How important is good communication to your HOA community? Most people would agree that it is imperative, but too many boards and property managers are still grappling with the best way to share and receive information.
HOA websites have proven to be a useful communication tool and can greatly improve owner engagement while reducing manual labour for management. There has been a gradual movement from posting notices on a physical message board in the local clubhouse, or mailing out documents, to instantaneously putting everything on an HOA website. It’s faster, more interactive, and easier to navigate. Instead of searching through folders or a stack of mail, board members and owners can find what they need in a few simple clicks. We do so much online; work, shop, chat, etc. Why not pay monthly dues or manage work orders online, too?
DIY or professional design?
If you are considering getting a public website for your HOA, you’ll need to do some research and consulting regarding budget, functionalities and development/maintenance. Whether or not the association hires a web designer will largely depend on how much it is prepared to pay, and how comfortable the board is with handling the development of the site on their own. While there are pros and cons to each, hiring somebody else to do the work for you is going to be more expensive. Building your own site may cost a few hundred dollars, but hiring a developer can cost a few thousand dollars. If you decide to hire a web designer, you may need to pay additional costs when major changes are needed. HOAs that are working with a tight budget may want to explore some DIY options instead.
There are several free or low-cost software programs out there that cater to beginners. A few companies, like HOAMPAGE, have even built their website software to meet the specific needs of HOAs.
You may have the option of trying a platform for free before fully committing, but expect to pay a reasonable fee for your website. Completely free website software may clutter your site with ads or offer very few features.
Look for a program that doesn’t require a lot of technical skill to build or use. The whole point of the website is to make life easier, not more complicated. If you’re doubtful about whether you or your colleagues will be able to make something that looks clean and professional using a certain program, then keep searching.
Features to look for
When narrowing down your options, keep in mind the features or tools you want and need. Each software program is different, and some may not be able to meet all of your requirements (and to be fair, most website software was not designed specifically for HOAs).
HOAs generally prefer websites that can support:
Password-protected pages. Public websites are great because they can double as a marketing site to prospective buyers. But some HOA information should only be shared amongst owners. By creating a private, password-protected page, you can upload items or share even with just those who have the authority to access this information.
Online forum. Find out what issues and topics your owners really care about. Forums provide a safe and private space for owners to voice concerns, thoughts and suggestions.
Documents/forms. By allowing your owners to access documents from the website, they can review rules and regulations, or complete and submit forms without involving the property manager.
Payment portal. These allow for a seamless collection of fees and assessments through a secure gateway.
Homeowner portal. Allow homeowners to create and maintain their own profiles.
Blog. This could replace your quarterly newsletter, or you could accept guest posts from owners on a regular basis.
Contact information. This allows owners to get in touch with the right people, right away.
Events calendar. This resource will help the entire community keep track of meetings, repairs, social events, deadlines and more.
Good mobile experience. Did you know that mobile traffic accounts for approximately 40% of all online traffic in the United States? That number is likely to rise as phones become more sophisticated and websites become more mobile-friendly.
HOA websites shouldn’t be too text-heavy, or have large image files, in order to create a better mobile experience. Similarly, complicated websites with a lot of clutter are confusing on any screen, but are especially hard for visitors to navigate on a small screen. Avoid clutter and stick to a clean design. You can learn more about mobile-friendly websites here.
Top HOA website software
Devote some time to experimenting with website software. Below are three great options to start with, but check out WordPress, Squarespace, and Weebly, too.
You probably know GoDaddy for their web domains and web hosting, but they have their very own website builder, too. GoDaddy Websites + Marketing allows you to create your website, and manage meetings, social media and email notices, all in one spot.
Its editor is very easy to use (though not recommended, it can even be used from mobile devices). Design templates are basic but practical, and you can use a few of GoDaddy’s add-on features at no extra cost. Password-protected pages, and analytics make this a good option for HOAs, even if GoDaddy’s target audience is businesses.
You can start building your website for free, and the basic monthly plan starts at $13.
Jimdo is refreshingly easy to use. It says that anyone can create a website in minutes (but there’s no pressure to complete your site that quickly). All you need to do is to adjust your layout, colours, and add some copy. It is ideal for small or mid-sized HOAs.
Jimdo is free to try, and the monthly fee starts at $19. This software’s strength is its simplicity, but it may not be sophisticated enough for some HOAs.
Wix has an astounding 110 million users, and is one of the biggest website builders out there. Wix gets big points for its flexibility, attractive templates and useful add-ons. You can drag and drop items and design your site however you’d like. Every design element is customizable.
Incorporate events, create a blog, take online payments, and take advantage of Wix’s built-in analytics. Wix is really wonderful, and even though there isn’t a free plan, business plans start at a reasonable $20 per month.
Bonus: Condo Control builds HOA websites
Condo Control helps HOAs operate with fewer glitches by creating solutions that improve communications and streamline operations. That includes making beautiful HOA websites for our clients. Each website is created by an expert developer, or you can use our website builder to bring your vision to life. Our team will ensure your website is responsive, fast, and compliant with all requirements. Our websites are hosted on a secure, reliable server, meaning your information is always safe and accessible.
Almost every business has a website because it allows for fast and affordable transmission of information. People know exactly where to go to find the answers or items they’re looking for. In many ways, an HOA is like a business, and as such, most associations will benefit from having their own website.