The domain name purgatory and how we escaped from it

Oh come on, don’t give it up so fast there is still hope!

Let me guess… you had a great startup idea and roughly validated with your close friends, family members and even asked some strangers online too. Check ✔️. You also have a rough business plan on your table (or at least in your mind) and jot down the main features of the MVP. Chec️️️️k ✔️. Now what? Well, let’s find a name for it, as it has to be called something right?!

You jump excitedly in front of your computer believing that you’re onto find a damn good name in a minute to stamp on the company which will grow like crazy, and eventually make the world a better place.

Not actual footage of my computer. But I wish.

Yes, this is how we felt too with my product designer friend Dora Melher, and let me share what we learnt from the process of searching for the best name possible. I have to tell in advance we weren’t completely aware how awful 👿 the situation is by the year of 2020, but let’s begin our story with some sunshine of mission. ☀️

Our product is an app that helps creating / maintaining a healthy consumerism in the kitchen by offering random recipes using the available ingredients from the fridge to reduce household food waste. As happy optimists at first we jumped right into some word wrangling with fridge, cooking and food to find some good sounding names in the niche. We decided to use Trello to list the names, and give ⭐️ or ⭐️⭐️ ratings to decide if we really like something.

The fraction of the awful names of this stage

Initially our approach was really promising we wrote down almost anything that came to our mind, but after 30-40 variations (Pantrypan, Qookery we still love you!) we decided to go one level deeper and start checking the domain availability using the service iwantmyname as we both had negative experiences earlier with other popular big gun domain providers.

Lesson #1 don’t waste your time falling in love with a domain before you actually checked all the registries (including trademarks) and social media availability

Our requirements of a good name + domain were the following:

- Domain length should be less than 8 characters
- It should have a relatable meaning to cook, fridge, kitchen etc.
- Good charisma with easy pronunciation
- And maybe the hardest.. .com ending

The search was demoralising, we were trying one after another, relentlessly going through all of the promising names, but simply they were just all TAKEN (or offered for bidding on other sites for a nice sum 💰 — image below). We were shocked, so we decided not to put any new name on the list without checking first the availability of the domain. Alright so new round then.

Some -ly offers were hard to resist.

Hell yeah motivation turned into hell no early as in the next couple of days there were no words where we couldn’t put an extra “oo” in the middle like “qooqooroo” to sound good or an extra “ly” in the end to sound professional and “startuppy”, but regardless the hefty efforts and overnight calls, all the results were just merely meh, but more ridiculous.

This was also the time when we started to turn for help using thesaurus.com the urban dictionary and some random name generators simultaneously (resources in the end) to cook some syllables together but without any luck. I also tried to mimic some rap lyrics to hit some great matching rhymes from the GOATs but again just miserably failing. 😩

At this point we were really desperate, so even questioned if we’re capable of doing this ourselves, so we decided what every crafty creator would do: s̵t̵e̵a̵l̵ borrow ideas from the competition.

Sorry guys wasn’t convinced.

The research was quick and deep enough to realise: none of the names were good enough to be jealous about, so we needed something fresh to pull this off, and Dora was onto something with an alternative search finding two interesting branding agencies: A Hundred Monkeys and ZinZin.

Lesson #2 don’t ask everyone about their opinion on the name, rather try to approach the vision from a different angle

These two resources were an eye opener in a sense of how comfortably they dropped the idea to strictly associate the name with the actual product / service and use instead emotional connection, rich meaning to really break out. The latter mentioned agency also had a helpful guide explaining the thinking behind their portfolio companies.

After getting deeper into these brand stories and the explanation behind them, it felt refreshing to talk about the idea and the vision again more openly with each other. It didn’t take too long after and all of our initial concerns went away so we could happily land on the name Chiriba (a word to use for magic tricks in Hungarian) by letting go all the sweaty requirements we standardised at the beginning of the domain search.

Lesson #3 don’t be afraid to put the naming on the side for a few days to refine the vision of the product, you might find a better inner meaning for a name

The kitchen is always full of magic

In the finish line let me share some of the resources we discovered along the way with recommended steps. These could help you on your own domain search journey and might help to avoid a few miserable bumps.

Some of the resources are more inspirational and others are dead functional if you want to create the next name frankenstein for your product. But enough talking, here is the list:

Step 1. Create a basis of a strong value proposition of the product / service with the help of Strategyzer’s Value Proposition Canvas + Customer profiles. Dora wrote an article about it earlier as well.

Step 2. Start with wordoids and random name generators to see if something interesting comes up which is still available as a domain, and don’t forget to make a list within your reach:

- https://mystartupname.com/
- https://www.thesaurus.com/
- https://www.panabee.com/
- https://wordoid.com/
- https://onym.co/

Step 3. Check the name of the competition to have a better picture about the market and the names they use ( TBH we just used Google):

- https://neilpatel.com/blog/25-sneaky-online-tools/
- https://www.inc.com/guides/201105/10-tips-on-how-to-research-your-competition.html

Step 4. Forget about the previous steps above, and just read ZinZin’s guide to open your mind, and read after some of The Hundred Monkeys’ case studies:

- https://www.zinzin.com/naming-guides-company-product-names/
- https://www.ahundredmonkeys.com/work/case-studies/

Step 5. Understand the brand you want to create on a deeper level, and more importantly the why (yep it’s not just your logo). Get inspired of a talk from Steve Jobs back in the days..

** Not affiliated with any of the links mentioned in this article, just found them useful **

That’s all folks I hope you found the article useful and entertaining! 👏
Let me know if you have a good resource to share with others about naming so I can update the article!

Product Designer & Hacktivist. Creating with #code #design. Creator of Chiriba, WSTLSS, Peterbot and remixmonsta. Currently Product Designer @adidas

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