How to Build an Effective Homeowners Association Website
Has your HOA considered building a community website? If you’re like many homeowners association administrators, you see enormous potential advantages in maintaining an online presence for your neighborhood—and a long list of complications that you’ll need to overcome to make the process easy and successful. Sounds ironic when you think about it, doesn’t it: To make HOA administration easy, you need to work your way through a potentially complex process first. But if you make the right choices, the complexity disappears. Here’s how to work you way through the fundamental decisions and preparations.
Define your intentions
When homeowners association boards say, “Let’s build a website,” what they really mean is, “We’re not really sure how to build a website, but we think we should do it anyway.” The problem of undefined intentions becomes readily apparent very quickly, as well-meaning administrators realize that they have no idea what they actually want that website to accomplish for them.
The Rolling Stones famously claimed that “You can’t always get what you want,” but first, you need to know what you want. Before you make any other decisions about setting up an online property for your HOA, figure out what your unique website needs to accomplish for your equally unique community. Do you want a replacement for a homepage posted on a public social media site? Do you want a way to simplify the process of sending out invoices for dues and fees? Do you want a platform through which to encourage and facilitate private or public resident communication? Do you want an online marketing showcase that presents your community’s unique advantages in a way that will resonate with prospective residents?
One of the easy ways to figure out how to answer these and many other questions is to look at other communities’ websites, including HOAs that offer amenities similar to yours as well as some that are completely different. How much of the content on these sites is visible to you as an outsider? What does each site accomplish for its residents and for its administrators?
Alternatively, you can make a list of the functionalities you expect to build into your website and solicit community opinions about which are the most important. You may discover that your initial list includes things you don’t really need or omits items that you realize are essential. The most important point of this discovery process is just that: discovery, not simply of what other communities prioritize in their websites but of what you really want. Once you’ve formulated that wish list, you can begin to look for the right source through which to fulfill it.
Find the right HOA website software provider
The success or failure of any HOA website depends on the platform through which you choose to build it. Some communities attempt to “roll their own” websites through content management systems, only to discover that creating exactly the kind of online presence they really want is a bit more complicated than they realized. Between setup processes and optional plug-ins, their quest begins to falter, especially when they encounter the complexities involved in accepting online payments.
And for many homeowners associations, online invoicing and payment tops the list of website features that really interest them, for many obvious reasons. Anyone who’s ever endured manual invoicing of dues and fees, let alone manual collection of late payments, can attest to the time-consuming hassles involved in the entire process. But when you attempt to build online payments into a website that you create from scratch, you run headlong not only into the need to research and vet payment processors, but the complex process of integrating these services into your online property and ensuring that the entire setup protects the privacy of your residents’ financial dealings.
Instead of the “roll-your-own” approach, you quickly realize that the ideal solution to the website-building needs of a homeowners association is a software provider that specializes in satisfying those specific needs, one that understands the kinds of objectives you seek to fulfill and anticipates them. When you begin to research these specialized alternatives to general-purpose website development platforms, however, you quickly discover that not all of these providers—or their offerings—are created equal.
Some want to charge you an arm and a leg for a short list of features, and expect you to pony up additional money for add-on options. Others include a healthy list of features, but every site they build looks the same—and some of them look downright dowdy and outdated. Other providers build their websites on an outdated code base that they simply cannot afford to update, leaving you stuck with a site that’s old even when it’s still brand new.
And then you find HOAStart. We’re the ideal antidote to out-of-date code, cookie cutter websites, and expensive à la carte feature lists. Because we’ve been working with homeowners associations for years, we have an exhaustive understanding of what you want an HOA website to accomplish. In fact, we’ve built our homeowners association website software platform to offer exactly the kinds of features you need. Flexible, customizable, secure payment options. An easy-to-use reservation system to take care of amenities and events. Community calendars and reminders of upcoming happenings. All this and much more, with a high degree of customization that enables you to choose exactly what to make public and what to keep private.
Take the easy way out
At HOAStart, we’ve built our entire platform to should make everything as simple as possible for as many homeowners associations as we can serve. To prove just how full featured and simple our platform can be, we offer you a completely free 30-day trial. No need to provide payment details when you sign up. Simply enter your community details, start building your website, and wait for the compliments to roll in. Your residents will appreciate the modern, convenient, private venue you’ve provided them for everything from communication to payments – and you and your fellow administrators will love the built-in ease of our intuitive feature set, vast built-in help system, and helpful tech support.