How to Choose the Right HOA Website Builder

Are you one of the many HOA administrators who’s responsible for creation of association websites? Whether you’re in charge of your community’s website project or only involved in choosing the best home owners association website provider, you want to make the right decisions and select the ideal options for you and your neighbors.

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So where do you start your quest for the right solution? If you’ve already begun researching HOA website software, you know that you have many options—seemingly too many to sort them all out and find the best fit. That’s why it’s important to take a careful, methodical approach to the process, starting with basic questions that help you zero in on the most important features for your community

What can you learn from studying HOA website examples?

What can you learn from studying HOA website examples?

The best HOA websites do three things really well for three separate audiences that engage with these sites in very different ways.

First, and most importantly, HOA websites make administrative tasks and HOA functions easier to perform, track, and monitor—and that’s an enormous advantage for everyone who’s involved in the daily and ongoing business of a busy home owners association. Second, they provide an online destination for residents, a point of contact and communication that helps former strangers find ways to connect, cooperate, and even collaborate to make their neighborhoods ideal places to live. Finally, they present an accurate and positive face to the world at large, with images and messaging that help convey the unique character, charm, and spirit of an equally unique set of neighborhoods.

So how do you optimize the choices you make so the HOA website builder you select gives you the tools you need to build the website you want to share with your residents? Two specific forms of research give you the background you need to evaluate your options. You may want to split up these research tasks and share them with fellow administrators, especially if you’re in a hurry to get your site online.

One piece of the research picture involves checking out the websites of other communities. For various reasons, you’ll want to include sites from within your geographic area as well as HOAs in other places—and look at the online destinations for home owners associations of a variety of sizes, not just communities comparable to yours.

When you look at other communities in your neck of the woods, you can see how these HOAs highlight the geography and culture of your area, and which kinds of local resources they share with their residents. At the same time, you can start to make decisions about how much—or how little—of this kind of local flavor you want to include in your site. By contrast, communities in other areas with comparable geography give you a window into the priorities that drive decision making under similar circumstances in other places.


Website Example


You can learn quite a bit from the home owners association websites for communities larger than your own—even if not all of those observations can translate directly to your own HOA. After all, large communities require specific types of features simply because they’re large, and they may tend to offer more in the way of amenities or events simply because of the greater number of residents they serve. You may find some interesting pointers that can advance your thinking beyond HOA website development. Meanwhile, communities with comparable populations show you different ways to serve a population of that specific size, whereas smaller communities can provide an interesting contrast and a view of how to do more with less. Look varying implementations of features such as these:

  • Amenity management and reservations
  • Communication resources, including newsletters, private chat, and newsfeeds
  • Document maintenance and online repositories
  • Event management and registration
  • Member directories
  • Online payments
  • Photo galleries and showcases

Once you’ve looked at how other HOAs operate online, the features they provide, and the choices they make, it’s time to shift gears and investigate the various HOA website builders that specialize in home owners associations.

Why not build a home owners association website from scratch?

Why not build a home owners association website from scratch?

Some HOAs begin their quest for the perfect HOA website design with the assumption that they ought to do it themselves, starting with a content management system and some well-chosen plug-ins to add specific types of HOA-related functionality. If you haven’t had experience with a WordPress HOA website, you may think this is the easy answer—and a cost-saving solution—to your needs. But instead of serving up free HOA websites, these DIY projects can require a sizable investment of time and money to complete satisfactorily.

If you attempt this approach, you’ll discover very quickly that as great as it sounds, it comes with some serious disadvantages and drawbacks, starting with the need for expertise and specialized resources. Unless you’re experienced at choosing WordPress themes and plug-ins, you’ll have a difficult time finding all the parts and pieces you need to support the features you want to provide.

Sure, you can put together an HOA website this way, but you’ll have to source and integrate all aspects of the site yourself, learn to use the website building tools, and find ways to meet every need through specialized plug-ins. When you take the DIY approach, you wind up with three levels of provider research to conduct:

  • Appearance—Themes, fonts, colors, and more
  • Functions—Plug-in software and page design
  • Support—Payment processing

One of the biggest challenges of an entire website design project comes when you look for ways to add online payments and the payment-processing capabilities that support them. Along with all the decisions you need to make about the look and feel of your site, the features it provides your residents and your administrative staff, now you’re forced to evaluate the financial underpinnings that will take responsibility for safe, secure, and affordable transactions. This becomes the point at which many HOA website design projects stall, sometimes indefinitely.

What should you include in an HOA website portal?

If you’re accustomed to the type of HOA website portal that some home owners association management companies provide, you may not have very high expectations of an HOA website builder. That’s because many of these property manager websites don’t offer much more than a generic login screen and a place to pay dues. If they tell a story, it’s about the management company, not your community. You won’t see photo galleries that showcase community events, beautiful gardens, beloved pets, or even the sign at your main entrance. These types of portals are anonymous, confusing, and difficult to navigate.


Community Togetherness


Instead of a limited-purpose portal, think of the best that neighborhood websites can offer. Rather than a “log in and pay here” experience, these websites convey the ambience of your community and help all residents—new and longtime—feel welcomed, included, and engaged.

How do HOAs involve their communities in the push to build community websites?

How do HOAs involve their communities in the push to build community websites?

As you research and plan your HOA website, your community can help you out in many ways. For one thing, you can ask for their input into the features they’d like to see on the site, and even how they’d like it to function. But their biggest opportunity to contribute comes when you put out a call for content.

If you want to build community photo galleries, you need images to include in them. Rather than trying to become the neighborhood photographer, look to the people who already take pictures of every aspect of community life: Your residents themselves.

Want to feature residents’ milestones, encourage them to trade recipes, invite them to write news items? Once again, this type of community outreach gives you the opportunity to engage your neighborhoods and your neighbors in your website project. The best association websites reflect the real lives of the people who call your community home.

What's the right recipe for your neighborhood information website?

Neighborhood websites for residents should be as unique as the communities they support. That’s why when you look at community website examples, check for the kinds of flexibility and versatility that enable one HOA website builder to accommodate many communities, each with truly individual needs. You want capabilities that you can transform into many types of solutions, and for that, you really want software that’s built specifically for home owners associations websites.

You wouldn’t ask someone with a bucket to put out a house fire. You’d call the fire department. By the same token, you want your HOA website builder to understand the special needs and expectations of HOAs such as yours. If you have to explain ARC tickets or assessments or member violations to your HOA website software provider, you’ll have a difficult time figuring out how to accommodate these functions in your site itself.



Instead of someone you have to educate about HOA functions and needs, look for an HOA website builder with long, in-depth experience working with HOAs of all sizes, someone who not only understands your expectations but has the solutions to meet them.

What do you need in an association website design builder?

HOA website software begins with the premise that it's there to support your needs and solve your problems. It's built specifically for HOAs, not for the general website-building public, and as such, it rolls in some HOA-specific features that other types of sites wouldn't expect, prioritize, or even understand.

Look for direct integration of secure online payments, for example, with a financial provider that you don’t have to investigate and scrutinize. Instead, the right HOA website builder already has done this research for you, found the ideal resources, and built these services directly into their online payment workflow. Better still, great HOA website templates makes certain that only the payment processor accesses your personally identifiable payment information, and your website itself never stores those data. That approach, combined with the built-in security of the payment process, protects your privacy in many essential ways.

You’ll also want advanced capabilities to handle member integration, including onsite registrations, data importing, and manual record creation—as well as the ability to approve any membership application. Once you’ve integrated your member data, you’ll want to be able to communicate with all or a subset of your members directly through your website, so you can send out recurring newsletters, publicize upcoming votes, and share the news about upcoming community features. Those types of communications typically call for e-mail messaging, but along with eblasts, you’ll also want to be able to text your residents when and if an urgent situation arises. To protect your members’ privacy, of course, you’ll want to give them opt-in control over how much of their personal data they share, whether it’s in a member directory or anywhere else on your website.



Neighborhoods Working Together


You’re justifiably proud of the events and amenities that set your community apart, and you’ll want your HOA website builder to be able to handle online registrations and reservations, including those that involve ticket costs or damage fees. Ideally, you’ll want your residents to be able to sign up for the next food truck visit, holiday fest, or special get together without resorting to paper forms or e-mailed requests—and you’ll want your website to offer the same streamlined online process for amenities as well as for dues and fees.

The best HOA websites begin with the right HOA website builder, one with a modern code base that’s easy to maintain and expand, frequent new-feature updates, attentive customer service, a full array of help and learning resources—and a non-stop dedication to making your website experience a resounding success.

At HOA Start, those rank among our top priorities, and we put our in-depth experience with home owners association websites to work for you in every aspect of our software as well as our support. Ready to build an HOA website that can grow along with you? Sign up for a free demo and see how we’ve created the ultimate HOA website builder, complete with all the flexibility and versatility you need. We’ll show you the feature set and the community website examples that demonstrate how thoroughly we put you first.

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