My Trust Issues with Small Businesses and Custom Domains

I got a referral the other day to a physical therapist that is good with backs. A literal paper business card. This email was something like this:

Now I’m an indie-web kinda guy for the most part. I’m all about people owning their own websites and taking control over their little slice of the web. And yet. My trust level with random small businesses managing their own email on their own domain is super low. I get this little twang of distrust when I have to type in an email address like this.


Their email was busted.

It could have been anything. They could have let their domain name lapse. The DNS (MX) records could have gotten screwed up somehow. They could have been trying to move to GSuite, for example, and gotten those records wrong. They could be moving hosts and something got funky. Who knows.

That stuff is complicated for me, and I’ve been working on the web for decades.

That’s why even though I like the idea of doing as much as you can yourself on the web, I think using a managed email service is a smart move for most. Even if you do “do it yourself”, you’re leaning on so much rented technology anyway, it’s not that different.

If I see an email like: – all my doubt is gone on if they are actually going to get that message or not. Heck, I even prefer just seeing an email like that on the website itself (rather than a contact form), because the contact form is just one more bit of technology that can go wrong.

I get the desire to have email on your own domain as well. “It looks more professional” I was just told the other week by someone I was helping out with a website. But there are other pokes too. Like if that small business uses MailChimp, MailChimp will literally tell you that your “from:” email address should be your own domain, not something like Gmail.

The middle-ground for me is using my own domain, but using Gmail on top of it. So I still have to deal with MX records, but once it’s set up correctly, I just never change it. It works for every company I run and every project I have that has a custom domain and email.

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