The Case for Upper Case

May 14, 2014

An issue I encounter occasionally at work is how to typographically present a website URL. Specifically, should a website read johnqpublic.com or JohnQPublic.com. Or even whether or not a single word URL should be capitalized: disney.com vs. Disney.com. My personal preference is to capitalize the words within a URL, especially when the worlds are not easily recognizable to the average reader. If your name is George Bush, georgebush.com is easily deciphered, but if you’re state senator Barack Obama, circa 1999, then barackobama.com needs a little bit of design help. The average viewer might see “Bar Ackobama” or “Barac Kobama” just as easily (or more easily) than “Barack Obama”.

You might think a domain is a domain, as long as all of the letters are there, then the viewer who can read it, can also type it. But there’s a reason why we prefer short succinct domains like Coke.com instead of CocacolaSoftDrinkCompany.com — the domain name you publish is part of your branding. It’s a call to action. If you’re not doing your best to communicate the concept as clearly and as memorably as possible, then you’re hurting your brand.

Interestingly, during one of my commutes this week, I pulled up behind a truck whose decals read Handcrafted-Inc.com This presents an interesting dilemma: although a better domain name would be HandcraftedInc.com (assuming it’s available), adding the hyphen between the two words makes the ‘I’ of Inc. easier to read. In a sans serif font, the capital ‘I’ is already difficult to distinguish from a lower-case ‘L’, or in this situation, difficult to separate visually from the ascender of the lower-case ‘D’ of “Handcrafted.”

Consider:
HandcraftedInc vs. HandcraftedInc

If that “I word” was something less recognizable, like “isometric,” would the sans serif domain even be readable? What if you own a gym in Santa Clarita whose domain was NewhallIsometic.com? What if you ran a sports magazine for the eastside of Columbus, Ohio whose site was WhitehallIllustrated.com?

So although the hyphenated domain name is less than ideal, in this case, it actually frees up the type designer to use either a sans serif font or a serif font. One just wonders how much of this went into the decision of buying a hyphenated domain.

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