Posted on March 2, 2017

Is it worth switching to a shorter and better domain name?

Posted on March 2, 2017 by DJ Chuang Categories: Case Studies, Domains

Decision makers with organizations cannot haphazardly jump at trying something new because there’s a new technology with potential and opportunity. Careful research and consideration has to be made before making a decision that would re-allocate resources to change things up dramatically. Those resources could involve staff time, actual monetary finances, or a change in the current state of reputation and credibility when it comes to the web addresses. 

While status quo does keep things as they are, the world is constantly changing around us, especially in a digital age. To implement the right changes strategically and wisely can be the path to significant growth and performance that wouldn’t be possible with minor changes to status quo.

Case studies are useful for this very purpose, to learn from the examples and observations from other’s implementation of innovations.

The internet expansion program, known as new gTLDs (generic top-level domains), had its first full year of operations in 2014 and has expanded the internet namespace to over 1,000 new domain extensions far beyond the popularized legacy endings of .com, .net, and .org. Yes, there are hundreds and thousands of domains that have meaningful endings like: .app, .bank, .bible, .blog, .church, .club, .coffee, .events, .live, .media, .network, .news, .photo, .training, .wiki, and many more.

To quantify just how fast these new gTLDs are growing, also known as “not-coms,” the number of not-com websites in the Alexa Top 1 Million (a list of the most popular websites based on traffic) has increased by more than 300% since September 2015, with not-com registrations growing from 7.3 million to 23.9 million.

Church leaders are beginning to recognize these new domain extensions. Many are becoming aware of .church domains when they’re being used by influential churches. Life.church switched from its previous domain “lifechurch.tv” to “life.church” in October 2015.

Consider how big of a decision this was: the change involved only dropping 2 characters in the domain name, but it affected more than 70,000 in its attendance along with all of the church’s branding, stationery, signage, communications, and more. And yet the church’s leadership made this change to refresh its vision, its logos, and its domain name. When our team asked the Life.Church team about how this impacted their church, their response was reassuring: no negative impact occurred and people continued using their website as usual.

Notably, other larger churches have also moved their web address, including: menlo.church, ccv.church, and city.church. (cf. "Why 'Menlo Pres' is now 'Menlo Church'" in The Almanac, November 19, 2015 / Photo Credit: Kate Bradshaw)

Amongst this audience of church leaders, there’s a popular online service known as Planning Center used by thousands of churches worldwide. The cloud-based service was launched over 10 years ago as Planning Center Online to organize and plan a church’s worship services and managing volunteers. Since that time, Planning Center Online has grown into a suite of 7 apps to cover many needs in the church, with apps bearing self-explanatory names like: Services, Check Ins, Resources, Registrations, Giving, People, and Groups.

Many of us are already familiar with the occasional change of brand logos. Ideally, this occurs simultaneously with adjustments in an organization’s next phase or additions to its products and services offering. In a similar fashion, this timely change can also coincide with a change to its domain names and web addresses.

During the month of August 2016, as Planning Center Online grew into a suite of apps, this was deemed an opportune time to drop "Online" from its name, make changes to its logos, its branding, and its domain name all together. The company web address switched over from the previous planningcenteronline.com to its current planning.center domain.

There was no fanfare or no big announcement. It just switched. (Of course, as part of making the domain switch, the old domain was redirected to the new domain, to this day.) Things kept working and people kept using the software. New people kept signing up for the software; apparently no negative impact.

You might ask, then, why change? Here are some of the benefits to this new domain: it saves people time from typing the previously excessively long domain name (cf. typing fewer characters can save many hours of time, when aggregated), it’s friendlier to mobile users, and it adds that extra “grab attention” factor because it stands out by not being yet a dot-com website.

Someone on Twitter expressed excitement and gladness for this new domain name’s launch:

There you have it. A successful upgrade to a better domain name for a Christian organization. Do you have questions that this article didn't answer? Add a comment and we'll help where we can.

With this new internet namespace expansion, the opportunity is now available for your organization to get the very best domain name that can be self-explanatory for what it is that you're offering. Domain names that makes plain sense and clearly tells people what to expect at that web address reduces any remaining friction that keeps people from going to your website.