How to choose the right website software for your homeowners association
Homeowners association websites are becoming more and more important—and increasingly mandatory—for HOAs across the country. But just because you need an online presence for your community doesn’t mean that you should choose a provider without doing some investigating first. When you select an HOA website software platform, you want a choice that you can stick with, one that will make you and the rest of your community happy, with the right features, conveniences, and data security. So what’s the best way to match your community with the right provider?
Figure out what you need
The ideal first step in this process is the obvious one: Make a list of must-have website features and the options you’d like to have. Not everyone begins this process at its logical starting point, however. You’d be amazed at how many communities simply sign up with a homeowners association website provider without taking the time to figure out what they actually want and need.
Do you want to take online payments? That’s almost certainly a “yes”—but actually implementing this type of feature isn’t as easy as you might think. What kinds of administrative features do you want? Do you want to be able to make parts of your website and its content visible only to residents—or even just to those who are current on their dues and fees? Or would you like to make some sections of your site available to the general public and shield other areas for members-only use? Do you want your website to eliminate the drudgery and expense of using the mail to send out newsletters and dues invoices? Do you want a professionally designed set of visual themes to make it easy to establish an attractive online presence without a lot of hassle? Once you make your list, you’re ready to look at providers.
Check out software providers and feature sets
Now that you’ve tallied up the features you really want, along with some other things that would make nice additions, make a quick checklist and see how well the providers you find online match up with the capabilities you’ve identified. Ask to see sample websites or at least a demo that you can evaluate to determine whether the site features function and look the way you want them to. Inquire about costs. And of course, don’t neglect the central issue of online data security. Remember, you’re getting ready to entrust a lot of personally identifiable information to an online property, and you want to make sure that it offers the kinds of encryption that will protect your information from inappropriate view and prying eyes.
Look for a robust help system
You want a website that’s easy to set up and configure, not one that leaves you feeling as if you’re constantly trying to outsmart it and yourself. To that end, you want an HOA online software provider that offers a truly robust help system. Look for context-sensitive help that you can trigger at any time, regardless of where you are on the administrative side of the site. Check for a well-written, clear, thorough set of step-by-step documentation that walks you through every single feature you could possibly incorporate into your site. If you really want to get down to the nitty-gritty, verify that the help documents actually match the current state of the homeowners association website software. You might be surprised to find that some providers offer what looks like a well-written help system, but it’s so out of date that it only matches up to the way the software operated several years ago and isn’t much help in navigating the way the software you’re actually going to use.
Along with the online help system, check for full-featured person-to-person technical support. It’s important to have well-written help documentation, but what if you formulate a question that the help system can’t answer? In that case, you want easy access to someone who not only understands the software in the app, but can understand and answer your questions.
While you’re at it, look for one more thing when it comes to help and assistance: a set of help videos. Written instructions are essential, but sometimes it’s really productive to see a feature in action, to view the actual screens, windows, buttons, and outcomes of the administrative dashboard. Are the videos thorough, easy to understand, and do they describe features that you’d really like to view through onscreen assistance?
Ask for a no-strings free trial
If a homeowners association website provider’s software offerings interest you, ask for a no-strings free trial. Ideally, you should be able to take advantage of this kind of audition without having to provide credit card information. You don’t want to hurry through your evaluation process during a mere 24-hour tour, or even just a one-week try out. Ideally, you want a full 30 days to experiment with features, solicit opinions from other members of your website committee or your board, and even invite residents to take a look and offer their opinions.
The free trial is where the rubber really hits the road. Not every homeowners association website software provider offers such a trial, especially not for a full 30 days.
Take a look at what HOAStart has to offer
At HOAStart, we set up our homeowners association website software to offer every single one of the features we’ve described here. Our help system documents every step of every feature. Our help videos walk you through a long list of features, options, and procedures with clear onscreen guidance to show you what to do and what happens after you do it. And we offer you a full 30-day free trial, with no credit card required.
Why do we do all these things? We have a lot of experience in creating these types of websites, so we know what communities really want—and we’ve built those functions and features into the software product we offer. We understand that you need to choose a software product that does what you want the way you want—so our free trial really is free. We want you to be completely satisfied with the homeowners association website you can build through HOAStart—and we’re confident that we offer the product you want.