Article - Why HOA Websites Fail
Few things sadden a provider of homeowners association website services more than losing a client because they feel their HOA website isn’t doing the job. In some cases this is a misperception, in others it is a completely accurate assessment. However, determining the reasons for failure, is not a complicated process at all. In fact, the reasons an HOA website fails are relatively simple.
It helps if the community’s Board and management start with a reasonable set of expectations. Begin with the base reality no HOA website will generate heavy traffic. The average homeowner interest level in their homeowners association simply isn’t very high, our lives are far too full with higher priorities in our business and family lives, and certainly we all have better entertainment options. If you’re expecting Google level traffic to your community website, then your expectations are not reasonable.
While homeowners won’t be logging into your HOA website daily like addicts, they will visit the site if you give them content of value and keep it current. I have bolded and italicized the foregoing because it is BY FAR the largest reason an HOA website fails. You have to make use of it to its fullest and keep it updated. Ask yourself how you would feel if you visited a website on January 16, 2017 and the news stories were dated three years ago? Sadly, this happens all too frequently. You cannot build a website and ignore it and expect it to succeed.
Are you keeping news articles up to date? Are you keeping document libraries current with agendas, minutes, governing documents, etc. so they are readily accessible when a homeowner needs them? Do you have any ACC or other forms online?
A basic website doesn’t do much more than bear text, photos, and perhaps have links to documents. They may have a form or two for filing customer service requests. If you keep those basic items current, you should consider the site successful if you get much traffic at all. These minimalist functions are valuable.
However, current technology allows far greater benefits which add even greater value to a community website IF used:
- Customer Service: Does your website have contact information on it such as the names and contact points for management and the Board? Can residents pay assessments online from the site, check account balances, file work orders and check on status of same? Can they reserve time in community facilities?
- Calendar of Events: Does your website carry an easy to read and search calendar of events so homeowners can see Board meeting schedules, etc?
- Human Interest Content: Do you post photos or videos of community events? Photos and videos create interest and draw users to your site. Try a forum for owners to exchange discourse with each other.
- Board Only Features: Post communications and documents for Board members only through separate permissions/logins to increase communication between management and the Board.
- Cross Platform Compatibility: Be sure your website plays properly on not only PC’s and Macs but on popular tablets and smart phones as well. That radically increases the value of the site and the accessibility of your content. This can be accomplished either through use of what is called “responsive design”, or through other means including development of a mobile version of the site, or even a mobile app.
PUSH DON’T PULL:
In Internet terms “pushing” content means sending content to your users so they don’t have to take the step of checking your website for information. It’s more aggressive and very effective. This can be as simple as an email blast to registered users with a newsletter, or letting them know the latest agenda or minutes have been posted. It can be in the form of a text blast (that’s pretty much all Twitter is, by the way) updating homeowners on an impending storm in southern Florida. It can be in the form of automated emails from a website calendar reminding homeowners of an upcoming event. If you “push” important information regularly through these types of systems, common on advanced HOA website products, you’ll justify the cost whether they visit and produce traffic or not.
Again, re-evaluate your expectations, and your Internet game plan. Approach your website with the attitude that “failure is not an option”!
About The Author: Michael W. Vandor is a 40+ year veteran of the community management industry, and is currently the founder and CEO of the makers of the InstaPage HOA Website system, The Lazarus Group Internet Services, LLC, at http://instapage.net.