How to Name An App: The Dos & Don’ts of App Naming

What's in an app name? Everything! If your app's success depends on great marketing, then few things are more important than picking the right name.

Fame. Money. Power. It’s all in the name. So you can avoid making any noob naming mistakes, here are some Dos and Don’ts when it comes to finding that perfect name to christen your app.

Dos:

1. Be unique.

Do you want to be mistaken for another app? Or worse, do you want to be sued for copyright or trademark infringement? Just like your idea for an app, your app’s name has to be unique. First, you don’t want to accidentally steal someone else’s name. Second, you’ll be doing yourself and your marketing team a huge favor – the more unique your app’s name is, the easier it will be to claim it on social networks and register it as a domain. Google will be your best friend here, so put your Google hats on and get to… Googling.

Don't be the Hound Dog to someone else's Greyhound.

Don’t be the Hound Dog to someone else’s Greyhound.

2. Be easy to pronounce.

You know how you go into an Ikea store and you can’t pronounce anything? Don’t do that to your app. It frustrates people. At Ikea, learning how to pronounce furniture names (and finding out what they mean) is half the fun. At the app store, there’s I-don’t-know-how-to-pronounce-this-but-it’s-fun-to-say-anyway (Bahndr, pr. BON-DER), then there’s I-don’t-know-how-to-pronounce-this-and-it’s-freakin’-annoying! (e.g., app which shall not be named). Don’t be that app.

Yrgacheffe Ambassa may be the correct name, but it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

Yrgacheffe Ambassa may be the correct name, but it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

3. Be easy to remember.

If users can’t remember your app’s name, they probably won’t remember to use it either. Longer names are harder to “stick,” so keep it short and simple. Unless your app’s multi-syllabic name is related to its functionality (Remember the Milk, Cut the Rope), cut it down to two syllables to keep it snappy and memorable (Mime-Me). Otherwise, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. (No one will ever remember ‘Chucking/Launching/Propelling/Scattering Birds’ or ‘Birdies Thrown at Piggies,’ but ‘Angry Birds’? WIN.)

You'll always remember the times you had on Chicken Dinner Road.

You’ll always remember the times you had on Chicken Dinner Road.

4. Be relevant.

If you have a gaming or social app, you can probably have a creativity pass for this one. If you have a business or utility app, its name should be somewhat relevant to its functionality. Users are less likely to check out an app if they have no idea what the app is for. This doesn’t mean your app’s name has to be boring (sorry, calculator apps, that you get names like Calculator+, Calculator•, Calculator#, and Calculator!, but you’re kinda the exception here). It just means your app’s name has to paint a picture of the functionality associated with it (Travel Wallet). Be creative, but make sure your app’s name also gives users an idea of what it actually does.

Architecture In Helsinki is a great name for a band, but probably not right the name for a dating app.

Architecture In Helsinki is a great name for a band, but probably not right the name for a dating app.

5. Be Available.

There are few things more shameful than choosing a name for your app that you are unable to reserve a web domain for (http://www.get<appname>.com will never sound right). Remember, the number one marketing tool for any app is its web site, and if you can’t reserve a web domain that matches the name of your app, you should probably find a new name for your app. Now if you have a name that you absolutely love, but the .com is already taken, then it’s time to get creative. An increasingly common trend in the web world is to use lesser-known web domain suffixes like “.ly”, “.me”,  “.be” or “.at” to break apart a name across the url. Ever heard of  “about.me”? Chances are the founders of that service landed on that name because “aboutme.com” was already taken. Check out this complete list of top-level web domains to see how you can keep your cool app name by using lesser known web domains.

Don’ts:

1. Be a jerk.

Don’t register a dozen names you’re not sure you’ll actually be using. Name squatting is illegal at the App Store. (Okay, not really. They give you 120 days to upload your binary before they give your name away, but there’s no need to be a you-know-what and go on a name-registering rampage and take perfectly great names other developers could have used)

Squatting is not only bad web etiquette, it's also illegal.

Squatting is not only bad web etiquette, it’s also illegal.

2. Be a keyword-stuffing nut.

“But keywords are great for SEO!” True. It can also give you really long and even nonsensical names that people can’t or won’t care to remember. Or get you blacklisted. Unless your madd SEO skillz conform to the Dos above, your app’s name is not the place to get SEO-happy.

3. ­Be a victim of name generators.

Remember: name generators are there to give you buzz words and ideas. They’re not there to do your naming for you. Besides, they give you sucky names anyway
(recipes + food = “recifood”?)

Don't let name generators curb your better judgement

Don’t let name generators curb your better judgement

4. Be a brand-destroyer.

Your app’s name is your brand. If you develop a portfolio of apps, it represents your brand. What you name your app makes or breaks your app, and maybe even your brand. Don’t let a crappy name ruin an otherwise incredible app and an equally amazing brand.

Your app is your baby. You don’t want it to be ignored or teased. Give it a great you and your app dynasty can be proud of.

About Sara Angeles

Sara is a copywriter, blogger, and content strategist for startups and lifestyle brands. She graduated from UC Irvine and has a background in law, finance, and business administration. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter. Her Google+ is lonely. Find out more about her at SaraAngeles.com.

  • Michael San Filippo

    Excellent points all, and in fact, naming an app is part of a much larger marketing exercise. There’s another step you might want to take regarding app names/domain names. Given how integral social media is today to advertising and promoting products and services, use a site such as KnowEm (http://knowem.com/) to check for the use of the proposed name (the site checks hundreds of social media websites).

    From a marketing perspective, ideally you’d want to use the exact same name everywhere. So, for example, ideally the founder of Bahndr would claim the vanity URL youtube.com/bahndr, facebook.com/bahndr, https://plus.google.com/+Bahndr, twitter.com/bahndr, etc. to create branded social media channels.

    There are other services too, such as nameChk (http://namechk.com/) but I cannot vouch for any of them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/doron.bartov Doron Bartov

    Hi Sara,
    Great peice, helped me a lot.
    My problem is that im writing an second screen social betting app and im contemplating wheather to use the word bet or not in my name, i think it has a negative image. what do you think?

  • http://inventikasolutions.com/ Inventika Solutions

    One important source of great app names is the subject of your app. I designed an app for a popular Football (Soccer) team. Since I am a fan of the team, I gave it a name ‘Fergie Time’. Fans of the club LOVED the name and thanks to the name itself, I managed to get some really good traction.
    If you do your research properly, there are some real gems hidden in plain sight. Use them!

  • Andy

    This is some of the best naming advice I have ever heard – easy to pronounce, easy to hear./ Great advice for bands out there too!

  • Aftab Saraz

    Really great article. I was stuck to name my new app, came through this and got a hug knowledge on how to name my app. Thanks for sharing.

  • Excitmental

    Some excellent points! I find it useful using domain name generators to find catchy and unique names for apps. You can check out the best generators here http://excitemental.com/2013/10/07/domain-name-generators/