Makers like to buy domain names.
This is a costly vice. But unavoidable. We might as well try and manage it by choosing our dealer carefully. And I’m here to help. Not to stop you buying domains, no! To enable you to buy more, as cheaply as possible.
Join me as I find and explore the best domain name registrars for makers in 2022 by researching and analysing the best options available right now.
Table of contents
- Registrar requirements
- Top 10 registrars by makers and founders
- The top 3 registrars for 2022
- Conclusion and final comparison
What we'd ideally want from a domain registrar
- Ease of use
- Proper security
- Free SSL
- Whois privacy
- Good Support
What we don’t want from a domain name registrar
- Bad reputation
- Constant up-sells
- Bloated UI
- High renewal costs
- Slow/bad support
- Scammy behaviour, like buying the domains you just searched for
Top 10 registrars by makers and founders
I then threw out those with the most negative comments or that seemed to be aimed at those other than founders and makers.
I then further whittled it down to include only those that got recommended the most, and ended up with this list of top 10.
Now, all of these registrars have pretty good reputations to start with. Any of them should do you good. But I wanted to go further.
I wanted the best options specifically for founders and indie makers. I got to work and narrowed it down to the top 3 options for your domain buying habi… needs.
Top 3 registrars for 2022
My process for getting it down to a top 3 was simple - best prices for new domains, best renew prices for domains, and amount of add-on bonuses.
All prices were checked(and converted to dollar values where needed) on 18 Feb 2022. All prices were for .com TLDs.
Bonuses were features included in the purchases for free that other services might charge for, like SSL certificates or email.
Here's how the top 10 scored.
|Registrar||$ new .com||$ renew .com||Bonusses|
The top 3 that emerged from our highly scientific process of eliminations were;
Let’s test them out!
Cloudflare was a bit of a surprise to me, to be honest. I thought they were mostly just a CDN and DDOS protection service. But here they are, sneaking into the top 3 of domain registrars.
Cloudflare ease of use - 8/10
After creating an account, I was ready to go. I clicked on the Registrar button on the side menu and got started. The user interface wasn't bad.
Searching for a domain was super easy. It even recommended other variants of my domain name, and with multiple TLDs, based on my prompt. Neat little feature.
My domain name was available, I clicked purchase and entered my registration details. I then confirmed my Paypal details and done!
Managing my new domain however, was slightly more confusing. There were so many features and options and things - more than half of which I had no idea what they were.
I didn't know if they were important or needed urgent attention from me.
Cloudflare security - 10/10
Enabling 2FA required a couple of clicks, but was easy enough to figure out.
I had the option to choose a hardware security key and mobile auth, and to store backup codes for my account.
There was an option to set up DNSSEC which is, of course, good to have.
DNSSEC gives you the ability to protect your users by preventing your domain from being spoofed by malicious actors, and then redirecting them to servers which are not really yours. I’ll get into all that in a later post.
You also have the option to switch on captcha protection if your site is under attack, which is almost like having free DDOS protection; something you don’t really get at other registrars.
Cloudflare SSL - 10/10
I clicked the SSL option and was presented with this delightful screen.
These were not the usual SSL options when buying domain names. I had the option to choose between Off, Flexible, Full and Strict.
Clicking the Help button elaborated a bit more;
- Off: No visitors will be able to view your site over HTTPS; they will be redirected to HTTP.
- Flexible SSL: You cannot configure HTTPS support on your origin, even with a certificate that is not valid for your site. Visitors will be able to access your site over HTTPS, but connections to your origin will be made over HTTP. Note: You may encounter a redirect loop with some origin configurations.
- Full SSL: Your origin supports HTTPS, but the certificate installed does not match your domain or is self-signed. Cloudflare will connect to your origin over HTTPS, but will not validate the certificate.
- Full (strict): Your origin has a valid certificate (not expired and signed by a trusted CA or Cloudflare Origin CA) installed. Cloudflare will connect over HTTPS and verify the cert on each request.
I’d probably be using Let’s Encrypt, so I guessed it was Strict for me then.
I then encountered a weird UI bug. When I selected Full SSL encryption, the radio button had the blue selected ring, but was not really in a selected state. After a few more clicks, it worked. Maybe there was a delay from the backend or something, but there you go.
It seems that you could also have Cloudflare do some sort of rudimentary audit of your site’s SSL, which was pretty neat, and view a chart that would(eventually) show you your TLS traffic.
Cloudflare support - 5/10
The next thing I investigated was support. I clicked the help centre link to see how easy it would be to get some help.
I was then directed to the support page
Ok, lots of documentation and walk-throughs here. But what if I had an urgent issue, or was not that technically inclined, would I be able to speak with a real person? I scrolled down to see chat support, but only found a ticket submit button.
I clicked it to see what would happen. I was then funnelled through a wizard to try and get me to a relevant FAQ article.
I finally wound up on a screen that presented the following options - billing issues(someone would contact me within 1-2 days), account issues(3-4 days), and domain issues(1-2 days). Lastly there was a technical option.
And that’s where they lost points. If I wanted support from a real human being that went beyond me trying to hunt down FAQ articles or posting into the void that is the community forum, I’d need to upgrade to some sort of "monthly subscription" plan. This was rather disappointing.
I guess for all the other benefits and features that Cloudflare brings to the table, there had to be some downside.
I actually knocked down quite a few points for this - being able to reach a real person when shit goes down is VERY important to me.I don’t have time to scroll through endless articles or wait for random community replies.
I also don’t want a subscription up-sell forced on me when panicking about my domain not working.
Cloudflare whois privacy - 10/10
Cloudflare offers free whois privacy by default. I didn’t need to do anything. I proved this by doing a check the day after buying, just to make sure no-one knew I owned this domain(except you, of course).
Cloudflare conclusion - 8.6/10
All in all, I’m really impressed. I did not expect Cloudflare to offer this good of a domain registration experience.
|Ease of use||8/10|
Cloudflare got a combined score of 8.6/10. An excellent score from a company I didn't even expect to see when I started this post.
When I first started venturing into making my own sites and projects, I found Namecheap through a recommendation(affiliate link) by one of the startup gurus at the time. It might have been Steve Blank, I’m not sure.
I have been using them for ages, so it would be interesting to now view them through a reviewers lens, and to compare them to other options.
Namecheap ease of use - 8/10
Searching for and buying a domain name with Namecheap was super easy too. You could start searching before you sign up, and the search tool was intuitive and easy to use.
I searched for a variant of my primary domain name while signed out. Like Cloudflare, Namecheap offered a list of alternative domains, but unlike Cloudflare, the variance was only based on TLDs, not alternatives to the “name” part.
I clicked Add To Cart and logged in… and encountered a little UI bug. Even though I added the domain to my cart before logging in, the cart icon on my dashboard was now empty! However, when I went to the checkout page the domain was still there waiting for me. Not a train smash, sure, but this could have led me to go search for the domain all over again and wasted my time.
Anyway, checkout time.
There was an option for a promo code, so I went to the Namecheap promo codes page and found one for domains, and added it like a frugal ninja. And wow - a whole 10 cents off. I’m underwhelmed, but I’ll take it.
I clicked confirm and went to the payment confirmation page. I usually pay with PayPal, but since I’m reviewing the service here, I chose to see other payment options.
Interestingly, I could pay with credit card, PayPal or account, which appears to have Bitcoin as an option too.
I stuck with PayPal, since I’m lazy. I paid and got confirmation that I had my new domain name.
There was a “What’s next” toasty on the top of the screen with a red link suggesting I could go set up my DNS. I’ll cover what exactly this is and why it’s a good idea in a later post, but ignored it for now.
I then clicked Manage and was presented with a pretty concise domain management screen.
There were a couple of upsells embedded in there, but they felt unobtrusive and not pushy. All in all, a very pleasant experience.
Namecheap security - 9/10
Managing 2FA was pretty easy. I already had a Namecheap account when I started this post, and could manage it straight right from the dashboard.
From here I could change my password, set up 2FA, recovery details, and security alerts. The 2FA options available were hardware devices, mobile OTP and SMS.
I could also set up security alerts, so that I'd get notifications every time something of note happened to my account.
Alerts were not on by default so make sure to go set it up as soon as you’ve registered.
Like Cloudflare, Namecheap included the option to switch on DNSSEC by default.
Better, advanced DNS protection is available through a domain management upsell, called PremiumDNS, and this seemed to go for about $5 per year. This also included DDOS protection and all the extra DNS-protection goodies you’d expect.
Namecheap SSL - 5/10
Namecheap did not seem to include free SSL like Cloudflare, but you could purchase some SSL certs through the side menu.
Namecheap support - 10/10
Support was easy to find and easy to navigate. It was right up there in the menu bar and aptly called “Help Center”. Or, on pretty much any page, I just had to scroll down all the way and click on this magical button.
That’s right! In addition to having an extensive, well-written knowledge-base, guides, videos and a blog, they actually had real human beings you can talk to when you have an issue!
(If you're reading this during the Ukraine invasion, support might be limited, since most of the support staff seemed to have been located in that country)
I have personally used that precious chat bubble quite a few times, and the people on the other end have always acted promptly and helped me sort out my issue in no-time.
I have a thing about companies who don’t allow you to talk to real people when things get real. Namecheap having real support, for free, is simply amazing!
Namecheap whois privacy - 10/10
You get free whois privacy for life, right out of the gate. Just switch on auto-renew along with your domain name renewal, and you’re set.
Namecheap conclusion - 8.4/10
I love Namecheap. They have excellent support, a slick UI and a ridiculously good reputation.
The only downsides are that their renewal prices can get pricey, and that they don’t have free SSL by default. Otherwise, highly recommended.
|Ease of use||8/10|
Namecheap gots a combined score of 8.4/10. I’ve been using them for ages and would recommend them to anyone in a heartbeat.
Love the name, the illustrations, and definitely that tagline. I’ve been hearing whispers about this little company for a while now but never really got around to trying them out. Let’s have a look now.
Porkbun ease of use - 7/10
So first, domain search. They had the search bar right there front and center, and I simply had to type and go. I wanted to switch it up a bit this time and decided to create an account first.
Once I signed up they got straight to business. I had to set up my account details, like verifying email, security features, payment details, and other settings.
At first it felt a bit like, “Whoa! That’s a lot to suddenly have to deal with…”, but honestly it was laid out pretty well and didn't take that long.
I then logged out and went back to search for my domain. I wanted to see if something funky happened here too.
The list of generated suggestions were similar to those from Cloudflare, with a mix of variations on both the names and the TLDs. And lookit! They had my domain! Sweet!
I added to cart and signed in again...
Looking good. I then clicked checkout, logged in. And payment options galore!
We have good, old credit cards, PayPal, Alipay and crypto too. Let’s have a look at crypto.
I could pay with Bitcoin, BTC, USD Coin, Eth and Litecoin. You do pay a 10% premium paying with crypto though. And there was a bold bit exclaiming no refunds. Bit weird, being paid crypto is less risky to them then, so why not give crypto payers a discount instead, as incentive, but good to know.
I chose to pay with PayPal again.
Aaand then, payment failed. Something went wrong. Who knows what, there were no clues. I tried again, but no bueno.
I went to PayPal’s status page, but everything seemed OK. Hmmm. I decided to leave it for half an hour or so, and check back later.
30m later: I tried again, and now it worked! These things happen, I know, but I want to be 100% honest with you in these reviews, so unfortunately for Porkbun, in the review it stays. And they lose a point or two.
The dashboard was really simple and streamlined - I really liked the simplicity of it all. No clicking around different screens, just a simple Details dropdown and you’re set.
There were a couple of upsells sprinkled in between, but it was unobtrusive and not that bad.
I did encounter another pet peeve of mine, however - I kept on being logged out every 5 minutes! Presumably because the auth token didn’t refresh or something. And I DID select to stay logged in for 30 days!
I understand logging accounts out for security reasons, but please, only do this after periods of inactivity!
Another thing that was not ideal was the DNSSEC settings. On Namecheap and Cloudflare, I pretty much just had to enable it with a toggle switch and be done with it. On Porkbun, I was presented with this mystery…
The hell? I did’t even know where to begin…
Porkbuns UX/UI confused me a little, to be honest. I feel like Porkbun had the potential to have the best UX of all the registrars, but then I couldn’t ignore the payment issues I had, the constant logging out, and the suddenly-way-to-technical DNSSEC page.
Porkbun security - 8/10
The security options looked top notch. We had the standard 2FA and event notifications, and then extras like WebAuthn and IP restrictions.
As mentioned previously, we also have a screen for DNSSEC under our domain details, but Porkbun DNS did not natively support DNSSEC. That’s why we had that scary looking screen from above. If you want it, you need to set it up with a third-party service(like Cloudflare).
Porkbun SSL - 10/10
You get free SSL with your supported domain, which is awesome. It might take some time to resolve - mine took a day or so - but still, one less thing for me to worry about.
Porkbun support - 8/10
Like the other options, Porkbun support also had a searchable wiki/FAQ. It took me a while to actually find the search input(it’s at the bottom of the screen and looks like it's part of the footer), increasing my frustration and losing them some points, but it seemed to do the job. The support articles also looked thorough and informative.
Then, we also had the option to contact a real human being! Yay!
But, it might take hours for them to respond. Boo!
Porkbun whois privacy - 10/10
As with the others, I got free, standard whois privacy protection. Good show!
Porkbun conclusion - 8.6/10
I feel like Porkbun has potential to be really, really awesome for founders and makers, they just need to sort out a few bugs and issues.
They have excellent prices, streamlined workflows and excellent security. They are definitely a player to watch.
|Ease of use||7/10|
Porkbun scored in at 8.6/10. Shooting for the stars, and with room to grow! Excellent value for money.
Conclusion and final comparison
So let’s look at the final scores.
I guess I’d recommend Cloudflare if you are on the more technical side, and Porkbun if you want domain buying and management to be as fast, easy and cheap as possible. If you value support highly(like I do), Namecheap is definitely your best bet.
I hope you found this post as informative as I did. Until next time, makers!