What is a Domain and How Does it Work? (Ultimate Guide in Plain English)

what is a domain

Struggling to learn what a domain means for your website? Everyone starts there, don’t worry. It can get confusing if you aren’t a technical person. What is a domain, really? And not to mention, how much will it cost?

The good news is, we’re going to break it down for you in plain English.

We put this ultimate guide together because we get pretty excited about domains at Nameboy. We want you to become a master at knowing your domain and the importance of it all.

Here are the questions we will answer:

Ready to learn all about your domain in simple English?

What Is a Domain Name?

A domain name is the web address where users can access your website. For example, our domain name is nameboy.com.

We like to think of a domain as the beginning of it all. Your domain is the start of something beautiful – your website!

How Do Domains Work?

Want to get nerdy? This is how domains actually work.

Every device that’s connected to the internet has a unique IP address. That includes your computer or smartphone, and also the servers where a website is stored.

So to access a website, you’d need to know the IP address of the device where the website is stored.

But IP addresses would be hard to remember. They’re a string of numbers with periods, like 192.0.2.1.

Imagine having to remember a number like that instead of nameboy.com!

That’s why domain names were invented.

There’s a system called DNS (Domain Name System) which keeps the record of all domain names and their associated IP addresses. When you type in a URL in your browser, DNS finds and connects the domain name to an IP address. In other words, DNS is a service that maps domain names to corresponding IP addresses.

It’s like a domain adventure map!

how does a domain name work

So, who’s in charge of this system?

That’s where ICANN comes in. ICANN is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and they give permission to companies called “domain name registrars” to sell domains.

What Are Good Domain Qualities?

Your domain matters because it’s how people will remember you. Try to recall popular well-known brands, like Nike. Nike wouldn’t have coolshoe.com or basketballgear.com. They have the one and only Nike.com!

So, what qualities make up a good domain?

A good domain name should have the following traits:

  • Clear: Keep it clear and concise
  • Memorable: Make it easy to memorize

Clear

To keep your domain name clear and concise, we recommend keeping it short.

It should also be easy to spell. Imagine telling someone your domain name in person. Would they know how to spell it easily?

It’s also a good idea to avoid hyphens. Imagine if our domain was name-boy.com instead of nameboy.com. It would be harder to say out loud, and people would probably end up going to nameboy.com by accident anyway.

Memorable

One thing to consider when buying a domain is the ending. This is called the “TLD”, or top level domain.

Should you go with .com, .org, .net, or something totally different like .info or .xyz?

Each have pros and cons. We recommend choosing a .com domain. It’s the most well-known domain name extension in the world as far as recognizability.

A “.com” TLD is still much more memorable than other extensions.

If the .com domain you want isn’t available, it might be tempting to get .net or another extension. But you could be missing out if people go to the .com version by mistake since it’s what they first think of.

There are a few other types of TLDs:

Country code top-level domain or ccTLD are used for websites that want to target a specific country. They are domain names that end with a country code extension like .de for Germany.

Sponsored top-level domain or sTLD are restricted to specific users. For example, .edu is only allowed to be used by education-related organizations.

For more tips, check out WPBeginner’s article on how to choose the best domain name, plus tips and tools needed.

Where Do I Find a Domain?

Finding the right domain may sound easy, but for some, it can be challenging! That’s why you may need a little help from your friends.

You can use domain generators to help you choose a domain name that works for you. Our domain name generator at Nameboy analyzes the keywords you entered in the domain name search tool and suggests the best domain name ideas for your business based on artificial intelligence.

Our artificial intelligence algorithm combines common words, random words, prefixes, suffixes, and search keywords to make domain name suggestions that are suitable for your needs.

Nameboy checks domain name availability status, so you can save time and find a good domain name idea that’s available to register. Don’t worry, that’s next on our list.

PRO TIP: Make sure you use a quality domain name generator as some don’t check domain name availability. They may just be choosing random words that could be a waste of your time.

How Do I Register My Domain Name?

Each domain name is 100% unique! No two websites can have the same domain name. It’s time to get your domain out into the world.

You can check out this video from WPBeginner for a step by step tutorial, or keep reading below for written instructions.

Here are the steps to registering a domain:

Step 1: Check Domain Availability

This one is easy. Simply enter the web address you want to register into the search box of a domain name generator. If it has already been registered, it will list alternatives. If the domain is available, move on to the next step.

Step 2: Choose a Domain Registrar

You’ll be prompted to register your domain after you’ve chosen the right name. You will find domain name prices and information on domain transfers and add-on services.

Step 3: Purchase Your Domain

Purchasing a domain usually takes a few minutes. The registration fee can range from $.0.99 to $99.99 depending on what you are adding on as a service. It’s as simple as adding it to your cart when you’re ready.

For step-by-step instructions with screenshots, see our guide on how to register a domain name.

After I Register My Domain, What’s Next?

Now that your domain is registered, what’s next?

You now own your new domain name, and it’s time to get it ready for the world. Here are some options to consider once you are set up:

1. Purchase (or Redirect) Web Hosting

If your domain name is your address on the web, then hosting is your home.

Web hosting is a service provided by a web host that stores your website on their servers. They store everything needed to create your website, including pages, images, scripts, and databases.

We recommend checking out companies like Bluehost, HostGator, or GoDaddy for a good domain host. In fact, you can even get a free domain with Bluehost. That’s a great deal!

2. Email Account or Redirection Setup

After you’ve registered your domain and your hosting account, you’re almost there! Email account set up and redirection (if needed) is next on your list to get your website running. You can follow this guide on how to get a free business email address to set up a professional email address like yourname@example.com.

3. Build Out Your Website

This is the fun part! Your website is yours to create. With WordPress, you have many options of building such as using the classic editor, with page builders, or by outsourcing to a developer. Whichever route you choose, make sure it’s easy to navigate and represents YOU.

Check out WPBeginner’s guide on how to create a website for step-by-step instructions.

4. Share it on Social

Time to get social! As with anything in this world, we recommend you share your new domain, beautiful website, and killer content on social media. Be proud of yourself – you did it! You have just successfully set up your website from scratch. If that’s not worth sharing, we don’t know what is.

Check out this guide on using social media for business to get started.

What’s the Best Domain For You?

A domain is essentially the home of your website, so it’s important to find a good one. We hope this domain ultimate guide has helped you learn the basics.

To recap, your domain name should be a short, easy-to-remember name for your website. Domain names are very important! It helps search engines find your website very easily. Remember, you can get a free domain with Bluehost (and that’s worth something!).

If you’re still on the fence about it how it all works, check out related blogs like how to register a domain name for your website or best cheap domain name registrars.

We recommend doing your domain homework and making the right choice for the future of your website. The team is here to help every step of the way! We have tips on the best domain names, recommendations for additional services, and a domain name generator ready for you at Nameboy at any time.

Good luck becoming a domain master. You got this.

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