You’ve registered a personal domain name because you thought you’d create a web site and never did. Or maybe you’re just hosting a custom email address and you wish you were doing more. There are plenty of clever ways you can use your domain name to promote yourself, provide yourself with quick information, or just do something cool. Here are our favourites.
First things first: what is a personal domain exactly? Most people think of a personal domain as yourname.com (meaning mine would be, and is, adamdachis.com). It could also be a shortened version of your name (e.g. admdchs.com, or whtsngr.dn), or even a pseudonym. The idea is that you’ve got a domain name that belongs to you and is going to be used for personal purposes — not business. Domains are pretty cheap, and if you haven’t gotten one of your own yet you should check out our Hive Five for domain registrars so you can pick one up. Some of the ideas mentioned here also require a web host. Fortunately, we’ve got a Hive Five for that, too.
Create A Personal Landing Page
Back in the early days of the web, it was customary to have your own web site filled with lots of content. Today, social media services host most of your content. A personal landing page is a great way to take all your content spanning the web and bring it into a single, centralised location. If you want to host the page yourself, we’ve we’ve written the code for you so you can just install it, configure it, and customise it however you like. If you’d prefer to use an existing service, such as Flavors.me or About.me, both services allow you to point your domain name to them. This way you can continue using the domain name for other purposes, such as email, but have it display your personal landing page when people visit it in their web browser.
Create Your Own, Personal Start Page
If you’re not looking to create a public-facing page on your domain, you can instead use it as a start page that your browser loads in every new tab and window. The benefit to keeping this page online, rather than locally on your computer, is that you can access it from anywhere. This means you can keep any bookmarks or other information readily available and accessible from any computer with an internet connection. Here is one beautiful start page you can customise to your needs, or you can always learn HTML and CSS so you can roll your own from scratch.
Thanks for the tip, Matt!
Direct Your Domain to a Dynamic DNS Service
If you have forwarded ports on your router in order to access services on your home computers (like FTP, VNC and more) you’ve probably noticed how helpful it is — when you know your IP address. When you don’t, port forwarding is essentially useless. Because most of us have dynamic IP addresses (ones that change regularly) we need a dynamic IP service like NoIP or DynDNS to track those changes and provide us with a consistent address. While you can often use these services for free with a domain name like yourserver.dyndns.org, they also provide the option of using a custom domain name as well. This generally costs some money (around $30 per year) but is a nice way to put your custom domain to good use.
Use Your Domain For Link Shortening/Forwarding
If you have a nice, short domain name it may be useful to use it as a link shortening service. This way you can have custom short links for use with Twitter, in a text message, or just convenient placement. It also will provide with a few statistics on what links people are clicking and where they’re coming from. If you want to install your own service on your domain, YOURLS is a great option. It even comes with its own API and has a WordPress plugin. There are also plenty of other options. If you’d prefer to use an existing service, Bit.ly offers custom domains for a price.
Roll Your Own File Sharing Service
With MegaUpload gone, you might need somewhere to share your files. While there are a number of great alternatives, you know you’re less likely to suddenly lose your files if you’re uploading them to your own server. This gives you more control and you get to use your domain name. You don’t even need to set up much. You can install any number of file hosting scripts or just use a folder on your domain and upload via FTP. Apps like DockDrop (Mac) and NoCap (Windows) can add easy drag-and-drop uploading and automatically place a URL in your clipboard afterwards.
Provide Custom Dropbox Public Links
If you love sharing files with Dropbox but don’t necessarily love the look of the public links it provides, you can set up a neat tool called dropbprox to use your custom domain instead. Basically, it turns http://dl.dropbox.com/u/YOURACCOUNTNUMBER/thefile.zip into just http://yourdomain.com/thefile.zip. This makes your public links a bit shorter and much easier to remember.
Sign Up For Google Apps
If you’re planning on using your domain for email, you might as well sign up for one of the best email services around: Gmail. Google Apps offers the majority of Google’s services with a custom domain name. That means you can still have all the things you love about Gmail, but @yourcustomdomainname.com. Additionally, you get access to Google+, Docs, Calendar, Contacts, Groups, Sites, Video, and more. Google offers all of this for free if you’re willing to accept ads in your email, or you can pay per account to get everything ad-free.
Use Your Domain As A Better Vanity URL
I was lucky enough to snag the vanity URL I wanted for Facebook, but if you didn’t, or would just prefer the simplicity of a domain name, you can set up your custom domain to forward to your Facebook, Twitter or other social media page. How you do this will vary by domain registrar/web host, but generally it’s pretty easy to do. Just find the relevant help page (usually titled “Domain Forwarding”, “Domain Redirect”, or “URL Redirect”) on your registrar’s/host’s site if you need a little extra help. (Here are the help pages for DreamHost, NameCheap, HostGator, and BlueHost to get you started.) Thanks for the tip, Alex!
In addition to all the stuff mentioned here, you can also use your domain name with web apps like Tumblr, Posterous, and more. If you’d like to use your domain for any web service you really like, just check its features page. Chances are the option will be available.
Got any other clever uses for a custom domain? Share your ideas in the comments!