What’s in a Name: Part one of getting started with domains

What’s in a Name: Part one of getting started with domains

This post is the first in a series on Getting Started with Domain of One’s Own at St. Norbert College. This post provides general information on domain names but it is specifically written for anyone who is working on a domains pilot project through Reclaim Hosting at St. Norbert. 

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, two star crossed lovers try to overcome the fate that is dictated by their names. Romeo is a Montague and Juliet is a Capulet – their families have been feuding for years. In struggling with the hand they have been dealt Juliet questions the very nature of names and their meaning.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet;”


Alas things did not work out so well for the story of our lovers. Their names, the histories and associations that came with them, held meaning for the world around them and this impacted their story.

Hopefully, choosing a name for your domain will not have such dire consequences but naming is not something that you should take lightly. The name you choose will set the tone for everything that you do there and once you register a domain name you cannot change it; so it is best to give thought to this up front.

Technical Stuff

Domain names are unique addresses that take you to a specific place on the web. Because of this your domain must not have been claimed by anyone else. You can check the availability of a domain on Reclaim Hostings website. Domains are reserved for a specific time period – at minimum one year – for a fee. If you are part of one of our pilot groups here at St. Norbert then you will be provided with a coupon code that will waive this fee for you.

Anatomy of a Name

A domain name is made up of two parts. The “Top Level Domain” (TLD) is the second part of the name – the dot and everything that comes after. From Reclaim Hosting (our hosting partner for domains here at St. Norbert) you can choose from the most popular domains including:

  • .com
  • .org
  • .net
  • .info

Choosing this can be tricky, however. For instance, .com is a common choice and even though there is no technical distinction that .com means company or commercial, many people think of .com’s this way. Similarly, some think that .org means a non-profit status but again this is not technically true. Even though there is no technical truth to these associations you may want to consider these assumptions of your potential audience when you are thinking about your domain name.

The part that comes before your TLD can be any combination of letters, numbers, or dashes that has not been registered by someone else. Often people gravitate to shorter names because they are easy to remember and avoid the dashes because again it can be hard to remember that there is a dash in the address. The name you choose, along with the TLD you choose, make up your root level domain.

Off of the root level domain you can choose to create subdomains.


One cool technical thing to keep in mind is that when you register a domain you also get unlimited subdomains. In a later article we will get into subdomains at more depth but for now just know a few things…

Subdomains are not pages

Subdomains are different than pages. A page is an offshoot from a domain that has been set up as a website. A subdomain is a whole new domain that you can use to set up as a website or use for any other purpose… again, we will get into this deeper in a later post.

The syntax of subdomains

Subdomains add another set of letters and numbers and another dot before the root domain name. So knight.domains is a root domain but academictech.knight.domains is a subdomain.

Using subdomains

You can use subdomains for different projects. Fictional student Quiggly Quanz finds out that quiglyquanz.com is available and decides to register this. Quiggly starts building a portfolio here but then a teacher in an English class wants the class to blog. This is the perfect time for a subdomain. Quigly does not want all that info about the English class on their portfolio and the portfolio content would seem out of place for the rest of the class.

They could set up blog.quiglyquanz.com but what if Quigly is planning a trip abroad next year and wants to blog about that? Perhaps english333.quiglyquanz.com would work better.

In this way you can use naming to really get a lot of bang for your buck out of your domain using it for multiple projects and purposes without having to purchase multiple domains.

Practical Stuff

There is a lot to be said for using your legal name. It is your name and if you are looking for an audience to find you it is a great way to go. Additionally, once someone buys it up you can no longer claim it – depending on how common your name is it may not even be available. My name has a unique spelling in that I do not spell my name like the season but rather with 2 m’s “Autumm” – the last time I checked autumm.com had already been bought and was being sold for upwards of $20,000.

If your legal name is taken there are many things that people do to get around this – for instance adding “the” to the beginning of the name like “theautumm.com” or using a title like “drautumm.com” (I don’t have a MD or a PhD so I can’t really pull that off but you see where I’m going with this).

Also keep in mind that domain names are flexible – You can point a domain name where you want. Because of that nuance in my name I actually own autummcaines.com and autumncaines.com just to account for the common misspelling of my name. It is confusing, I get it and I can’t expect my “audience” or “readers” to get it right away – the correct spelling of the season autumn is the incorrect spelling of my name. So, I pay for two domain names and point them to the same place so no matter if you spell my name like the season or how I like for it to be spelt you will still make it to my site.

But using your actual name is not always the way either

The problem with using your legal name is the same thing that makes it so great – it is your name and people can find you. If you are still unsure of the digital identity that you would like to build or if you have other reasons that you rather not want your legal name tied to your domain, consider other naming ideas like a using a pseudonym or incorporating some aspect of your major or other interests. Also, Reclaim Hosting offers free ID Protection with their service so be sure that you opt into that on sign up.

What’s Next?

  • There are a ton of articles on the web about choosing a domain name. Do some research. Find some stories. What is being recommended? Who is doing the recommending? Is there a difference between recommendations from a hosting company and recommendations from professional bloggers? Recommendations from business people, journalists, marketers?
  • Come up with 3-5 potential domain names that could work for you. Share them with some friends, family, professors, etc. see what they think. What names do they think have the best ‘ring’ to them.
  • Contact the person in charge of your domains pilot project here at St. Norbert to get your coupon code and register your chosen name when you are ready.
  • Once your name is registered and you have your hosting account set up the fun begins. Check out the “Hey There Admin” post (the second in the Getting Started with Domain of One’s Own at St. Norbert College series).
  • Have more questions or see how this post could be better? Comment below.

4 thoughts on “What’s in a Name: Part one of getting started with domains”

  • Great stuff!
    Thanks for spelling out the naming options and decision points so clearly.
    Looking forward to our first students carving out a place of their own. Go Knights dot Domain!

  • You offer some great advice here, Autumm — thanks for sharing. I didn’t know about (or think about) the subdomain aspect. Now I’m excited to begin to add my classes to my domain as subdomains. Life-long learning is the bomb, and you’ve added to mine. Boom!

  • This is so exciting. Can’t wait to see how ideas are shared and generated once this initiative really gets rolling. Thanks for getting it started and bring your DoOO expertise to SNC! I’m going to share this site with in class today.

  • Advice before you have a child and name them. See if their domain is available. We’ve purchased domains for each of our children shortly after they were born. Pay the fee every year for a family of 5 & have been doing so for at least 15 years. While they all haven’t used them, when they want it, it’s there & it belongs to them. Money well spent IMO. Nice 1st post Autumm!

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