As mobile devices like smartphones and tablets continue to grow in popularity, having a responsive domain name is becoming increasingly important for businesses and organizations. With more and more people accessing the web through mobile devices, domain names need to be short, memorable, and easy to type on small touchscreen keyboards.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the best practices for choosing and configuring domain names in the age of mobile. We’ll look at how length, hyphens, prefixes, and other factors impact responsiveness and usability on mobile devices. We’ll also discuss how web developers can implement redirects and configure subdomains to optimize domain names for mobile users.
Shorter is Better
One of the most important considerations for a mobile-friendly domain name is length. The shorter the domain, the easier it is for users to accurately enter and remember it on a mobile device.
Ideally, domains should be kept to 15 characters or less. Once domains exceed 20 characters, they become cumbersome to type on mobile keyboards. Very long domain names also take up valuable screen real estate when displayed in browsers and apps.
For example, “smartphones.com” is an extremely short and memorable domain name. Users are unlikely to make typing errors due to the length. On the other hand, “thesmartphonecomparisonreviewsite.com” is overly long and difficult to accurately type on a mobile keyboard without errors.
When brainstorming domain names, aim for brevity. Short, one word domain names are best where possible. If you need to use multi-word names, look for opportunities to abbreviate words or use acronyms to shorten the length.
Hyphens Improve Readability
One way to shorten long multi-word domain names is to replace spaces with hyphens. For example, “mobile domain names” could become “mobile-domain-names.com”.
Hyphens break up lengthy domains into readable chunks. This improves scannability and makes domains easier to remember. It also reduces errors when users are typing the domains character-by-character into mobile browsers and apps.
However, don’t go overboard with hyphens. Too many hyphenated segments can diminish memorability and reinforce length issues. Stick to one or two hyphens for separating logical chunks of multi-word names. Avoid excessive fragmentation with multiple hyphens.
When adding hyphens, ensure both segments make sense. For example, “green-domains.com” is unclear. “green-domains-tips.com” is a better use of hyphens for readability.
Use Meaningful Prefixes
Another technique for improving mobile domain responsiveness is using prefixes. A domain prefix is a short segment added to the beginning of the domain that hints at its purpose.
For example, “go-smartphones.com” uses the “go” prefix to indicate the site provides guidance about smartphones. Other common prefixes include “my”, “get”, and “find”.
Prefixes enhance memorability of longer domains. The prefix sticks in the user’s mind and provides context for the rest of the name. When typing the domain, the meaningful prefix helps guide the user.
However, avoid using ambiguous prefixes like “web” or “site”. These don’t add any context about the domain’s purpose. Stick to concrete prefixes that specifically relate to the site or brand.
Omit Unnecessary Words
When crafting short mobile domain names, leave out any fluff or unnecessary words. Terms like “the”, “a”, “an”, “that”, etc. just add length without enhancing meaning.
For example, “mobile-phones.com” is more effective than “the-mobile-phones.com”. Omitting the “the” streamlines the domain without altering the meaning.
Scrutinize each word in a domain name and determine if it’s absolutely necessary. Be brutally concise. If a word doesn’t add substantial value, try removing it or replacing it with something shorter.
Unnecessary words also include filler terms like “company”, “website”, “store”, etc. Most users will implicitly understand these terms are describing a website or brand. Avoid wasting characters on superfluous words.
New Domain Extensions
In the past, domain extensions were limited to just a handful of options like “.com”, “.net”, and “.org”. Now there are hundreds of new domain extensions to choose from.
Many of these new extensions can help create shorter and more memorable domain names. Some good options specific for mobile include:
- .mobi – Made for mobile sites and services
- .tel – Domains for phone numbers and contacts
- .link – For sites that heavily use links
- .app – Indicates a mobile app endpoint
Domain extensions themselves are also displayed on mobile browsers and apps. So it’s beneficial to use an extension that relates to the purpose of the site. Users will recognize sites ending with “.mobi” and “.app” as mobile-friendly.
When registering a domain, don’t default to “.com” out of habit. Consider if any new extensions are a better fit.
Subdomains Can Improve Responsiveness
Subdomains provide another way to work around restrictive “.com” domains. By segmenting sites into logical subdomains, each piece can have a shorter and more focused name.
For example, “news.smartphones.com” is simpler than “smartphonesnewsportal.com”. The “news” subdomain communicates the site section at a glance.
Effective use of subdomains involves breaking up sites into intuitive categories. Some ideas include:
When implementing subdomains, ensure the subdomain name is short and clearly describes the subsection of the site. Avoid ambiguous subdomains like “section1.domain.com”.
On the technical side, subdomains should display the same site design and branding as the main domain. Consistent navigation and menus across subdomains enhances usability.
Redirects Optimize Unwieldy Domains
For companies that already have a long-established domain name, changing the domain can have major downsides. Lost brand recognition and broken inbound links can harm traffic.
In these cases, setting up a redirect offers a good compromise. The company can register a new mobile-friendly domain, then configure a 301 redirect from the old domain to the new one.
For example, “reallylongsitenameincorporation.com” could redirect to “RLSInc.com”. Search engines will pass on link authority to the new domain.
When implementing redirects, ensure the new domain closely matches the original site keywords. Avoid radically different domain names or key structures and meaning may be lost.
Regularly monitor traffic to ensure ongoing proper redirection. Refresh redirects periodically if needed to pass along updated link equity.
Avoid Obscure Abbreviations
When trying to shorten domains, sometimes abbreviations can go too far. Abbreviations and acronyms should still be easily understandable to common users.
For example, naming a smartphone site “mbldn.com” based on “mobile domain names” is overly cryptic. Stick to abbreviations of common terms like using “smartphone” instead of “mobile phone”.
If using brand name initials, ensure the brand is very well-known. Using obscure initials and acronyms can confuse users and hinder engagement.
Aim for abbreviations that are transparent and intuitive. Always ask, would an average user still understand this shortened term? If not, consider a different approach.
Test Extensively on Mobile
After selecting a domain name, the next step is to thoroughly test it on a range of mobile devices. This helps uncover usability issues that may not be obvious on a desktop browser.
Some key aspects to test include:
- Typing/entering the domain accurately without errors
- Readability on small screens – avoid excessive length
- Inputting the domain using speech recognition
- Accessibility for users with disabilities
- Effectiveness of any hyphens or prefixes
Iteratively refine the domain and configuration based on mobile testing data. Issues like awkward hyphen placement or unintuitive prefixes will become evident.
Don’t rely only on desktop testing. The mobile user experience can vary substantially. Prioritize mobile-first testing to ensure domain name responsiveness.
Allow Dynamic Typing
When users are entering domains character-by-character on mobile, don’t enforce domains to be typed exactly with full stops. Allow dynamic domains.
For example, if the domain is “green-mobiles.com”, users may type this dynamically as:
The back-end should intelligently handle dynamic domains entered without dots. This enhances flexibility and reduces mobile input errors.
Similarly, auto-correct common typos like missing hyphens. If users input “greenmobiles”, automatically redirect to the full domain.
Enable dynamic interactions and error correction to make domains as mobile-friendly as possible.
Highlight Sites that Work Well on Mobile
When advertising mobile sites and services, explicitly highlight that they are mobile-optimized with responsive design. This signals to users they are safe to access on mobile devices.
For example, state directly on the site homepage: “Optimized for all mobile phones and tablets”. Or, use a responsive design icon to emphasize mobile-readiness.
Visually highlighting mobile-readiness reduces hesitancy users may feel about accessing unfamiliar sites on mobile. It encourages engagement by showing your site works flawlessly on mobile browsers.
Serve All Sites over HTTPS
To provide the best security on mobile devices, serve all sites over HTTPS instead of standard HTTP. HTTPS encrypts connections and prevents intrusive redirects.
Many users are cautious about mobile security issues. Serving sites strictly over HTTPS helps build trust that your domain offers a safe browsing experience.
HTTPS also comes with SEO benefits. Google prioritizes secure sites in search rankings, so migrating to HTTPS can improve domain visibility.
There are many free and low-cost options for obtaining SSL certificates to enable HTTPS. The minimal setup effort is well worth enhancing security and mobile user peace of mind.
Responsive Design is Essential
No domain name optimization can overcome a poorly designed, non-responsive site. Ensuring your site dynamically responds and reflows across multiple screen sizes is required.
All sites should use responsive frameworks like Bootstrap or Foundation when building on mobile-first principles. Avoid cramped non-responsive sites that frustrate users.
Test sites on all common device sizes and orientations. Horizontal and vertical views on both phones and tablets must display appropriately.
Mobile sites should deliver the same user experience and value, regardless of device. Leverage responsive principles to prevent domains from linking to subpar mobile sites.
Consistent Branding Builds Trust
When implementing mobile domains, subdomains, or redirects, retain consistent branding across all properties. Linking to heavily branded domains boosts user confidence.
For example, a newspaper’s mobile site should keep the same logo, color scheme, and navigation as the main website. This maintains brand familiarity as users click across to mobile pages.
Digital brands are built over time through visual consistency and cohesive experiences. Avoid fracturing hard-earned brand recognition with disjointed mobile domains.
Monitor Analytics for Mobile Insights
Use web analytics platforms to monitor domain usage and performance specifically on mobile channels. Watch for trends in mobile traffic volumes, devices, and behavior flow.
Dive into clickstream patterns to see how users interact with the domains. Analyze if they frequently have issues accessing certain domains from mobile devices.
If conversions drop significantly on a particular subdomain, reassess how mobile-friendly the domain path is. Iteratively improve domains over time based on mobile analytics.
Proactively monitoring mobile analytics provides the insights needed to continually refine domains. Never assume initial setup will suffice long-term.
Optimizing domains for mobile usage should be a priority in today’s multi-device world. Short, memorable, and descriptive domains engage users and make mobile navigation effortless.
Techniques like hyphens, redirects, subdomains, and HTTPS enable companies to craft intuitive mobile domains that instill confidence. Responsive design and consistent branding complements easy-to-use domains.
Listen closely to mobile analytics and testing. Habitually improve domains to keep pace with evolving mobile trends. The extra effort to perfect mobile domains leads to smoother user experiences and happier customers.
In the mobile age, the domain is more than just an address. It shapes first impressions and sets the tone for the entire user journey. Companies that neglect mobile domain optimization are missing a pivotal opportunity to connect with audiences. By following the best practices outlined here, brands can build mobile-friendly domains that fuel engagement.