Skip to main content

Getting a Domain Name

For participants to be able to access your tool on the internet, you will need a domain name, which is basically an internet address for where your website it (e.g., This is not the same as web hosting, which actually stores the contents of your website and will be handled by Amazon Web Services in this tutorial.

For the purposes of getting the website up and running, it does not matter what domain name you use/buy. Domain names in particular are easy to change later. Below are a few common options:

Option 1 - Use a subdomain of an existing domain you own

You may have already bought a domain name for your lab website which you can create a subdomain of, or have the ability to hook up to a subdomain at your institution or organization. For example, directs people to the docs subdomain of You can create hundreds of subdomains for any given domain name, but you are usually restricted in how many can be accessed based on the web hosting for each subdomain. This will not be a concern for most people.

In order to create a subdomain, you will need the domain name hooked up to hosting first, then navigate to cPanel for that domain, which is usually under Manage settings for that domain when you have logged into your hosting provider. You can watch a video tutorial on how to create a subdomain here.

Option 2 - Buy a new domain name

Buying your own domain name is super easy, but there are a few things you need to consider when doing so. These include the initial price, renewal prices, what top-level domain you want to go with (e.g. .com, .net, .io), and whether they offer Whois privacy services. Whois privacy services ensure that the personal information that you submit as a part of registering the domain name (required by ICANN, the organization that assigns domain names), such as a name, address, and phone number, cannot be looked up easily online. I highly reccomend that wherever and whenever you buy a domain name, you make sure it either comes with some sort of Whois privacy protection, or you purchase it for your domain name.

There are many registrars that will sell you a domain name, such as Google Domains and Gandi. I personally use Namecheap because they offer Whois privacy protection complimentary for all domain name purchases made with them. The particular domain name you are looking from will often vary in price from registrar to registrar, and you can use this website to compare prices for different top-level domains if you know which one you will be going with.

It is important that wherever you buy, that you ensure that you have Whois privacy protection and an SSL certificate. Whois Privacy Protection protects people from finding out who you are and your contact information required to register a domain name. SSL certificates provide security for participants visiting your website such that the information sent to and from the Tool is encrypted, enabling people to visit https versions of your website.

Practically, using a domain name that has semantic meaning will help the domain name you choose look legitimate and trustable to participants.