Making a Side Project, Part 5: Picking a Name

Published on Nov 11, 2017

Have you read Part 4 of the Making a Side Project series?

Photo by Romain Vignes on Unsplash

As maker who does Computer Science a lot, I completely agree with …

“There are two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation, naming things, and off-by-one errors”

— Phil Karlton

Naming variables name, classes, packages, anything really in Computer Science is hard.

Now lets imagine we starting a new project, and have to pick a name. A bad name in computer code can be confusing and misleading, the same for your project, but even more a bad name could mean the end of your project before it even has a chance to get started. Oh the pressure to get it right.

Naming projects basically falls in two categories: Something literal, that describes what the project is or does; and something that is unique to the project, it may or not contain some keywords.

The former works well for SEO purposes, the user will be searching some or all of the words in the name, and so is more likely to find your project without even knowing that it exists. If you need to pivot your project in a new direction later, the name might not apply anymore. So you need to be very careful in your selection.

The later is better for differentiating yourself from all the other projects out there, but you’ll have to work harder at getting organic traffic. You’ll need to educate visitors more, about just what your project is and does.

Once you decide on a name, you’ll have to run a trademark search to make sure there isn’t a company already using your name. Yes even a word from the dictionary is something you might need to avoid. Just try naming music or tech company Apple and see how quickly the Beatles or Apple Computers sends you cease and desist.

I’ve used both approaches in the past, and both have worked well.

I recently helped to build and launch WillRobotsTakeMyJob with Dimitar Raykov. You don’t need to be a genius to figure out what that website does. Answers one question, quite well! Very key word heavy, and in a lot of cases, exactly someone might type into the Google search bar.

Will Robots Take My job?
_Find out how susceptible is your job is to

How about BotList which I launched with Seth Louey and Ben Tossell? Think it lists Bots? Wasn’t really a stretch to come up with that. Again very clear from the name what the project does.

_BotList connects humans to bots. Discover the latest bots that will assist you in automating everyday tasks, so you can…

How about Cymbolism, any idea what that does? You won’t find that word in the dictionary because I made it up.

Cymbolism is a tool that attempts to quantify the association between colors and words, making it simple for designers to choose the best colors for the desired emotional effect.

I could have used something like WordColorAssociation (I thought about it), but I wanted something that designers would remember when they heard the name.

Words & Colors - Cymbolism
_Cymbolism is a tool that attempts to quantify the association between colors and words, making it simple for designers…

What about Statamic? When I was working with my friend Jack McDade on a new flat file CMS we had a really hard time coming up with a name. We ended up mushing two words (static & dynamic) together to form an entirely new word. People being unable to pronounce the name has in a way become part of the brand. In a recent redesign Jack actually added the pronunciation right on the home page. Once you tell people about the name, they get it, but it does take explaining sometimes.

Try googling Statamic, and you won’t find any results unrelated to the flat file CMS we built, why would you it’s something we came up with just for this purpose.

Statamic - The CMS that lets you build sites your way.
_Statamic is the raddest flat file CMS you'll ever find. Built on

Something else we have to consider is the availability of domains names and social media handles, especially Facebook and Twitter, but also for other niche networks if your project targets that niche.

Lets be frank, most good short names, the .com is registered and probably has been for years. It might be used, but they chance that you can afford to pay what the owner wants for it are slim.

There has been a explosion of alternative TLDs so that has opened up things a fair bit. I snagged for my project that collects movie reviews from critics on YouTube. Since this is a very popular term in the movie review industry you won’t find the website any where near the top of search results, but it is very easy to share with people in conversation and also very easy to brand.

The options are even more limited on social media accounts, and although the names don’t have to be exactly the same from domain, to social media handle, that is obviously preferred. If the exact name is not available, I have a couple of approaches for picking social media accounts.

The simple approach is to just use the full domain name as the account name. Alternatively I try to think about how the name might read in a Tweet or other mention.

On my Interviewed project I used “beeninterviewed”. So I could tweet something like “[Guest name] has @beeninterviewed on [Podcast Name]”.

So what are going to do for the current project. I’ve been using the name “Track Startup Expenses” so far. If it hasn’t been clear I’m not in love with the name. However, it is available as a .com and the social handles, which makes it a little bit tempting, just a tiny bit.

Doing some searching, there is nothing available with the keyword “Expense” or “Expense Tracker”, most of the current websites focus on personal finance, so no competition there. is registered, but all the other TLDs are available and so too are usernames on Twitter, etc.. Tempting, but I’m favoring something more unique something more brandable for this project.

I started thinking back to the startups I worked at over the years. The first one I worked for, first in England and then in San Francisco, I made friends with the person who’s was in charge of all things financial. I thought it might be cool to name this project after him. He was the unsung hero (in my eyes at least) that kept us on track, made sure we weren’t spending money we didn’t have or spending money we didn’t need to spend. His last name was Deaton.

I looked up the origin/meaning of the name and it refers to:

“The settlement surrounded by a dyke or moat”

Surname Database

Well that could certainly apply here, we’re trying to defend against unnecessary expenses, surrounding yourself with a moat is a very good way to defend yourself!

Deaton is a fairly common name, so the preferred TLD’s are taken, but as fortune would have it is available (or at least it was). I also registered in case I end up preferring to go with an .com TLD.

I did some quick searching to make sure there wasn’t an app out there already called Deaton, especially one in the financial/expenses industry.

I do a quick search in google to see what the top responses are. I then searched Product Hunt, the Mac/iOS Store, and the Google Play Store. I even searched Github for open-source projects, but mostly found people with the last name Deaton.

The project from now on will be called Deaton. I have a domain, and will register social media accounts, once I have email working for the domain.

Next: Making a Side Project, Part 6: Tech Stack