Six Domain Name Registration Providers Tested

Sep/Oct 2004

Our third installment of HostSearch Host Lab, we decided to focus our testing on domain name registration. We selected 5 well known companies of various sizes which provide domain registration services to do a 1 year ".com" domain name registration.
Dotster.com ($14.95)
GoDaddy.com ($8.95)
NameCheap.com ($8.88)
Network Solutions ($34.99)
Register.com ($35)
Registerfly.com ($9.99)

We started testing by sending a set of pre-sale questions, followed by an order for a domain name, testing control panel and provided features, and finally testing support service.

1) QUALITY OF ANSWERS AND RESPONSE TIMES FOR PRE-SALES QUESTIONS

Dotster.com
GoDaddy.com
NameCheap.com
Network Solutions
Register.com
Registerfly.com

A list of initial queries related to domain name registration was sent to each provider and evaluate both speed and quality of responses. This process is to see how willing are they to help us register a domain name. Initial questions are simple such as: "Why your domain name registration is more expensive than others?" "How do I use a different DNS?" "Do I get a discount if I decide to continue registering the domain after the initial 1 year registration expired?"

For Dotster.com, you must register before you are able to submit questions through email form. Others you can submit through support email forms immediately with no need of registration.

Within two minutes of sending out the initial questions, we received an auto-response email from Network Solutions, followed by Register.com and GoDaddy.com. But we never received any mails back from RegisterFly.com and NameCheap.com.

About half an hour later, we received actual reply from Register.com. GoDaddy.com and Dotster.com provided actual replies within 5-10 hours.

The quality of answers was equally high with clear explanation to every questions asked with additional links to explore further on their web sites. We thought it's quite troublesome in the case of Dotster.com to require user register in order send out questions.


2. QUALITY OF SIGN-UP PROCESS AND RESPONSE TIMES FOR ACCOUNT

Dotster.com
GoDaddy.com
NameCheap.com
Network Solutions
Register.com
Registerfly.com

Registering a domain name with Network Solutions, Register.com, and NameCheap.com was easy. Every registration steps are very clear making the process of registering a domain an easy one. Page load time was really slow during the registration process on RegisterFly.com. We even received page timeout and had to redo the registration process all over again.

Page load time on GoDaddy.com is also very slow compare to other providers. Besides, on each page there are many other related products/services to add on with additional cost which may contribute to the slow loading.

Confirmations were sent to us immediately after the completion of sign-up process and we were able to login to the domain admin area immediately. Except in Dotster.com case where we encountered a message saying the registration process was not successful due to credit card reason. But we got a confirmation by Dotster.com team that the order went through with no problem after we've asked about it.

Register.com requested us to fax in government issued identification card along with statement to process the credit card used in purchasing the domain name. This is a step to prevent credit card fraud and to protect the registrant, but it's quite inconvenience.


3. QUALITY OF USER MANUALS AND INSTRUCTIONS

Dotster.com
GoDaddy.com
NameCheap.com
Network Solutions
Register.com
Registerfly.com

Network Solutions has extensive online manual and resources. At your first visit, you will be invited to view Flash tour that shows how account manager works. This makes it very easy to understand to novice users. Furthermore, there's a whole section dedicated to helping and answering questions. The online help section is categorized to Customer Service, Account Manager, Domain Names, Transfer, E-mail, Web Sites, Web Hosting, Private Registration, Web Forwarding, Other Services, and News.

Instructions on NameCheap.com are well categorized and we can choose to view by category easily and quickly.

Dotster.com lists main topics upfront and we were able to view by category or search by keywords. There are also related topics accompanying each question, viewers are also able to vote for a particular question.

RegisterFly.com provides online instruction and customer service section. The knowledge base area is well laid out and easy to follow. One complaint we'd like to make for RegisterFly.com is the horrendous speed compares to other sites.

GoDaddy.com covers extensive range of questions and all are all well categorized. The down side is everything is on a single page which can be very slow to load the page. Manual is also available for download in the form of PDF document.

Register.com has sparse graphical user interface overall, the online manual section relies on search feature which requires a user to select category of service and search key words. While this method may be useful for those who already know the exact question to ask, but may not be suitable for novice users.


4. QUALITY OF ANSWERS AND RESPONSE TIMES FOR SUPPORT QUESTIONS

Dotster.com
GoDaddy.com
NameCheap.com
Network Solutions
Register.com
Registerfly.com

We wanted to test their customer service quality as this is an essential factor in case unexpected matters may arise. We tested by sending out questions about technical domain name setting, DNS issue and the process of transferring the registered domain name out. Register.com and Network Solutions were very fast to respond to the questions. We received clear and useful answers within hours of initial submissions.

NameCheap.com responded rather quickly but not all the questions were answered (we received only 3 answers out of 4 questions) and the answers were summarized as one paragraph and not very clear.

Answers from Dotster.com were very good but the format of the response email was very hard to read as the mail starts with some advert then links to FAQs section before the actual answers to those we have asked.

We, however, never received any replies from Registerfly.com.


5. CONTROL PANEL QUALITY-FEATURES AND USERFRIENDLINESS

Dotster.com
GoDaddy.com
NameCheap.com
Network Solutions
Register.com
Registerfly.com

Network Solution has a very clean user interface, making the site extremely friendly and pleasing to use. With its straight forward control panel layout, you can easily perform tasks. You can also add more features such as Private Registration, Web Forward, etc for additional cost.

GoDaddy.com's control panel is very well laid out, you can find and perform tasks easily from the very first page without having to dig deep into the system.

Register.com has simple control panel with very little graphical elements which does what it supposes to do, nothing extra or out of place here.

The main NameCheap.com's control panel screen seems clutter and messy. After a bit of learning curve, the control panel does what it promises and provides all functions needed to manage domain.

Although the site design seems to attract younger market, Registerfly.com interface is very hard to follow, especially the submenu with white text over yellow background renders the menu nearly unreadable. Not to mention the over all speed of the site which is extremely slow, making the browsing experience a painful one. It has a lot of graphical elements in its control panel. The extra graphics cause the section to load extra long. Additionally, some users may be confused by the whole plethora of icons.

Dotster.com's control panel is easy to use but the lack of the ability to view billing information makes the control panel seems incomplete.


6. VALUE FOR MONEY

Dotster.com
GoDaddy.com
NameCheap.com
Network Solutions
Register.com
Registerfly.com

Although all of the providers provide domain name registration service, pricings and bundled features vary greatly. NetworkSolutions and Register.com are quite pricey for domain name registration with no extra features. Price wise Namecheap.com, GoDaddy.com, and RegisterFly.com are very inexpensive for 1 year domain name registration.

GoDaddy.com provides Start Webpage that allows you to set initial message on the page or even post the registered domain for sale. Additionally you can set making address, forward email, DNS management, Email notification on Domain status, and Owner Info change protection at no additional cost.

NameCheap.com bundles free email forwarding, URL forwarding, Owner Info change protection, and Whoisguard with domain name registration. Whoisguard is the feature which sets domain name to be in private mode and will hide personal information such as registrant name, address, and phone number when someone WHOIS the domain.

RegisterFly.com also provides free 25 Megabytes of Disk Space with domain name registration. But the 100 Megabytes of Disk Transfer limit renders the offer useless for anyone who's serious about putting business online as 100 Megabytes of transfer is just too little.

Network Solutions, Dotser.com, and Register.com put very high price tags for domain name registration perhaps due to their names, long years of good reputations, and fast customer support.


TOTAL SCORE

Dotster.com
GoDaddy.com
NameCheap.com
Network Solutions
Register.com
Registerfly.com

Network Solutions scored highest among the five providers tested here, followed by Register.Com and GoDaddy.com. Network Solutions and Register.com are more expensive than others, but their service and support are top notch. Not to mention ease of use of control panel systems they provide.

Network Solutions would have gotten full score if it wasn't the fact that they are too pricey comparing to other providers in the domain name market.

RegisterFly.com, GoDaddy.com, and NameCheap.com are in the same below $10 range. In our opinion, GoDaddy.com is the winner in this price range, as the price is quite low but the quality of service and overall design can rival those expensive ones like Network Solutions and Register.com.


HOW WE TEST
First, we submitted a list of initial queries to providers, and tested their response time and the quality of their responses. Our questions were simple, for example: "Why your domain name registration is more expensive than others?" "How do I use a different DNS?" "Do I get a discount if I decide to continue registering the domain after the initial 1 year registration expired?" Some providers responded with full details while some simply provided URLS to FAQs on their main sites.

Next, we signed up for 1 year ".com" domain name registration, checked quality of online user manuals and instructions, and then tested the control panels and features.

Our last test was sending out support questions and check response time and the quality of responses to those.
The test was done solely by HostSearch.com's experienced team using our criteria and standard. We are not responsible for any uses of information on this page.

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