Domain names are one of the most important elements of a website’s user experience. The length and structure of a domain name can significantly impact how easy it is for users to remember, type, and share the domain. With domain names getting increasingly longer these days, it raises questions around ideal domain name length and format for optimal user experience.
In this article, we will dive deeper into how domain name length affects user experience and engagement. We will look at the pros and cons of short vs long domain names, optimal character length, use of hyphens and numbers, and more. We will also discuss best practices for balancing branding requirements and user experience when selecting a new domain name.
The Growing Trend of Long Domain Names
In the early days of the internet, domain names were required to be very short – limited to just letters and numbers, with a maximum length of 11 characters for .com domains. Domain names like google.com, yahoo.com and amazon.com emerged during this period. However, as more and more domain names got registered, people had to get creative and register increasingly lengthy and complex domain names incorporating hyphens, words and phrases.
Today, the average length of a new domain registration is around 16 characters. Domains over 20 characters are also quite common these days. For example, popular brands like lifeinsurancequotes.com (24 characters), trashnothing.com (15 characters), and think-outsidethebox.com (27 characters) showcase long domain name trends. Even shorter, single word domains are getting harder to find and register.
This shift towards longer domain names can be attributed to various factors:
- Shorter, generic domains getting scarce and expensive
- Need for domain names to contain targeted keywords and brand names
- Increased allowance of special characters like hyphens opening up more combinations
- SSL certificates removing previous technical length restrictions
While longer domain names provide more options during registration, they can also negatively impact user experience – which is what we’ll explore next.
Short Domain Names: Pros and Cons
Shorter domain names have traditionally been considered more valuable and user-friendly. Let’s look at some of their key advantages and disadvantages:
- Easier to remember and recall from memory
- Require less typing effort
- Take up less space in print
- Easier to share verbally
- Consume less mobile data
- Less prone to typos
A domain like google.com is short, sweet and extremely simple to remember. Users need minimal effort to type it in or share it with others. This leads to higher engagement and conversions.
- Limited availability
- May not contain target keywords
- Less scope for branding
While short domains are more user-friendly, they are increasingly uncommon and difficult to register. Using made-up words or abbreviations may hurt branding and SEO. manugo.com conveys limited meaning, unlike managedITsolutions.com.
So while short domains may seem ideal, they are becoming less practical for most businesses today. This leads us to the pros and cons of longer domains.
Long Domain Names: Pros and Cons
Longer domains are increasingly common these days. Let’s look at some of their benefits and shortcomings:
- Wider availability of registration options
- Can contain target keywords and brand names
- More brandable and descriptive
A domain like bestlif insurancequotes.com conveys meaning, includes keywords, and gives the brand a descriptive name. Such tactical domains are easier to register and align with business goals.
- Harder to remember and type correctly
- More prone to typos and errors
- Take up more space in ads and print
- Not as shareable
- May get cut off in emails and chats
The biggest downside of lengthy domains is increased difficulty for users. Having to type out insurancequotes-for-everyone.com creates more friction compared to geico.com. Long domains also have higher chances of typos.
Clearly, both short and long domains have trade-offs. So what is the ideal length for the best user experience?
Ideal Domain Name Length
Based on various studies and industry data, here are some guidelines on optimal domain name length:
- 15 characters or shorter – This is widely considered the ideal length for usability. Examples include amazon.com, medium.com.
- Up to 20 characters – Domains between 15-20 characters are moderately long but still user-friendly. For example, optimizely.com, policygenius.com.
- Avoid going over 20 characters – Domains over 20 characters see sharp declines in usability. However, up to 27 characters is acceptable for branding purposes in some cases. Avoid going over 30 characters.
- Be cautious with URLs over 50 characters – Extremely long URLs can face issues like getting truncated in emails and social media posts. They are also aesthetically unpleasing.
- Use natural word breaks and hyphens – Breaking up long names into smaller words and phrases using hyphens can improve readability and memorability. For example, popular-kids-toys.com is better than popularkidstoys.com.
Keeping domain names as short as possible while meeting business needs is the best practice. Hyphens and word breaks can help balance conciseness with brand messaging in longer domains.
Using Numbers and Hyphens in Domain Names
In addition to overall length, how numbers and hyphens are incorporated also impacts domains from a UX perspective:
- Don’t use numbers just for the sake of shorter length. example56.com conveys no meaning.
- Numbers at the end are better than numbers interspersed. example456.com is preferable to exa3mpl6e.com.
- Avoid long strings of numbers. It diminishes memorability.
- Use hyphens to break up lengthy brand names and phrases. For example, buy-electronics-online.com.
- Don’t over-hyphenate or use multiple consecutive hyphens. example–site.com.
- Avoid beginning or ending domain names with hyphens. They are easy to leave out when typing.
This domain uses both numbers and hyphens reasonably. The year 2022 provides meaningful context and is appended at the end. Hyphens break up the brand name but aren’t overused. This creates a long but usable domain.
Being judicious with numbers and hyphens allows you to create longer domains that reinforce branding while maintaining ux.
How Domain Length Impacts User Experience
Now that we’ve looked at guidelines for ideal domain name length and format, let’s study how length specifically impacts UX:
- Short domains are extremely easy to remember. google.com involves minimal cognitive load.
- Long domains are harder to remember correctly. Users are more prone to typos and errors.
- Excessively lengthy domains get confusing. policygeniusinsurancequotes.com is tough to memorize.
- Shorter domains require less typing effort. 2-3 word domains are easiest.
- Longer domains lead to greater typing friction. They may cause users to avoid sharing or linking to them.
- Very long domains also increase chances of abandoned searches due to typing fatigue.
- Short domains scan easier in ads, emails, and tight interfaces.
- Long domains take up more visual space and appear cluttered.
- Well-formatted long domains with word breaks and hyphenation have better readability.
- Short domains consume less mobile data. This improves load times and conversions on mobile.
- Excessively lengthy domains eat into limited mobile data and impact site speed.
- Long names are prone to typos due to complexity.
- Hyphens and numbers in long domains increase chances of data entry errors.
- Even minor typos prevent users from accessing the site, hurting engagement.
- Overly lengthy or complex domains may appear scammy to some users.
- Shorter, familiar domains are perceived as safer and more legitimate.
Balancing brevity with branding is key for optimal user experience across these factors.
Best Practices for Domain Name Selection
Here are some tips to pick the best domain name with user experience in mind:
- Make it as short as reasonably possible. Ideal length is under 15 characters.
- Include your primary brand name or keyword phrase if feasible.
- Break up lengthy names with hyphens and natural word spacing.
- Avoid overusing strange abbreviations just for shorter length.
- Append numbers if required, don’t intersperse them.
- Test how the name looks and functions across different interfaces.
- Get feedback from target users on typing effort and first impressions.
- Ensure readability in common applications like emails, ads and mobile sites.
- Consider scalability needs as your brand grows over time.
- Weigh UX impact vs branding goals. Some compromise may be required.
- Leverage UX tools like heatmaps to test and optimize based on user behavior.
- Acquire additional shorter domains to redirect for microsites or campaigns.
Prioritizing the user while incorporating brand elements into domain names leads to maximum engagement and conversions. Test with real users frequently and optimize accordingly.
Redirecting Long Domains for Better UX
If your main domain ends up being longer than ideal, you can purchase a shorter domain and redirect it to improve user experience.
- Use a shorter domain like brandly.com across marketing campaigns and activations. Redirect it to yourbrandnamehq.com.
- Create a custom shortcut link like yourbrand.co to share instead of a complex subdomain.
- Set up a microsite with a short domain that redirects to your main site.
- Register common typos of your domain and redirect them to correct URLs.
Such shortcuts minimize typing effort while allowing your core domain name to remain unchanged. They provide the best of both worlds if implemented cleanly.
However, having too many redirects can slow down site speed and create a disjointed experience. Streamline redirects and keep them as simple as possible.
Does Domain Length Really Matter?
Some studies have claimed domain name length has negligible impact in the age of search engines and autocomplete. Users don’t really bother typing out domains manually much anymore.
However, various other studies and real-world data contradict this:
- Google found domains over 22 characters see lower search quality and click-through-rates.
- Mozilla research showed higher domain length correlates with more typing errors.
- Domains over 16 characters have 10% lower email open rates as they get truncated.
- URL shortener Bitly saw clicks drop 53% for extremely long links versus short links.
- Startups with mobile-first business models still advise keeping domains under 12 characters.
The consensus is that domain name length does matter, especially on mobile. Shorter domains provide better experience across multiple touchpoints. But moderately long names with good formatting are alsofine for most use cases.
Here are the key points on ideal domain name length and its impact on UX:
- Keep domains as short as realistically possible. 15 characters or fewer is best.
- Domains over 20 characters see sharp declines in usability and engagement.
- Use word breaks and hyphens for longer, descriptive names. But avoid going over 30 characters.
- Minimize numbers and consecutive hyphens for improved memorability.
- Consider purchasing additional shorter domains to redirect for better UX.
- Test with real users and optimize based on behavior data like typing errors.
- While shorter is better, moderate length domains can work if formatted cleanly.
- Ensure your domain name conveys brand messaging without excessively compromising usability.
Domain name selection requires balancing branding goals and user experience. Following length and structure best practices, seeking real user feedback, and optimizing over time leads to maximum engagement.
In closing, domain name length has a measurable impact on user experience and conversion rates. As domains get longer, striking the right balance becomes critical. Brands should keep their domains as short as possible while meeting business needs. Moderately long names using thoughtful formatting can still work well in many cases. Testing domain options with target users and making data-driven decisions is key to maximizing engagement.