How to Name Your App
…or at least things to think about when naming your app.
Naming a product is not nearly as hard as you think. Unless you plan on putting that product online. The web is saturated with domain squaters brokers who buy out domain names with no real intention of using them. When your bright idea for the next big thing comes around, you’ll discover that online real estate is very limited. (Not surprisingly, I know of a few entrepreneurs who create products off of domain names they have available…which seems rather backwards if you ask me.)
What’s In A Name?
I’m not convinced you can have an article about naming without quoting Shakespeare. I’m sorry.
Seriously, What is in a Name?
Think about the following when coming up with a name:
Memorable and Catchy
The word Apple is easy to remember, it’s easy to spell and it’s easy to pronounce. The same applies to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn. FourSquare is ok, but when you include a number you’ll have people ask “Like the number 4 or like F-O-U-R?”. Evidently they go around that issue, but it’s still a risk. One thing to notice about most major brands is the minimal amount of syllables and/or letters.
Not Confusable with Similar Brands/Products
When Apple Computer they ignored the fact that there was a large international brand called Apple Records. It’s not the best route to take, but on the other hand when you’re in a different industry, you have a better chance of getting away with such a thing. When people said “Look at Apple”, they understood if it was in reference to the fruit, computer company or record label based on the context of the conversation. That’s not to say you should start a table company and try to call it Ferrari using the logic above. When it came to Apple Records vs Apple Computers, very few people were having conversations around the record label in the first place (people not about bands, not labels) and practically nobody was having conversations about personal computers at all. If a brand is large and consistently spoken about, you probably want to avoid using it’s name for your product.
Not Confusable with Other Product Types
Words can have many meanings and context plays a big role in understand the message you’re trying to convey. Take the word “Stream”, for instance. If I were creating an app that allowed me to quickly jot down all of my thoughts, I may be tempted to call it “Stream” to convey the message that it helps you document your “stream of conscious”. But if I’m in the arena of mobile/web apps, I would need to factor in that the word “Stream” very often refers to video players. When someone reads a headline about an app called “Stream”, what will they first think about?
Have an Available Domain Name Relevant to the Name
When you finally do figure out your perfect name, check to see if a domain name is available. Personally I would not shy away from domain hacks, such as getting something like Obvious.ly as opposed to Obviously.com. I also would not shy away from non-.com extensions that are gaining popularity, such as .me or .io. You can also throw in an extra word such as getobvious, obviousapp, obvioushq or the like.
Out of The Box
Do to the lack of available domain names, I’ve seen some companies pull interesting moves:
- Find a relevant word in a foreign language: Podio is a workflow platform and the word “Podio” is Latin for “platform”.
- Make up a word, give it meaning: Zula is a meaningless word, but it’s super fun to say and easy to remember. The team at Zula seemingly went as far as to create a definition on UrbanDictionary.com to create meaning around the word to help boost their brand. It works.
- Drop or Add Letters: I’m not such a fan of this move, but it worked well for Flickr.
- Combine Words: HostGator is an easy name to remember, as is HostMonster. I’m a fan of DeskElf (I have a bias) as well as FlowStache, although the latter requires a higher level of education and can be confused with FlowStash.
Helpful Tools for Naming Your App
Here are some tools I’ve found helpful:
- DomainTyper.com lets you see which domain names are available in realtime.
- NiceTranslator.com lets you view words in foreign languages. It’s better than Google Translate in that you can see multiple translations at once.
- DomBuddy.com lets you generate unique names and check the availability of their .com on the spot. You can save a list of your favorite names.
- Nameble, available for Android, let’s you generate words by tagging on prefixes or suffixes and shows you a list of available .coms on the spot. You can save a list of your favorites as well.
- You can buy a pre-made brand at sites like BrandCrowd, BrandBucket, BrandRoot and another one that I can’t remember because, ironically, their brand wasn’t catchy enough to be memorable.