If you’ve been looking into getting a website you’ve probably come across something called a domain name.
A domain is a user-friendly, easy to read address that someone types in to the top bar of their browser which directs them to your website. It’s the same way letters and parcels get delivered to your house by using your address.
No, a domain and website are two different things. Using the house analogy; the domain is like the address and the website is the house or building. You can have one without the other but they’re pretty useless without each other; you wouldn’t visit an address to somewhere that doesn’t exist and you wouldn’t find somewhere without the address.
You will probably be familiar with website addresses or URLs, on your web browser you can see the address of the website you’re visiting in the bar at the very top of the screen. A website address looks like this:
The https:// is the protocol, it is the standard ‘language’ used to communicate between web browsers and website servers. www. is the domain prefix and stands for ‘World Wide Web’ anything located between the protocol and the second-level domain is referred to as the site subdomain.
The actual domain bit is the youramazingwebsite.co.uk part of the address, that is the unique part you choose for yourself for your website. youramazingwebsite is the name you have chosen for your site, called the second-level domain. This is followed by a top-level domain, or domain extension, such as .co.uk, there are over a thousand extension options for you to choose from. The most popular and familiar are:
Short for commercial, this is the most popular second-level domain. .com is used more in the US as the UK tends to opt for a more regional extension such as .co.uk
Derived from the word network and traditionally used by people involved with network technologies but is also used by many different types of business
This tends to be a choice extension for organisations and non-profits
The traditional extension for businesses running within the UK, it is a regional extension but more established than simply .uk
This is the country code top-level domain for the United Kingdom, and is quickly becoming more popular due to the shorter length and higher availability for domains with this extension.
The last part of the web address, the /about-you, is the path to a certain page within your site. It can be longer if it is nested within lots of folders.
As a domain is an address, it has to be completely unique. It is also part of your brand so you want to choose a name that relates to your business/organisation name or the services you provide. Try to keep the name short and easy to remember, would someone who heard it over the radio be able to remember it?
Some businesses will buy all the domains similar to the one they’re planning on using. For example if a company wanted to use the address: bestcupcakesever.co.uk they might want to protect their brand from competitors by also buying bestcupcakesever.com and bestcupcakesever.uk, redirecting all traffic to the same .co.uk domain where their website lives.
Is this necessary, no. If you want to protect your brand as you’re expecting to get business competitors with a similar name and want to prevent this sort of confusion by all means buy as many domains as you wish, but if that's not a big concern for you just buy the one domain you need.
Subdomains can be created from your domain to organise site sections. They are very different to subdirectories, they are essentially completely separate websites to your main domain. Some sites use subdomains to have a blog. or store. section that is self-contained and doesn’t affect the main site. The most common subdomain is www., which stands for World Wide Web. This subdomain contains a website’s homepage and its most important pages. Subdomains should only be used if they improve the user experience, in most cases using subdirectories/folder structure on the main domain works perfectly.
Using the house analogy again; if the domain is the building address, a subdomain is a separate flat within the building. It’s all part of the same thing but each flat is its own entity and can be completely different.
There are lots of different sites that can help you find and purchase available domain names, just a few of them are: