By David Bradley, FRONTSTEPS
Public websites are a mainstay for community associations. Yet just because websites are common does not mean they are effective. This article examines some of the ways a community website can deliver value for an association and shares tips for unlocking that value otherwise known as the return on investment (ROI)
- Answering common questions.
HOA boards often receive an enormous volume of mail from their residents, frequently about the same topics. How do I submit a work order? Where are the minutes from the last board meeting? When does the pool open for the season? It can be a challenge to keep up with the volume, and yet any delays in responding can cause frustration by residents who feel ‘ignored’ or not like a priority.
Some of this information can and should be posted directly to the community’s website, for easy, anytime access. More sensitive information may be reserved for the secure resident portal. Yet even that secure information can be mentioned on the public website with instructions for signing into the portal to see it if desired.
According to a recent study, 8 in 10 community association managers (CAMs) reported that the volume of homeowner questions increased in 2022 Those CAMs also shared that homeowner communications are the most time-consuming part of their job. A well designed, easy to find, and informational website can take a significant amount of that burden off the board members and CAMs
- Ensuring on-time payments. Assessments are one of the most frequent interactions between community residents and the board or management company. Despite their ubiquity, homeowner assessments are still notoriously cumbersome in too many cases.
Most associations have a method of paying assessments online and this is often the fastest and most convenient payment option available. However, the online payment method must be readily available for it to get used. One shortcut is to put the online payments link in a prominent place on your public website. Another important tip is to offer multiple means of completing an online payment. Some residents will prefer to pay a one-time assessment and will want the minimum steps to complete that task. Others prefer to schedule recurring payments, so they no longer have to worry about a check arriving on time. In most cases that can be done through their secure homeowner portal or mobile app, and instructions for accessing both should be readily available from your public website.
- Getting residents set up in their portal.
Which brings us to the final, and perhaps most important, function of a public website. The website plays an important role covering the most common questions and giving a range of visitors (vendors, guests, potential future owners, etc.) basic information to help them plan a trip or provide a service to the community. It is also a common jumping off point for residents, particularly new residents just getting things set up, such as their approach to paying assessments.
However, just as important is recognizing what a website should not do for your community. A website is not well equipped to serve as the primary communication vehicle between the board and homeowners, particularly for time-sensitive matters such as common area repairs, weather closures, and community events. It is generally not an appropriate place for storing and sharing sensitive community documents,. Those tasks, and others like them, are tailor-made for a homeowner portal and mobile app. Your website should not seem like a substitute for a secure online portal because residents who stay at the surface might be caught off guard by road closures, miss out on neighborhood barbeques, and otherwise feel left out from the advantages of community living.
Instead, the two experiences complement one another, with the public website serving as an entry point for anyone related to the community and the portal a deeper, richer experience for the residents living there day to day.
Websites can deliver significant benefits. Getting the most value from yours starts by understanding the most important roles that website should play, as well as by recognizing their limits.
David Bradley oversees the product strategy for FRONTSTEPS’ widely used HOA management suite, including FRONTSTEPS Caliber, Community, Payments, and Dwelling. FRONTSTEPS is the most complete, connected, and homeowner-friendly software on the market, running everything from a community’s front gates to its back office in one cloud. Learn more at frontsteps.com.