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June 11, 2007

Does Your Product Name Pass the Typing Test?

keyboardBusiness 2.0 recently ran an article about . Before buying a domain name at auction, "dotcom mogul" Kevin Ham checks it against an imaginary keyboard by "air-typing." He's looking for names that people will type into their browser's address bar directly.

These days, most major products and all major brands have their own domains.

Most people who want to know about your company will look first on the Web. That means it's important for names you choose to pass the typing test. The easiest things to type, of course, are plain letters without punctuation, special characters, or even numbers — all of which are popular in product names these days.

If you're constrained by a maximum length (like a license plate or an SMS message), it makes sense to substitute numbers for letters, and if you're typing on a cell phone's numeric keypad, it's not necessarily harder to write "l8r" than "later."

But it is harder for a touch-typist on a Qwerty keyboard. You have to hold down the shift key and reach too far above the home row. Domain names (and e-mail addresses) with hyphens and underscores in them can slow down typing. And, of course, even if you use a special character like @, &, or * in your product name, you can't use it in your domain name. You might have to buy two or three domain names in order to cover all the possible spellings people looking for you might type in.

In addition to that, you have to consider the potential for confusion and mistakes if you have too many of the same character in a row.

If your company is called, for instance, "Pacific Crest," that looks fine written as two separate words, but typed in as a domain name (pacificcrest.com) the two consecutive "C"s are confusing. It looks wrong, even when it's right. "Pacific-crest.com" would be easier to read (and a search engine would parse it as two words), but people tend to drop, forget about, and stumble over hyphens in domain names, so it's not necessarily an improvement.

If your fingers feel like you're playing a game of "Twister" when you type a potential product name, it's probably a good idea to avoid it — unless you're in a position to buy up domains for all of the typos people are likely to make when entering it into their browsers.

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Posted by William Lozito at June 11, 2007 10:40 AM
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