Joe Lesko Game Maker

How to Name an App (or Anything Else)

I've created dozens of apps and other projects over the years, and one thing never gets easier: coming up with a good name.

When I was first starting out, I'd get attached to the first clever name that popped into my head.

For example, let’s say I were starting a pet grooming business. My first idea might be something like Wash-N-Whiskers.

That sounds pretty unique at first. However, after a quick search for the term “pet grooming” in the local area, you’d probably see a list of companies with names like:

(I made those up, but I bet they do exist somewhere.)

It turns out that pet puns are incredibly common among pet groomers, so “Wash-N-Whiskers” would just get lost in the crowd.

In other words, it wouldn’t be the top dog. Or the pick of the litter.

My Current Approach 

Nowadays, here’s the approach I use to avoid “samey” names:

  1. Make a list of the names already out there in the same category.
  2. Put them in groups, to see what the trends are.
  3. Think of new names that break away from those trends.

For example, when I was coming up with a name for my tabletop roleplaying app, a lot of the existing apps had names were literal and techy-sounding, like MapTool and D20Pro.

So I named my app Fabletop — a portmanteau that captures the storytelling side of tabletop roleplaying.

Another Example 

When I was naming my programming language, the landscape was filled with a lot of natural-sounding names like Crystal, Ruby, Python, and Elm.

Instead, I went with THT.

Acronyms like ALGOL, BASIC, and COBOL were the norm in the computer world until the 90's, but are now out of style. So going with an acronym is a bit of a throwback.

Also, the letters “THT” are made up of symmetrical straight lines, which look clean and structured (like the language), and helped define the logo.

Finally, it obviously points to PHP as its origin.


Back to my pet grooming business. How would name it using my current approach?

To break away from all of the cutesy puns, I might consider ideas that sound more serious:

A good, unique name does more than just help you stand out. It will also help guide your overall positioning — a unified approach to your services, pricing, design, etc. that makes it memorable for your customers.

For example, with Animalé, I might go with a minimalist interior design, and make all of my services more European sounding. That perception of luxury means I might attract wealthier customers. Being in an upscale location would also be important.

Asking AI 

Nowadays, you can ask AI for name ideas, but I don’t recommend that. Here’s why.

AI is trained using ideas and knowledge that already exist. So by design, it is only ever capable of suggesting things that follow conventional patterns.

For example, I asked ChatGPT to come up with names for a pet grooming business, and the suggestions were very similar to the cutesy punny names I came up with earlier.

Sure, they’re good enough, but they won’t help you stand out.

Read More 

For more about naming and branding, I highly recommend this guide:

The Igor Naming Guide (PDF)

I also recommend the classic book Positioning.

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