Best Practices for Creating Your HOA Website

Best Practices for Creating Your HOA Website

So you’re getting ready to create a website for your homeowners association, and you want a smooth, easy path from the planning stage through research and preparation, all the way up to the day you launch. Sure, you can work through all the complexities of a do-it-yourself website on a content management system—including the need to seek out and select from a wide range of plug-in software to fulfill all the specific needs of your HOA. But if you’d rather make this task easy as well as successful, put yourself ahead of the game with some smart choices, beginning with a homeowners association website provider who understands your specific expectations.

Start early and plan ahead

If you live in a state that specifies not only that HOAs must create and maintain websites but also specifies the types of content they must share online, then you already know some of the things you need your website to do for you. But beyond those bare-bones legal requirements – or beyond the basics of you envision – you need a plan for what this site will accomplish.

It’s much easier to build the right site for your community if you plan ahead, beginning with what you actually need your site to accomplish. If you wait until the last minute to plan your focus and put together your content, you’ll be in crunch mode. For starters, put together lists of contact information for utilities, school district, and other institutions and providers, as well as writeups that showcase your community itself.

Plan through what you want to say, including whether you want to profile the history of your city, significant events in your area, and other civic information, or whether you want your site to present all and only information about your community and its neighborhoods. Within that community-specific information, you need to decide whether to offer background information or simply focus on quality of life.

You’re always better off if you gather your website materials before you actually need them. That way, you can solicit contributions from other members of your community, polish the content you receive, and even expand your vision of what you want your site to present. Beyond verbal material, you also want to include photography that showcases the benefits and advantages of life in your neighborhoods. Connect with your community’s clubs, from gardeners to collectors, and request images you can share.

Likewise, you’ll want to pull together all the documentation you need to present, including what your state laws may require as well as other documents you want to share with residents and prospective members. You’ll also want the ability to designate some documents for public access while you leave most of your materials available only to registered members who sign in to your website.

Compare HOA website software providers

There’s nothing wrong with creating a website from scratch using a combination of a content management system, plug-ins, and the unique materials developed to showcase your community – except for the fact that it can be a very complicated process with a long learning curve. Now, if you’re a website design professional with experience using a CMS, perhaps this task is no big deal for you, but for most homeowners association administrators, from-scratch website creation goes far beyond the knowledge base and time constraints of a volunteer position.

Instead of a blank slate, look for a software provider that specializes in homeowners associations. You’ll find more than a few options out there, but you’ll also quickly discover that they’re not all created equal. Some use outdated website code that makes it all but impossible to add new features or fix bugs that cause problems. Some of them offer you a “one-size-fits-all” package that’s more like one size fits none.

You’ll know when you found the right option because you’ll have opportunities for hands-on demos and even free trials, and the features you experience will fit your needs like a glove.

Try out the software first

Look for a homeowners association website software provider that offers demonstrations, hands-on tryouts, and even free trials in which you can audition the full roster of features and see if this really is the alternative for you. You shouldn’t have to pay for any of this testing access, and preferably, you shouldn’t even have to provide payment details to check out the product.

If you run into questions while you’re trying out the software, use this as an opportunity to see how the HOA website software provider supports its customers. Look for a robust online help system that provides step-by-step instructions for any specific task or procedure. Additionally, if you discover video tutorials as well as verbal instructional material, that’s a great sign that this provider can accommodate multiple learning styles, which will make it easier for everyone associated with your community to get up to speed quickly.

Handle your member information

Ideally, your homeowners association website software provider will give you more than one way to add member data to your website. For the ultimate in versatility, look for manual creation of member records through an administrative dashboard, data import through a structured spreadsheet-style template document, and individual member registration through the website itself.

You’ll also want the versatility to be able to add specialized data fields to your membership registration form so you can acquire specific information, and even the ability to create custom forms to handle other specific data acquisition requirements.

Invite your membership to join

Whether you decide to add member data yourself or allow online membership registrations, once you have your content in place and your site put together, you’ll want to invite your membership to complete the sign-up process. After you congratulate yourself on a job well done, remember that a website shouldn’t be a static destination, but rather an evolving online property to which you add frequent updates.

When you combine your unique community vision with the right homeowners association website software, you’re ready to build the right website for your special neighborhoods. At HOA Start, we focus on satisfying the online needs of homeowners associations such as yours. We dedicate our many years of experience and knowledge and our in-depth software development to make your website a resounding success.