Decisions for a Web Site – Part 3 – Your Domain

July 3, 2009 at 3:25 am | Posted in Computers, Internet, Online services, Software, Web Apps, Web Design | 6 Comments

The Domain

The final touch for your web site is a friendly name. 220.210.35.22/website52/public-html/ really isn’t very intuitive. A domain name acts like an alias for that. Type in the domain name in a web browser, the name is looked up in your ISP’s DNS servers (domain name server) where it finds the true IP address of the web site. It goes to that address and requests the web page to download to your browser. All in the blink of an eye.

To choose a domain, think of some phrases that will suit, hopefully like the name you use in real world. Something easy to remember and spell.

If your web site is in planning and you find a good name, you can reserve or “park” it for a reduced fee until you’re ready. If you don’t do this, you risk loosing it to someone else. I waited 3 years to get a name someone else had but wasn’t using. And I’ve had a couple of clients loose a name because they waffled. Careful with domains owned by squatters. They’re for sale – but at a price. They reserve domains and put up garbage sites that cross link with each other to get search rankings and ad revenues.

Another thing to consider is what is called “name space”. Similar domain names that point to others, even competitors. You don’t want clients landing on a porn site or competitor if they misspell your domain name slightly. Some will park related domains or slight variations as well.

Say you like the domain “happyredscarfs.com”. Next, you want to check and see if it’s available. You need a domain registrar to do that.

Domain registrars have tools for checking to see if a domain is available. You can use yours or a  service like http://www.whois.net/

Having a separate domain registrar means another bill and thing to remember but if you move your host, you just have to update the Registrar. Having the domain and host together means one less bill and maybe a lower rate but if you move, you have to move both. That’s a little bit fussier.

Note that different registrars will have different name selections available. The above for example does not have .ca Canadian domains. http://www.webnames.ca/ does, plus .tel .asia and .mobi  You have to have an address in Italy for a .it domain but .tv Tuvalo domains are available. Prices vary by domain type.

Once you buy your domain, your registrar will send you an email with key details you’ll need to renew, unlock and otherwise manage your domain. It’s a good idea to hold on to this email too. I usually take all the web addresses, logins, email accounts, etc and compile them into a text file near the web site files. (for a big site, a spreadheet) This way, it’s easy to find when needed.

Typically domains are paid for in yearly increments, whereas hosting is monthly.

It’s also worth noting there are domain wholesalers. Similar to hosting resellers, the little picture at the bottom of this page gives you an idea of the role.

Domain structure

This leads us into a brief review of the parts of a web address. There is three main parts.
For example: shop.happyredscarfs.com

a) On the far right is the tld or top level domain. There are 2 kinds. 2 letter country codes (like .ca, .uk, .us, .it, etc) and what used to be 3 letter catagory codes like .com and .net. Catagories have a meaning, in this case commercial and network. More recently some further category or generic TLDs have been implemented, with the possibility of privately managed ones. These include things like .info and .biz. Some like .coop, and .aero are reserved for those types of organizations.

There has been a long debate about having a tld like .sex or .xxx to move those sites into a separate arena so they are unlikely to be stumbled upon and are more easily blocked. The porn industry evidently supports it.

They’re now testing domains in non-english scripts. You can browse all tld’s here if you’re interested.
http://www.iana.org/domains/root/db/

b) the middle part, ‘happyredscarfs‘ is the domain name itself. With the tld, it points to your site.

c) the first part on the left has traditionally been the server name. Thus multiple servers are supported in a single domain. .ftp.happyredscarfs.com and mail.happyredscarfs.com, for example. A web server was typically named www. Nowadays, the www is largely optional. This frees up that place for virtual “sub-domains”. Thus ‘shop.happyredscarfs.com’ can take you directly to the shopping section, perhaps even to another companies shopping servers you use.

When a Domain goes live

Essentially, it takes a bit of time for the search engine spiders to recheck all web servers for changes. How often they check yours depends on how typically it changes, how busy they are, etc etc. There’s a way to submit your site to the search engines, but each is different.

Here’s Googles:
http://www.google.com/addurl/
Expect it to take a couple of days after that.

This is not a small thing as some people will type your domain in the search box rather than the address bar. They’re not clear on the difference. If it doesn’t come up, they don’t know how to get to your site.

I won’t go into search engine optimization. That’s a whole evolving specialty in itself.

I would recommend META tags for your site though. Google uses that info in displaying its search results, for example. Use Meta description, keywords, and robots to encourage indexing. (search the terms for format)

Meta tags are hidden code in the HEAD of a web page designed as the tag suggests for Meta information. Stuff like copyright, author, and language are also set there. Page title, HTML version, and standards compliance are also set in the HEAD with some scripts and styles.

Domain transfer

When you register a domain nowadays, they are often “locked”. This prevents someone unauthorized from ‘lifting’ your domain or taking it and trying to sell it to someone else. If you decide to move your domain to a new registrar or host, you arrange with the new company to transfer it, then the old host to unlock and authorize it. This is a key point where good service is important. If they are slow or reticent, it can mess up your migration schedule. A few offshore ISPs don’t play nice.

Just make sure you have your web site copied over to the new site before the actual transfer happens. Once it’s officially moved, the domain name servers all over the world get updated. This takes place over a number of hours or more. If anyone types in your domain on an ISP that’s updated, if you don’t have the site there, they’ll just get some kind of “under construction” thing.

With the site present on the new host, they’ll never know there’s a change. It’s seamless.

Virtual Domains

One other option is a virtual domain. You own the domain but rather than it being directly associated with the web server address, it is an alias to a web server. While this is not suitable for a commercial site, if you are using the free web space of your Internet provider as mentioned above, it can be a nice solution. Put your web site anywhere, then point the domain to where it is.

Thus, you can change ‘members.isp.com/sites/~yoursite’ into ‘happyredscarfs.com’

Hover.com (the former domaindirect) is $15 a year, more for email accounts. They use some odd terminology, but thats what it is. Considering domain registration can be twice that or more, it’s reasonable if you have free web space.
[Update: you can do the same with the EasyDNS registrar below and it includes a few free virtual email addresses and domain forwarding. And you get real domains for the price you can later use for a web site.]

The domain can also be set so the browser only sees the domain.

At one time, I used them for my personal sites plus dozens for client services until virtual sub-domains became available.

Hope you’ve found this useful
David

UPDATE: here’s a great page to review: 10 Things you must know before you register a domain name with anyone. (ie: the scamming registrars)

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