Choosing and registering a domain name is relatively straightforward, although there are some restrictions. In particular, the name you choose must be:
- unique – for example, you can’t register ‘yell.com’ as it already belongs to someone else
- truthful – names which deliberately mislead potential customers are illegal in most countries
There are also restrictions on which top-level domains (TLDs) you can register for – the part of the name on the right (eg .com or .co.uk). For example, you often can’t use a sector-specific TLD if your business isn’t a member of that sector.
Registering your name
Once you’ve chosen your name, it can be registered. There is a wide choice of companies who can register domain names for you, but in the UK it’s a good idea to choose a member of Nominet.
Choosing the registrar is an important decision, and it’s important to do so carefully:
- Shop around, check what the costs are and what’s included, and make sure there are no hidden costs.
- Look carefully at the registrar’s terms of business, and particularly whether you can move to another registrar or server and what the charges are for this.
- If you’ve never registered a website name before, get recommendations from people you know who do have website registrations.
- Make sure the registrar can deliver the after-sales service and support you need. Check whether you’re dealing directly with a registrar or with an agent, and check that they have a UK address.
When you’ve chosen a registrar, you should be able to check the availability of your chosen domain name on their website. At this point they should list:
- the different TLDs that are available, and which are already taken
- pricing options for the available domains, including the registration period available (from one year up to ten, depending on the TLD)
- alternative suggestions, such as different spellings or hyphenations
Domain name registration and privacy
When you register a domain name you’ll need to provide a name, address and other contact details. This will then be entered into a publicly-available database, and can be found by people searching for the owner of a particular domain name.
If you’re not happy with this, your registrar might be able to arrange for the name to be hidden (by putting up a ‘dummy’ address, the equivalent of a PO Box) – although they might charge a fee for this
All domain names need to be periodically re-registered. Most names can be registered for up to ten years, but a co.uk address currently needs to be re-registered every two years.