entAscc is dead! – Long live Ivercy!

It is incredibly hard to find a good name for a software product, for any product. Big corporations spend serious amounts of money and employ whole teams or agencies to come up with good names for new products. And still they fail sometimes.

I am not a big corporation and do not have huge sums of money at my disposal to pay someone to find a product name for my product. So this really made me struggle. Struggle so much, that in hindsight I have to admit: I failed. At least once. - So I had to make this experience twice.

Only time will tell, if I got I right the second time. But nevertheless, I think you can learn a thing or two about finding a product name from my thoughts on this topic and from mistakes I made. – So here we go…

Why the name entAscc was a poor choice

entAscc seemed to be a good choice of a name when I first though about how to name my source code control solution for Microsoft Access. The prefix “ent” would have been the beginning of the company’s name I thought I would set up for this product. So I thought it made good sense to start the product name with this prefix. “Ascc” is simply the abbreviation of Access source code control. It is a fairly short name, the .com-domain was available and neither this name nor anything similar was used on the internet before. So for me this was a clear, easy and straight forward choice. – I was wrong!

I should have seen the writing on the wall, when people started to ask: “What does this name mean?”, “How is this pronounced?”, “How is it spelled again?” And even more so, when I (should have) noticed, that many more people did not ask anything, but avoided to mention the name altogether. Either because they could not figure out how to pronounce it or because they simply could not remember it. – But I didn’t.

Then I had a consulting phone call with Andy Brice of Successful Software. Only after he told me outright, that he thinks entAscc is a horrible name for a software product, it began to dawn on me, that I might have made a mistake.

Searching for a new name

So I started all over to find a name for my product. Setting up a separate company just for this product seemed not to be sensible any more, after considering all the paperwork and legal stuff involved with it. So this idea was deferred indefinitely anyway and not relevant to my search for a product name any more. In hindsight I think it was a poor idea to try to incorporate a company name into the product name in the first place.

I tried to come up with a new name by writing down dozens of possible names that came across my mind. Tried name finder websites on the internet. - Most of them are crap, but there are some good ones out there like Wordoid. - After that, I ended up with a list of about 15 possible names. I mangled them around, reversed them, tried different combinations of parts of them, abbreviated them, added suffixes, prefixes and so on. Whenever I had something that might be a real option, I checked the availability of the (.com) domain name, which eliminated most of them right away.

Functional name versus fantasy name

After some pondering the problem, I had a shortlist of some six names or so. On that final shortlist, there were two different types of names. On the one side there were functional names like Access Version Control. On the other side there were fictional or fantasy names, that were just made up words, that do not exist in any language - at least not that I know of. One example of such a fantasy name is Ivercy.

As I did not want to make the same mistake as with entAscc I conducted a survey about the two favorites in a small group people from my target market. The results were reasonably clear. Access Version Control was most participant’s favorite because of the clear meaning it conveyed. But Ivercy was close behind and did not receive any total devastating, negative critique as entAscc did.

I asked other people, whose opinion I value, about their take on those names. Several interesting discussions arose from that. And most of the time it boiled down to the discussion of fantasy name (like Ivercy) versus a functional name like Access Version Control.

The main argument for a functional name is that such a name makes it very clear, what the product is about. With a name like Access Version Control every Access-Developer, who knows what version control is, will instantly have a pretty accurate idea what this product does. Such a name will have additional search engine optimization benefits, as a site whose domain name matches people’s search terms will rank much higher in search results than a site with identical content but a different name.

But in my opinion such a functional name most often is a description only, rather than a name. I think, a name should convey an identity. And a product should have an identity. For me a name that does not convey an identity is not a real name.

Some people, who advised me during the process, had the opinion that marketing wise it would be better to clearly convey what a product does, than have a name with a strong identity. Especially for a niche product that never will bear any relevance to a major mainstream audience.

In the end this all boils down to having a name that rather stands for who we are than what we do.

And finally a decision was emerging.

So while it might be unwise to forfeit the enhanced marketing (SEO) power of a descriptive, functional name, I deliberately choose to waive those advantages and rather choose a unique, made-up name for my version control add-in. – Ivercy.

So why Ivercy?

So you might ask, why after such a long process I choose this name. The name Ivercy was initially made up by my girlfriend Sylvia, who mostly liked the sound of it. But after a moment I recognized that I had almost the same name written down at the very beginning of my long list. My variation on the list was derived from “Integrated version control”. Mine was not looking and sounding as natural and so it did not make it to shortlist. But Ivercy did not have this problems.

But while this is and rather subjective argument for this name, there are several objective pros for this name.

· It is short.

· It should be easily pronounceable, at least for someone who is familiar with the English language.

· It should be fairly clear how it is spelled, if you hear it being pronounced.

· The .com-domain is (was) available, which nowadays can’t be taken for granted for any combination of 6 letters.

However, the most important pro for this name is totally subjective: I like the name, I like the sound of it, how it is spelled and how it looks.

So it is: entAscc is dead. Long live Ivercy!