If you’re thinking of creating a website for any purpose, one of the key items you need to consider is a domain. In this post we will give you a very simple, non-technical overview of what a domain is, and where to buy one from.
What is a Domain?
Put simply, a domain is the website address that you put into the address bar in a browser when you want to visit a website. For example:
When choosing a domain name for your business, there are two main parts of the domain you need to consider. These are:
- Top level domain
- Second level domain
If we use google.com as an example, we can break it down as:
- Top level domain = “.com”
- Second level domain = “google”
When choosing a domain for your website, you need to decide on both the top level domain and the second level domain. Typically, the second level domain will be the name of your business (or something related to the content or purpose of the website). The top level domain can be influenced by a number of factors such as location or business type. For example, a UK based charity might have .org.uk, whereas a non-UK charity might opt for .org. An international business might opt for .com, whereas a business selling products to UK customers might opt for .co.uk.
A good idea to protect your business name and brand is to buy multiple domains with different top level domains for the same second level domain. For example, at Neko Web Design we use nekowebdesign.com for the main website, but we also own the domains nekowebdesign.co.uk and nekowebdesign.uk. This prevents other people from using these domains that are very similar to ours!
Anyone can visit your website as long as they have the domain. Without one, it's impossible for anyone to view your website online!
Also, if you want to have custom email addresses (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) then you will need to own the domain you want for your email address. You don’t even need to have a website for this - as long as you own the domain, you’re good to go!
Domain vs Hosting
Domains and hosting are not the same thing, but they are both key items for a website to be accessed online.
Your hosting solution will vary depending on how you go about building your website. For example, website builders and platforms such as WebFlow, Shopify and Squarespace will host your website for you, and you pay them a monthly/annual subscription fee to do this. Other approaches such as custom coded websites, WordPress.org or Magento are “self-hosted” which means you will need to purchase hosting from a provider, and manage that infrastructure yourself.
A domain on the other hand is an address that allows you to view a website in your browser. It’s a human readable address that tells the browser the location of the files that make up a website. When you enter an address into the address bar, your browser will fetch the website files at the given location (host/servers) and download to your browser to allow you to view the website. You will need to configure your domain to point to the location of your website files, so that your website can be viewed by anyone online.
Where to Buy a Domain From?
Ideally, you want to buy your domain name(s) from a domain registrar. This is a company that specialises in the sale of domain names. Typically, you would pay an annual fee to register the domain and maintain ownership of it. Domain registrars often have additional add-ons, such as WhoIs protection to protect your identity as the owner of a domain.
It is possible to buy a domain from your host/website builder, but this is not considered best practice. One reason for this is that if you ever want to switch between web hosting or website builder, it will be a more difficult process. Also, if you have custom emails with your domain, you could potentially lose some of that data during a migration.
There are many domain registrars on the market today. For simplicity, and to save you time, we have listed our top 3 domain registrars for you to choose from:
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At Neko Web Design, we work closely with our clients throughout the entire website creation process. Click here to take a look at some of our recent projects.
Interested in starting a new web project? Or maybe you'd like a consultation? Contact us today, and we'll help to get you started.