How to get started with your website
A common question people have is "what do I need to design a website?" Well the first step is purchasing a domain name. A domain name is simply your website address - www.mywebsite.com where mywebsite.com is your domain name.
Check if the domain you want for your website is available
Before you put too much thought into a name you like, determine if it is even available. A good resource to use is Network Solutions - all you do is type in the domain name you want, and if it's available, it will tell you. If someone already owns it, it will give whatever information is available on that person or organization.
What about .org, .net, .info, etc?
Sometimes the .com extension is taken, but the .org and .net are available. It's ideal to use .com if possible, but if you really love the domain name there's nothing wrong with using .org or .net. It is very common for a non-profit to use .org for their website. We don't recommend using any extensions other than the main 3 - .com, .net, and .org.
Make it easy to spell and remember
This is super important. You want to make it as easy as possible. To test this, try telling a friend what you're planning on using for a domain name one day. (hopefully they won't take that opportunity to buy it before you do). Then a couple days later, ask them if they remember it, and ask them to write it down. If they get it right (including spelling), you've found a really great domain name...at least in terms of simplicity.
Of course this will often depend on your company name, but if your company name is hard to spell then get creative. Try using abbreviations...or use a call to action as your domain name. For example if your company is "Medodie's Bagel Shoppe" and you find that people always use a 'y' instead of 'ie' in 'Melodie' then try www.getbagelsnow.com. It's not your company name, but it's still a good domain name, and it could even turn into a slogan.
Does your domain name include a good keyword?
This is overlooked probably 99% of the time. Most people don't know that Google and other search engines put a lot of importance on what your domain name is. So you want your domain name to have a important keyword, if possible...especially if you're building a small business or non-profit website and could use the free advertising from Google.
Here's an example.
At Fresh Look, our domain name is www.freshlookwebdesign.com. So when people Google "fresh look web design" we are near the top, for the sole reason that our domain name is the same as the search term. It also helps us because the term "web design" is part of our domain name and an important keyword.
There's give and take to this strategy. For example, www.freshlook.com might be a better domain name than www.freshlookwebdesign.com because it's much shorter. However from a search engine's perspective it lacks the keywords "web design". So just keep that in mind - if the domain name you want is taken, you might be able to include a good keyword in there that will help your search engine rankings.
How much does it cost?
A domain name is the smallest part of the cost of a website. At GoDaddy.com you can pay around $15 for a domain name. Just remember it is a yearly fee, and the more years you buy at one time the cheaper it gets.
Keep control of your domain name
A pitfall that many non-profits and small businesses fall into is that they don't realize that their web developer has control of their domain name, not them. In other words, they don't really own their own website. To avoid this problem, make sure that you purchase your own domain name, or if you have someone purchase it for you, ask for the user name and password to manage it.
Sometimes finding a domain name that is available and you like can be challenging. It takes creativity sometimes, but don't get discouraged. Keep brainstorming ideas and one of them is bound to be available.