Ray King, CEO at Top Level Design, reveals how to craft a better domain name in the world of new TLDs
Ray King CEO at Top Level Design
I don’t think I could have launched my new domain company in a better city. We’re part of a global, creative revolution in the domain space, and here at our co-working office in Portland, Oregon we work alongside one of the USA’s most noted creative classes.
I’m surrounded by elite craft brewers and trendy coffee roasters, where it’s not uncommon to make a living as an artisan or as a small business owner. Granted, we are a technology company with global reach and ambitions; Top Level Design is the registry behind the new .design top-level domain (TLD), as well as .wiki and .ink. We are competing against what we call old-school, or even vintage, TLDs like .com and .org, and we are a part of a larger expansion of the Internet naming system. We think .design will be one of the most vibrant spaces on the internet going forward, and we work towards that vision every day.
Some of the new domain options don’t necessarily inspire but are very practical, say .consulting, .marketing, and .plumbing (seriously!), but we saw the naming expansion as an opportunity that innovators would seize. I have previously been involved in founding and leading the domain aftermarket platform, SnapNames, where we pioneered the concept of ‘backordering’ a name in order to be next in line for an expiring name.
“Some of the new domain options don’t necessarily inspire but are very practical, say .consulting, .marketing, and .plumbing (seriously!)”
The widening of the domain name system struck me as a huge creative opportunity. It’s a powerful concept, being able to sell words as destinations and branding tools, and we think that our top-level domains, .design especially, provide a meaningful and marked improvement over other ‘plain vanilla’ options, chief of which is .com.
We based part of our interest in .design on .com; the word ‘design’ is actually the single most popular word appearing within .com and .net domains. We see this being used every day as people register their names, eg JaneDoe.Design, making their domain more compact, their branding more explicit, and saying it all with a single URL.
The value proposition of new top level domains, which is to provide better inventory and more memorable domains, seems to resonate most strongly with designers, who seize this new option as a chance to beautify their branding. And after all, being able to put a short and memorable URL or email address on a thoughtfully designed business card is amazingly powerful, and this is especially true for freelancers and independent design companies.
It’ll be some time before the public is fully aware of new top level domains, but my team’s tireless work and the above factors have resulted in .design being one of the fastest growing new domain endings.
I’m super excited about the number of web designers adopting .design names as they are cultural thought leaders and tastemakers. It also means that we get to look at a lot of inspiring new portfolio sites showcasing various logo, web, print as well as other great designs!
“I’m super excited about the number of web designers adopting .design names as they are cultural thought leaders and tastemakers.”
In order to reach potential customers, we also launched our own registrar. So, if the registry is the wholesale function, then the registrar is the direct-to-consumer business.
While .design is available all over the world from well-known outlets, such as GoDaddy, we also directly manage our registrar, Porkbun, which can be accessed through our niche sites web.design and .graphic.design. My team spends their days talking to design schools, attending design conferences, and working directly with our early customers. The latter is all hands on deck, and my CTO and myself are responding to customer support alongside all other staff members.
We’ve been known to reprioritise the development roadmap based off of user requests. It’s actually a fun way to build a company and service, based off of real user needs. We feel informed and responsive, and the customers feel an extraordinary level of attention. Every Monday, my CTO and I recruit real users off the streets and within our co-working space in Portland to continually test the user experience.
We certainly have an underdog mentality. It would be impossible not to when you are trying to differentiate a business from juggernauts like .com and GoDaddy. But, everyday when I arrive in downtown Portland, I feel aligned with a local mindset of success through individuality and simple but unique differentiation. Indeed, designers of all mediums in cities like Portland are exporting this ethos around the world and our shared experiences and spaces are improving constantly, despite significant challenges from the status quo. I’m the CEO of Top Level Design, and we help designers and creatives market themselves with exceptional domain names.