You have successfully conquered the first major obstacle towards designing a great product: figuring out what it will actually do. Reaching this point is far from insignificant, you have already faced a number of daunting highway intersections along the way, and have now managed to narrow your options down to a single off-ramp. Although we know that this off-ramp is bound to lead us through a metropolis of valuable experience, we still have a few decisions to make as to which route we take through it. The first decision we must make is what our project will be called.
Giving your project a name may seem like a trivial, non-task, but it is far more significant than you might think. Your project’s title should serve two main purposes: it should convey some idea of what the project does, and it should be easy to remember. Even before these purposes are realised however, giving your project a name marks a pivotal point in the design process where concept transitions to reality. It is far more motivating and satisfying to work on something that feels real, than to invest in something still seemingly imaginary.
Let’s face it, people can’t help but judge a book by its cover, and your project’s “cover” is often nothing more than just a name and logo amongst others in a list of search results. That considered, the best way to approach this task is to search for software that does what yours will do, then imagine your project amongst the results.
Browse to SourceForge.net and type a few keywords into the search bar that you would naturally enter to find your own project. Now take a look at the list of results and give some thought to how your project could stand out from them. Identify titles in this list that catch your attention, and consider whether yours could borrow any of their naming conventions. I find that the most distinctive titles are those that directly incorporate the project’s primary function. Combining one or two associated keywords into your name has two obvious benefits: it states the project’s main objective, and increases its visibility in searches.
Of course the cherry on the top of a good project’s packaging is a striking cover image. On most hosting sites, this is just an icon-sized logo that is displayed side-by-side with your project’s title. Art is not usually a programmer’s strong suit, but ironically it is often the overly complex logos that appear the most unprofessional. Again, have a look at what other successful projects are doing, and try to put together a cover image that is simple, and will subtly convey a sense of professionalism.