beatles! And the crowd went wild. People screamed their name and forever after that moment and have bought their records over and over again. People call them the best band ever and it’s not a stretch. They practically invented the modern rock band and many popular song-recording techniques. They wrote hundreds of songs in many styles and OWNED the top of the charts with record sales and radio singles. However, think about their name: The Beatles. No, REALLY think about it. It is a really bad band name. It’s a pun; a play on words. Not beetles, but Beatles. You see, ’cause they’re a band and they have a good beat. And what about Radiohead? It’s a radio on your head? Their head? These are bad names, but our brain looks past that and only knows these names as what we connect to them. Once you remove the connection between the name from band do you start to see how your brain can connect bad names to each object without damaging the reputation of what the bad name represents.

I think is was on a Bill Cosby stand up routine that I remember him saying the word “spatula” over and over again. He mentioned how weird the word is and how we don’t notice anymore. He kept on saying “spatula, spatula” and eventually the word even stopped existing as a word with meaning and it was just a reason for Cosby to make funny faces. Try it yourself. Take any noun and repeat it out loud twenty times. Notice that you stop hearing the word itself and instead try to find patterns or rhythms in the sounds you are making? Or maybe, the word you repeat over and over again makes you aware of your own speaking pattern or the way you form your vowel sounds? Either way, the word itself lost all its power as a noun after less than twenty repetitions. Last Saturday’s edition of ReSound spoke about this phenomenon during a piece about playing some abstract repetitive music to listeners to get their reaction.

It took me months to decide on a website name for some of my projects. Good ideas would pop in my head and I would run over to the computer to type it into godaddy.com and see if they were taken. They usually were. I became so frustrated with finding a “good” name that wasn’t taken that I came up with what I thought was a witty idea to call my site allthegooddomainsaretaken.com, but when I typed that into godaddy.com I got this ironic answer back:
allthegooddomains1.jpg
I was lucky enough to find a few names I like, and I’m glad I have them, but looking back on the process, I can see how irrelevant that decision is. Most people find your site through other sites and most likely click on a link to get there. If they want to visit again, they will most likely bookmark it. At this stage, your website name starts to become a mental pointer to what content you have on your site and things that your visitors have learned while visiting. Your name will most likely become mostly irrelevant as your visitors become desensitized to the meaning.

So, how do you pick your site name? The best you can ask for is to find a name that you like that isn’t offensive. Most two word combinations are probably taken and literal URLs like digitalcameras.com are boring and squatted. Try using phrases. Try a sentence or a statement and it’s way more likely to be open. ilovedigitalcameras.com is open. Wowyourepretty.com is also open. No need to make it super short. When is the last time you typed out a URL? Go crazy and get manohnmanmysiteissofantastic.com. Just as the Beatles overcame their less-than-great band name because of their great music, the content of your site should triumph over any URL. Just have fun with it.

Posted In:  Ideas
11  comments
11 Comments
  • it was ‘obey’, not spatula… the cosby thing

    and when i was trying to think up a name for my website i was bouncing a bunch of different names off my mom, who kinda stared at me blankly (at the time not really fully grasping the internet or what i was talking about), and changed the subject by looking up at the ceiling fan and thinking out loud, ‘i have to dust up there, theres a bunch of cobwebs’… so i just stuck ‘studios’ at the end to make it try & sound all official and went with it.

  • people never get my domain when i first tell them. i often have to say “thinsite.. cause it’s thin on content.. get it?”. they don’t get it.

  • actually, the beatles called themselves the beatles because their favorite band was the crickets, and it was a play on THAT. but that’s neither here nor there.

  • odd post. My business name is shutterhead and I own the domain. You don’t know how many times I’ve been asked to sell it for rediculous amounts of moolah… but I won’t. Though I agree with your rationale, having the domain is all a part of branding yourself – your identity. If you are the greyscalegorilla (which you indeed are), then greyscalegorilla.com would have been the only way to go.

  • yeah but greyscalegorilla is a joke name. It was made .. when another guy we knew made pixlepig and we were making names like that, off the top of out heads.

  • I’m 100% on board with this idea, but you have to admit that it’s still tempting to try and find the “just right” domain name. Every time I come up with a good idea I seem to come up with a name for it, and then I have to fight against the urge to check if that domain is available. You’re right, though – there are plenty of great websites that have a slightly bogus domain name (basecamphq.com, for example) and I bet it doesn’t make a lick of difference. Most people are just going to Google for your site anyway, so who cares?

  • I agree to an extent – names mean very little, unless it’s really clever or memorable in some other way. Most people either won’t remember it anyway or will get to it through search or bookmarks. The only time it matters in my opinion is for business sites, makes it a lot more legit if the url is your business name…

  • As your copyeditor, I am sorry I failed to fact-check the Cosby-spatula thing and how the Beatles got their name. I will not resign, though.

  • I agree in general that if the content/product/whatever is high quality and it’s something people want then the name doesn’t matter a lot. But it certainly isn’t understood that Radiohead and The Beatles are bad band names because they’re easy to understand puns. On the contrary, I think it’d be incredibly hard to come up with any kind of objective criteria for “good” or “bad” (which I think is your point, ultimately, but if I were to poke a bit I’d say it semi-sort-of undermines your argument to speak in objective terms about Bad Band Names while on the other hand saying it doesn’t matter – if it doesn’t matter, then it’s not good or bad, right?)

  • Thinking about this a lot as we decide what to name our child (expected in a month or so). Renaming a domain is easier than renaming a person.

  • Very interesting article. I too have thought about how we stop thinking about the real meaning of band names, for example. I think The Smashing Pumpkins is another good example of a bad band name that we subconsciously ignore and immediately connect with the band itself.

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