Registering Your Domain Name
There are many Web sites at which you can register your domain name. These sites differ in terms of ease of use, price, and other services such as free email with your domain name. However, in terms of registering a domain name, these sites all work in a similar manner, so if you know how to register with one site, you shouldn't have too many problems using another. We'll use Network Solutions' domain name registration service at http://www.networksolutions.com, for no other reason than that it's the one I've always used. The basic steps to registering a domain name are simple:
Determine whether your domain name is available.
Choose a service option and length of registration.
Enter your personal information.
Pay for the domain name online with a credit card.
The following sections look at each step in detail.
Step 1. Determine Whether Your Domain Name Is Available
Bring up your Web browser and enter http://www.networksolutions.com in the address window. A screen similar to Figure 1 should pop up.
Network Solutions' home page.
Type in your desired domain name. For the sake of example, suppose you're thinking of starting a Web site for women who serve in the armed forces. You apply the heuristic and guidelines from the previous section and come up with a first-choice name (dangergirl.com) and a second-choice name (girlswithknives.com). For this example, you would type dangergirl into the text box, leaving the drop-down list displaying .com (see Figure 2). Click the Go! button to find out whether that domain name is available (see Figure 3).
Entering a possible domain name (dangergirl).
Too bad—dangergirl.com is not available.
Unfortunately, the Web page indicates that dangergirl.com is not available (as shown near the top of Figure 3). Network Solutions tries to be helpful by listing some available, possible alternatives such as mydangergirl.com or e-dangergirl.com. If you like one or more of these alternatives, you can select them by checking the corresponding box to the left of the name. However, for the most part you'll find that these names are lame; they don't do a good job of branding your site. So the best thing to do is to go with your second choice, girlswithknives.com. Near the bottom of the page is a text box you can use to continue searching for available domain names. Type girlswithknives in this text box (see Figure 4, near the bottom). Hit the Search button to find out whether this alternative domain name is available (see Figure 5).
Entering another domain name to try.
Great—this one is available!
This time, the page indicates that girlswithknives.com is available (near the top of Figure 5), assuming that no one has adopted this name for their domain since I shot these images. Additionally, the page lists several other extensions that you can register, such as girlswithknives.net and girlswithknives.tv, along with the suggestions from the previous page. Unless you can come up with a convincing argument for how a competitor choosing these domain names will negatively affect your brand equity, don't even bother selecting them. You're ready to go on to step 2.
Step 2. Choose a Service Option and Length of Registration
Click the Continue button. The following page asks you to select the type of service you want (see Figure 6).
Choosing a service.
The only service option that matters is the first one (registering the domain name). In a later article, I'm going to have you sign up with an Internet service provider that provides many of these other services for you, plus a whole lot more. So click on the first Select button, the one associated with the Domain Name Only option. The following screen asks for the length of time for which you want to register your domain name (see Figure 7).
Selecting a registration period.
You can register your domain name for up to 10 years. The longer the time, the greater your discount per year. However, unless you're really sure about your Web business, only register for one year. This way, if you decide to change the topic or theme of your personal Web business—which in my experience happens a lot—you're only out $35 (US). You're now ready to move onto step 3.
Step 3. Enter Your Personal Information
Click the Continue button to go to the next page (see Figure 8), where you'll start to enter your personal information. After registering your first domain name, you'll be given an account number and a password. When you then register subsequent domain names, you simply have to enter your account information to go directly to the payment screen.
Specifying the customer type—business or individual.
The first item you need to indicate is whether you're an individual or a business. If you select Individual, the next screen is much simpler. You only have to fill in your name and address. If you select Business, you have to fill in a slightly more complicated form. I recommend selecting Business. For liability reasons, you should eventually form a corporation to run your Web business. Don't worry, this isn't as difficult as it sounds, and I plan to cover this topic in a later article. At any rate, if and when you decide to incorporate you'll have to enter this company information. For now, proceed as if you have a business. Select Business and click the Sign Up button to display the following screen (see Figures 9 and 10).
Top of the business information form.
Bottom of the business info form.
There are three sections to this page: Account Holder Information, Company Contact Information, and Password Information. Let's quickly go over the information you need to add.
Account Holder Information
For Company Name, enter your own name for now; for example, Pat Smith. If and when you incorporate, there's a section on the Web site that allows you to change this information to your actual company name. For Company Type, select Individual Proprietorship in the drop-down list. Enter your street, city, state/province, ZIP/postal code, and phone in the corresponding text boxes, and select your country from the Country drop-down list. Adding your fax number is optional.
Company Contact Information
This section is even easier to fill out and uses a lot of the same address information from the previous section. Enter your first name, last name, and email address in the corresponding text boxes. Then click the Copy button to copy the address information from the previous section (Account Holder Information).
You'll be asked to enter a password that's 4–8 characters long. Given the horror stories about unscrupulous individuals stealing domain names and courts not doing anything about it, don't take your password lightly. There are two procedures for selecting a good password:
Choose something you usually say or do repeatedly and use the word or words that describe that action as your password. For example, if you say "dagnabit" a lot, use that word as your password. The drawback to this approach is that people who know you well may be able to guess your password. The second procedure remedies this problem.
Choose a saying that you use a lot, such as "A stitch in time saves nine." Then take the first letter of each word to make your password. In terms of our example, this would be asitsn (a stitch in time saves nine) or even asits9.
Enter your password into the Password box and make sure you retype it correctly in the Re-enter Password box. You're ready to move onto the final step: payment.
Step 4. Make Your Payment
Click the Continue button to go to the penultimate screen, where you enter your credit card information (see Figure 11).
The steps are fairly straightforward. Enter your name exactly as it appears on your credit card into the Cardholder's Name text box. Select your card type from the drop-down list, enter your card number in the corresponding text box, and enter the expiration date on your card by selecting the month and year from the corresponding drop-down lists. Finally, enter your ZIP/postal code. That does it for credit card information.
To finish up, you need to select the check box that says "I have read the service agreement and agree to its terms." You can also indicate whether you want to receive information about securing your Web site. I hate junk mail and you never know what junk mail lists you'll get on by selecting Yes, so I recommend selecting No. Click Submit and the registration process is finished! After a while (it can take several minutes), the "thank you" page will appear (see Figure 12).
This page summarizes your information. It's a good idea to print this page for your records. If you don't print it, at least write down your account number and password and store that info in a safe place. You'll need this information to make changes, as you'll see in the next article when we sign up with an Internet service provider. That's it for this week's article.