How did I choose a domain name for my new website?

Recently, I’ve decided to start a website and it took me a couple of weeks to come up with a domain name for it. In this post, I will share the domain name selection process and useful tools which made it easier.

There were four steps in this process.

Step 1: Researching on what makes a good domain name

I’ve learned a lot about what makes a good domain name during my career in the Internet space. But for those who haven’t been so fortunate, it’s advisable to do some research and read a bit on domain names. Resources are plentiful online and others have covered the topic very well.

Having known about what makes a good domain name, I swiftly proceeded to the next step.

Step 2: Defining what the website is about

This one took me a while. I felt a strong need to start this website, but at the beginning, I didn’t really have a clear vision for it. Two of my main interests, for some time now, are fitness and fitness-related technology. Often I read something about fitness and get excited about how great this information is and how everyone needs to know about it. Other times I stumble upon a cool workout-tracking gadget, or a super helpful workout-timing app and it bugs me how so few people know about them, let alone use them. I wanted an outlet through which I could share these bits of information.

But is that a good enough reason to start a website? I needed a larger scale vision. And to figure it out, I needed answers to some pretty tough questions. Why am I starting this website? What is its purpose? How will it add value to the humanity?

After some days of contemplation, this is what I have come up with:

  1. Internet is crowded with self-proclaimed fitness gurus, giving uninformed advice, posting instructional videos of exercises with bad form and promoting excessive supplementation that will magically make you fit and strong. On the other hand, there are extraordinary coaches and experts, who devote their lives to research, studying and mastering different fitness topics. Then they share their knowledge, but their reach is short or their voice gets lost in the noise of the fitness industry. So, one purpose of this website would be to help filter out the money-wasting crap and help gather best quality information in one place.
  2. Hi-tech fitness products, ranging from mobile apps to wearable trackers, support people in achieving their fitness goals. A lot of these products are cumbersome and questionably useful. But many of them are improving at a fast pace. As they develop, they are getting more intelligent and more user friendly. I believe that wearables, smart clothing and supporting Internet services are going to be a huge deal. Fitness technology already does and increasingly will help both professionals and amateurs to achieve their goals. And they will be able to achieve those goals in less time and with less risk of injury. Thus the second purpose for this website would be to help promote useful fitness technology.

After following these topics for a while now, I know there are many people who are excited about being able to do things with their bodies which they couldn’t do before. Things like lifting an increased amount of weight of the floor or performing a new gymnastics move. And they want to keep their bodies strong and mobile for as long as possible. If this website manages to reach enough people like that and helps them be healthy and happy, it might just serve its purpose.

Step 3: Choosing two or three words that will best represent the purpose of the website

The next step is to squeeze all that vision and meaning into a handful of words. So, for the next couple of days, I’ve written down every word or expression I could think of which would reflect this vision. I had a few intense and focused brainstorming sessions. During those I was using thesaurus.com heavily to find different words with a similar meaning. But most of the ideas came up during unrelated activities, when I was reading, meditating or working out.

At one point, words started repeating and new ideas didn’t feel quite as good as the existing ones. It was time for the next step. As a preparation for it, I’ve separated all the expressions into single words and organized them into groups.

Step 4: Generating domain name ideas and validating them

Best domain names are short, pronounceable, recognizable, distinguishable and usually taken. Thus the goal of this step is to choose two to three words from the list, combine them into a meaningful expression and find out whether it is free for purchase. There are a couple of tools that saved me a lot of time in this step and I would recommend using them.

To generate different combinations of words, you can use mergewords.com. Simply enter a list of words into multiple columns and it will generate all the possible combinations using one word from each column. (Thanks Nikola Stolnik for sharing this tool with me.)

To check whether a domain name is free, usually you would go to your domain registrar of choice. But, aside from a domain name, I also planned to open social accounts with this brand and it was important to me that these were free, too. Of course, one could check each of the social networks manually, but there is a better way. Enter panabee.com. Its primary purpose is to generate domain names and display their availability. I haven’t found the name generation part that useful, suggestions just weren’t very good. But in addition to the name generator, it also has a one-click tool to check availability of the social accounts. That one is useful. One caveat, though. Twitter has quite peculiar username rules and Panabee will not take those in account. Username that Panabee will show as available, you might not be able to actually use on Twitter.

After playing with my list of words and their combinations for a while, I had a couple of domain name favorites. For each of the favorites, I would also do a quick Google search, to make sure there are no existing brands or any kind of bad associations. For the few candidates that passed all the tests, I would bounce them with my girlfriend and a couple of friends to get their feedback. I would ask them what their first impression of the domain is and what they think this website is about. Still, none of the candidates felt like a winner.

The next tool I tried was the Shopify Business Name Generator. You enter a word or two in it and it spits out available .com domains which contain your entered words in combination with some other, more or less, random words. After twenty pages of domains generated by this tool, I saw a suggestion for EngineeringStrong.com.

Engineering wasn’t on my list of words at all, but it actually made sense from multiple perspectives. It’s associated both with technology and intelligence. Plus, I’m a software engineer. Plus, my girlfriend already suggested it before, which outweighs all other arguments anyway. So it made it to the favorites list.

Panabee said the social accounts were free.

Google search revealed somewhat similar brands but in other business fields. There weren’t any bad associations online. Feedback from friends was also positive. This one finally felt like a winner.

But it needed to pass one final but most important test. I imagined saying:

“We, at Engineering Strong…”

It felt good. I felt a connection to the brand. I went to sleep, woke up the next morning, still felt good about the name. Some other candidates didn’t pass that test. This one did. So I went on and bought the domain and opened the social accounts. EngineeringStrong.com was born.

Final thoughts

To make this post more simple to follow, I’ve separated the process into distinct steps, but the truth is that the steps 2, 3 and 4 overlapped. I would revise the purpose of the website while generating domain names, then I would cross out some words and write down new ones after the purpose was more clear. I wouldn’t want to leave an impression that the process was so linear as in this post, because it was quite iterative. And also, it didn’t really take a couple of weeks, it was probably more like six to eight weeks of part-time attention. It’s important to highlight that the time for reflection was essential for the idea generation.

I hope you find this article useful and I wish you good luck with choosing awesome domain names for yourselves!

P.S. There are a couple of other tools that I’ve found about after I was already done with my domain search:

  • LeanDomainSearch.com is similar to the Shopify Business Name Generator
  • BustaName.com is a combination of some of the tools I have used, so it looks like it could simplify and automate the process even further. You should definitely check that one out.