Adam Haney

I'm an entrepreneur and hacker living in #cha. Working on a few different projects. You can find me on github, twitter and angel list.

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Naming things for human consumption

July 10, 2013

Companies, products and projects need names. This seems like a simple challenge, but when you factor in the myriad of concerns with considering a name settling on one can be rather challenging. I've had the pleasure of working on several projects that I've been involved in the naming of, over time I've started to get an intuition for naming things (I've also created some rather poorly named products and had time to retrospect on what their failings were). I've included a list of some of the things that I try to consider when developing a name. This list is by no means complete, but it may be able to help you to cover your bases the next time you have a brilliant idea, lacking only a name.

1. Is the domain name available?

Is the name or some variant of the name available as a .com? I do think that in the course of common conversation a .com is easiest for non technical consumers to remember. Most people over 40 haven't heard of a website ending in .io. If you aren't trying to drive customers to your site to learn more about what you're working on this may not matter, but for consumer products or applications that can be pretty important.

2. Can you spell that for me?

Marketing and communication is being done more and more online, but it's still nice to be able to talk about your project with people verbally. For a season the trend for companies was to drop vowels or spell things strangely. In my opinion this makes it harder to find you later. Try to name things that people will be able to easily remember, and when they remember, they'll need to know how to spell your name.

3. What's the verb for a common action?

People "google" things and "tweet" their thoughts. If you're working on a service what's the verb for your atomic unit? For some projects this may not matter at all, but I've been remiss to forget about this point in the past.

4. What is the imagery or cultural association of these words?

When you speak your project name out loud what do people think of? More importantly how do they feel? Does this name convey what your product does quickly? What are the international meanings of this word?

5. Can you get the Facebook page?

For many products communication through social media is an easy and cheap way to keep in touch with your customers for promotions. Can you get this name on facebook, twitter, instagram, vine, et al? There are hundreds of social networks and you'll need to pick which ones are important to you, just remember to check while you're coming up with ideas.

Some tools to help in your journey

There are a few tools that I've found to help when creating names wordvis is a service that visualizes Princeton's Wordnet service. I've found this to be helpful when coming up with related words and expressions. For domain searches I use domai.nr it searches for many uncommon TLDs too so finding a near match for your name is easier (sometimes I register a domain like [get | try | be]<name>.com and then register a domain that's closer to my actual name with an odd TLD, like strangena.me). To check for trademark / social media availability I've recently started trying knowem.

What are your tricks?

This is by no means a complete list. These are just the tools and practices that I've found useful over the last few years. What do you use? What tricks of the trade have helped you to build better brands?

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