There are several options available for setting up your online presence. The common way is to create your own website. However, it can be difficult to navigate all of the technical terms you’ll encounter when you’re starting a website for the first time. Today, we’ll compare two of these terms, domain vs subdomain.
What’s the difference between these two? What should you consider when deciding which one to use? Is one better than the other?
Keep reading as we answer these questions and more about domain vs subdomain.
What is a domain?
A domain is often referred to as a “domain name” or even a “website’s address.”
We typically use it to identify or distinguish a website from other websites. For example, our domain name is “domainwheel.com.”
👉 Other popular domain names are:
In a nutshell, the domain is the human counterpart of an IP address, the string of numbers that computers use to recognize your website. Humans aren’t so great at remembering long numbers, so we use a domain name to make it easier to remember where your site is.
If a domain consists of multiple words, a website owner can decide to either have the words in a long string or separate them with hyphens.
For example, if your website’s name is “My Great Adventures in Asia,” you might choose to have “mygreatadventuresinasia.com” as your domain.
Or, if you feel that it’s not reader-friendly, you can decide on “my-great-adventures-in-asia.com,” or something along those lines.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach, which you can learn more about from this guide on hyphens in domain names.
What is a subdomain?
The next aspect of the conversation about domain vs subdomain is to understand how a subdomain works.
As highlighted above, a domain is a unique name that identifies your website. Your domain is the core identifier for your website and is connected to every page of your website.
By contrast, a subdomain is an additional domain component that directs users to a specific area of your website, typically one with some level of separation from your main site.
In other words, a subdomain operates as a smaller version of its parent website and allows you to host different types of content without having to create whole new domains for each one.
For example, if your website’s domain is “yourdomain.com” and you want to add a forum for your online community, the subdomain can then be forum.yourdomain.com. This is helpful because a forum will often have a very different layout from your core site; a subdomain allows both types of sites to function on the same domain.
The same applies if you want to add a support section. Then your subdomain can be support.yourdomain.com and you can design it in a completely different way from your core website.
Below is a real-life example of a URL with the word “blog” as the subdomain.
Here’s another example, with the word “store” as the subdomain.
Now that we’re on the same page about domains and subdomains, let’s look into when you would choose one over the other.
Domain vs subdomain: When to use each
When to use a domain
Domain names are essential for any business, product, or service that requires website visitors and customers, as a domain name is what visitors use to find and remember your website.
This means the most appropriate time to use a domain is when creating a brand-new website.
For this scenario, you should create a new domain to separate the two. This will create a clear distinction between the two brands so that your visitors don’t get confused.
However, if you have a travel blog and want to add an online store where you sell some of the exciting pieces you’ve bought along your journeys, then adding a subdomain might be more appropriate.
When to use a subdomain
Subdomains are often used to direct visitors to different sections of larger websites and can be especially useful for organizing resources in a way that’s easy to understand and navigate.
👉 People usually create subdomains when they are:
- Starting an eCommerce store that’s relevant to their primary website (store.yourdomain.com)
- Adding a business blog to their website (blog.yourdomain.com)
- Creating a resource section for website visitors (resources.yourdomain.com)
- Creating a support section (support.yourdomain.com)
Subdomains can also be helpful if you’re testing out new features or products. You can quickly create the subdomain and test what you need to without it affecting your primary website.
You can also use subdomains for specific types of users or clients. For example, let’s say you’d like to add a subscription or membership area to your website. Subdomains are great for keeping those members separate from your regular website visitors. For example, you might have login.yourdomain.com, members.yourdomain.com, or subscribers.yourdomain.com as private areas for your members.
In a nutshell, subdomains make it easier for people to find specific pages on your website. They also ensure you don’t clutter up the primary domain with pages unrelated to its main message, such as product specifications or customer support information.
Domain vs subdomain: A great tool for clarity and organization
In the end, the main distinction in the debate of domain vs subdomain is how they are used. A domain is how users can find and identify your main website.
A subdomain is used to section off part of your website, allowing for greater flexibility and separation of areas with different functions.
Another way to think of this difference is that while every website needs a domain to act as the main website address, many websites are perfectly fine without subdomains. A subdomain is only meant to be used when you want to create a significantly different experience on one section of your website and/or test new features without compromising the current experience of your site.
Want to learn more about domain names? Check out our guide, domain name types, examples, and extensions. If you’re looking for a domain name for your first website you can also check out our guide on how to choose a domain name.