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Subject: new Hoa website
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JackieB
(California)

Posts:198


08/21/2007 2:33 PM  
we are creating our own website and I am wondering if
anyone who has done the same can share "the horror"
stories or mistakes/regrets that they wished they had
avoided?? We are a community of 140 homes in CA.
MikeS1


Posts:0


08/21/2007 2:52 PM  
It might be easier to allow Community123.com to assist you with this. We did our own website, and we actually like some of features that CIS offers. Check out some of their other sites that they have done. I think that the sites are very user friendly. http://www.hoatalk.com/Forum/tabid/55/forumid/1/postid/2098/view/topic/Default.aspx
JosephW
(Michigan)

Posts:882


08/21/2007 4:57 PM  
The first thing is to make sure you own the domain name. I can't tell you how many people that have called me because they registered their domain through their web designer/host, and now that they want to move the host or because the host went out of business, they find out that the web designer registered their domain in his name and its a royal pain to get control back. In one case the host was now in prison and wouldn't release the name. They had to register a new one.

One headache to look out for.

Joe

Joseph West
Official HOATalk.com Sponsor
Community Associations Network, LLC
www.CommunityAssociations.net

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JamesC
(Maryland)

Posts:282


08/22/2007 6:38 AM  
Jackie:
Go with community123.com
WE are a community of 167 homes in Maryland. One of the homeowners in the community insisted we let his son create our web site. What a disaster that would have been.
Just think of the problems if whoever creates your site were to move, or worse have a falling out with the community. Do the members of your community want the webmaster to control all the functions of your site?
You have to consider many reasons why you should "not" create your own site, and only "one" to have community123.com create it for you.
You get a two month free trial period, and the site is extremely user friendly with the necessary access granted to the community, but controlled, and maintained by the board.
I like the fact when we post an announcement it automatically goes to all those who have registered on the site. (currently over 50) and we have only had the site for about four months.
They set the complete site up for us. Scanned all our documents, and minutes of our board meetings, until we learned how to do it on our own.
Our representative Doug, was there for every question, and they remain available for any assistance if you accept their services.
Good Luck:

Jim
RogerB
(Colorado)

Posts:5067


08/22/2007 6:55 AM  
Jackie, my son is an expert at building websites. Last year when setting up a website for an HOA he evaluated the website offered by community123.com. He recommended their's over having him build a custom website. To view the pages open to the public go to CypressGreensHOA.com. A login is provided for members and a third level of security for Board members. I emphasize SECURITY. I feel it is critical for displaying certain information on an HOA website.
RogerB
(Colorado)

Posts:5067


08/22/2007 7:01 AM  
Disclaimer:
I forgot to state that DARCO is not affiliated in any manner with Community123.com. We are a sponsor of HOAtalk with our only purpose being to help support dissemination of information which may help improve the operations of homeowner associations.
CharlesI1
(California)

Posts:30


08/22/2007 11:59 PM  
Roger B
Can you elaborate on what specific type of information should be on the website and also protected with tight security? Our website is only very general info that most of us already know and the board refuses to allow a forum or a marketplace. Can you offer a reasonable reason to not allow the use of a forum for members to share info among themselves with? Thanks
MicheleD
(Kentucky)

Posts:4491


08/23/2007 5:25 AM  
My biggest reason NOT to use a forum would include the possibility that only a small percentage of homeowners may be online.

A website is a helpful communication tool, however, if your community is not completely wired (meaning that an overwhelming majority connect to and use the internet on a regular basis), then you run into the danger of falling into the trap of relying on the website too heavily and cutting off much of your membership from the ongoing dialog. It becomes a closed loop kind of thing.

It's very easy to fall into the trap that, "we've put it on the website. There! Now we've communicated with everyone!"

Used as a supplement to an already diverse communication plan with your community, a website can be very helpful. It can be another convenient place for residents to obtain forms, copies of CC&Rs, information about rules and regulations, meeting date/place locations, past copies of minutes, that sort of thing.

A forum has the potential of attracting trolls, and I, personally, wouldn't recommend one unless it is tightly controlled. A toxic resident can abuse one and cause a ton of problems very quickly.

If your board is not "on board" with some of the more interactive sections of a website, it is probably in your best interest to start small with a more uni-directional (well, except for email), information-only website and see how it goes.

Once you start getting a certain level of traffic in email, your board may decide to get a little more interactive.

Good luck!

JudithC
(Virginia)

Posts:253


08/23/2007 7:05 AM  
Of course it all depends on where you live and who your membership is, as to how available a website can be. The estimate in our county is that 75% of the homes have computers. From looking at the statistics on the website, many people are using the website from their office so that brings the number up significantly. If one wants to include the nearby library, then 100% of the people have access to the website.

I personally believe in message boards, though they can be a headache.

One of the great things is that the association gets so many communications that by the time the newsletter is to come out, it is too late. All this type of information can be put on the message board in particular so the information that the county and various organizations would like us to distribute, can be distributed in a timely manner. Neighborhood watch items are also time sensitive quite often. This could also be put on the main section, but it imposes more work on the webmaster. Of course, there are some people who are so nervous around computers they give these posts to the webmaster anyhow. Our board at the moment is not very technologically advanced.

We went with a "canned website" first (they went out of business) and found we could not do a lot of things that we wanted to do on it. So, second attempt was a conventional website. The one thing I would pay more attention to is security features and to be able to lock parts of the website to members only. I don't like all parts locked as the more, and prefer most information open to everyone.

One of the side effects of having a full website is it gets you out of a lot of questions by realtors and mortgage companies. If one insists on a copy of your documents you can tell them to visit the website and download it themselves. It really takes a load off (I'm not talking about required disclosure packets here).
RogerB
(Colorado)

Posts:5067


08/23/2007 7:49 AM  
Posted By CharlesI1 on 08/22/2007 11:59 PM
Roger B
Can you elaborate on what specific type of information should be on the website and also protected with tight security? Our website is only very general info that most of us already know and the board refuses to allow a forum or a marketplace. Can you offer a reasonable reason to not allow the use of a forum for members to share info among themselves with? Thanks


We place all of the controlling documents, pictures, maps, and other general information on the portion of the website. This is targeted towards buyers and is used by real estate agents to retrieve all of the controlling documents.

The members only portion contains the financial reports, meeting minutes, ARC form, controlling documents, newsletters, homeowners' directory, and the ability to communicate with the other members who are registered on the website. A website provides another means of providing communications, it is supplemental and does not replace other means of communication.

We do not allow advertising, but some associations do to help offset cost. The forum needs to be monitored to delete troublemakers and counter improper posts if and when such problems occur.
RonaldW
(South Carolina)

Posts:901


08/23/2007 3:58 PM  
Posted By JackieB on 08/21/2007 2:33 PM
we are creating our own website and I am wondering if
anyone who has done the same can share "the horror"
stories or mistakes/regrets that they wished they had
avoided?? We are a community of 140 homes in CA.




"Horror stories"? None. Mistakes? Posting a financial statement on the website (it has since been removed).

I created the bulk of our website in just a few hours using Microsoft Front Page. I found a free hosting site (the disadvantage is limited server space) and registered the domain name for $10.00 per year.

http://indigofields.org/

It's very easy to maintain and update the site. Of course, my background before retirement was in computers and networking so I'm not a novice.

Others have made a good point of having this done by a service and the dangers of not owning the domain name. If I could have registered the domain name in the name of the HOA, I would have but payment required a credit card and the HOA does not have one. I would like to think that I have the integrity to give this domain name to the HOA even if there were future problems.

A point was made on over reliance on the website. I know many of my neighbors who do not use computers or at least the Internet. They are mostly elderly folks who just don't know the value and don't want to put forth the effort. We have to remember these folks and continue with mailings, meetings, etc.

Ron
SC
JosephW
(Michigan)

Posts:882


08/23/2007 4:10 PM  
Ron,

You should be able to list the Association as the Domain owner, and you as the Administrator. Most domain hosts will take either one as the payee. I mange over 30 web sites hosted by doteasy.com (similar to your host) and I'm listed as the Administrator and my credit card is the one guaranteeing them. However, I own only my own domain.

Joe

Joseph West
Official HOATalk.com Sponsor
Community Associations Network, LLC
www.CommunityAssociations.net

*See legal notice below (end of page) or go to www.hoatalk.com/legal
RonaldW
(South Carolina)

Posts:901


08/23/2007 5:13 PM  
Posted By JosephW on 08/23/2007 4:10 PM
Ron,

You should be able to list the Association as the Domain owner, and you as the Administrator. Most domain hosts will take either one as the payee. I mange over 30 web sites hosted by doteasy.com (similar to your host) and I'm listed as the Administrator and my credit card is the one guaranteeing them. However, I own only my own domain.

Joe




If I had known then what I know now .................



Ron
SC
HerbO
(Florida)

Posts:9


09/02/2007 10:37 AM  
Hi everyone...

Our community site was originally built when the 04/05 hurricane season tore through our community in South Fla. I have run it through different boards and situations since it was created in 2003.

I will say there are some gotcha's. Our 04/05 Board used the site heavly and we posted FEMA information, Insurance information, forms and other many useful links so that we could rebuild our community. Looking back at this time, I am thankful we had the handful of people on the 04/05 board who guided us through a most difficult time of assesments, insurance issues and rebuilding the entire 75 building roofs and mansards at a cost of over 1.5 million. We have had many thank-you letters during this time for running the site.

The site was build at that time using Frontpage and has grown into a CMS. A CMS is a Content Management System and this helps us with a secure backend and public front end. Many companies that solicit HOA's use these type of web frameworks now. By having a public front end we can register community members and keep real estate company's and solicitors from seeing our community information but provide the information they need while we can keep specific community information in the secure private side that is only available to community members.

Continuing on with the gotcha's, what I find surprising is that there are sites out there now that publish board member names and phone lists. Our 06 board was totally against this and actually asked us to remove the web site because they felt this an breach in their privacy and that we posted on meeting recording on the web site at the request of our ex 2005 President. Through meetings and discussions with lawyers the site was kept open in 2006 because when I originally registered the site, I purchased the domain name out of my pocket and it is registered in my name. During the 04/05 board, I asked the community to take over ownership but they felt I was doing a excellent job. Now, the 06 board challanged the existence of the site and asked that I close it. There was an out cry of concern from the rest of the community as I was providing a free service that posted meetins minutes and community notifications. While I did not have he support of the 06 board, I had the support of the community. I put a disclaimer up on the site stating it was not the official site at the recommendation of my lawyer!

Now in 2007, I am on the board as a vice president. The current president does not want to officially endorse the original website and has spend additional funds during 2006 without a vote or consideration to the community and purchased a shell of a site that was coordinated by our pm.

So, looking back, what would I have done differently? Nothing... We are still providing a free service to the entire community in which I live and despite the 06 bump in the road, we are supported by community membership in greater numbers than the small shell of a site the 06 board installed.

But at the same time, you can see what pitfalls are potentially possible. I will say this, is that I have kept the editorial side of the site to a minimum and have dealt in the facts, just the facts. Leave inference and editorials for an offsite forum. The website should represent the community.

Regards;

H.
RonaldW
(South Carolina)

Posts:901


09/02/2007 11:27 AM  
Posted By HerbO on 09/02/2007 10:37 AM
Hi everyone...

............. what I find surprising is that there are sites out there now that publish board member names and phone lists. ..............




I don't think board members should hide from the membership. Read the postings and you see lots of complaints about hard to find and unresponsive board members. Being an association officer involves giving up some privacy just the same as holding an elected town or city office.

How do members in your association express their concerns to the BOD? Are their names and contact information included in any news letter? Do they have to wait for an annual membership meeting to exprss their concerns? And what if they cannot attend the meetings?

Although I strongly feel that a membership web forum is a bad idea, I feel that the members should have every way possible to communicate one on one with the board members.

Our names and contact information are posted on our website and published in each newsletter.

Ron
SC
HerbO
(Florida)

Posts:9


09/02/2007 12:04 PM  
Posted By RonaldW on 09/02/2007 11:27 AM
Posted By HerbO on 09/02/2007 10:37 AM
Hi everyone...

............. what I find surprising is that there are sites out there now that publish board member names and phone lists. ..............




I don't think board members should hide from the membership. Read the postings and you see lots of complaints about hard to find and unresponsive board members. Being an association officer involves giving up some privacy just the same as holding an elected town or city office.

How do members in your association express their concerns to the BOD? Are their names and contact information included in any news letter? Do they have to wait for an annual membership meeting to exprss their concerns? And what if they cannot attend the meetings?

Although I strongly feel that a membership web forum is a bad idea, I feel that the members should have every way possible to communicate one on one with the board members.

Our names and contact information are posted on our website and published in each newsletter.




Hi...

I agree with all your content, however just to show everyone how different situations develop, the 2006 board had almost zero communication during the 06 tenure. This is why I decided to be elected on in 2007 as there was almost zero communication and the community was hungry for just basic information. Having served as webadmin and struggling to get factual content was miserable in 2006.

Currently, all of our community members are asked to send written responses for work orders etc. to the management company. This has always been our community standard. All communications will be handled by our PM. I am in agreement with your statement regarding public service equals exposure and a willingness to serve the community. Now that I am faced with being a board member and webadmin, community communication has taken on a new dimension as I continue to field complaints and inquires and maintain factual community notifications on the website. This is why there is strong community support the website as it has served the community from the first day it was setup and allows those community members who are websavy an additional way to communicate other than a written letter to the management company.


So with that said, everyone's mileage may differ and vary in the amount of exposure any one given board may deem as responsible or appropriate. And of course, you get into what is responsible for BOD's in general. All communities should have a responsibility to provide timely, accurate community information.

Since the thread dealt with gotcha's, I would hope that this discussion will show potential issues to those moving ahead and making the decision to run a community website.

H.

RonaldW
(South Carolina)

Posts:901


09/02/2007 2:08 PM  
HerbO,

I guess the difference is that we have no management company to shield us. We are the management company. We also take on minor work such as changing light bulbs, sprinkler head repairs, removing small dead trees, etc.

Ron
SC
DoreenB
(Montana)

Posts:6


09/02/2007 8:22 PM  
I am a new Board member and would like to set up a Website. I see that many are using the
Community123---------but...has anyone heard of godaddy.com? As I am reading this, and not
to sound like a stupid idiot, I should register the domain name as the association and I
will be the Administrator or webmaster? What happens if I sell years from now and move on?
Can someone else take over?
Are all these sites secure? When I register with one who manages the site for me then they
are the ones managing the server?

Thanks for all answers.......
JudithC
(Virginia)

Posts:253


09/03/2007 4:35 AM  
Herbo,

Thanks for telling your story. I have seen for myself the vast difference between how boards regard websites. I think they are a wonderful resource for being able to communicate up to date information to the community, but it some boards seem to think it keeps down criticism or whatever if they don't communicate a thing. I guess it does actually as certainly in my community most people just go asleep. I really don't see the purpose in a shell of a website.

As to the comment about posting telephone numbers on the public area of a site -- I would not do that. If a telephone number of a board member had been given in something I was posting in the public area I would delete it. I believe in being open to the community but not the world. Now, we got a board that won't even put their telephone numbers on the welcome letters, in letters concerning violations, or in the newsletter. I think that is ridiculous. In fact, I had originally written the welcome letter and had to go back and rewrite the words "we want to communicate with you so feel free to call or email us" because no board member wanted their number published and clearly the board wanted a wall between themselves and the community. I was a board member many years and I didn't think members abused their ability to call me or contact me.

PeterR1
(California)

Posts:6


11/20/2007 12:50 PM  
Unless there are some very unique requirements, I don't see the point of a custom made website. If you hire someone to do this job, it's gonna cost you. If you use a volunteer, make sure s/he has the proper knowledge. There are many software/services out there for building community websites. You get a lot more features and much higher quality since it's been tested and used by many others.


Cheers
Peter
JackieB
(California)

Posts:198


11/20/2007 1:09 PM  
I opened this question Aug. 21..........and I am thrilled to say that
Community123.com that hosts this website (chatroom)created our HOA website in record time, gently guided along the way, and has secretarial services that amount
to pennies a month. I have minimal computer skills but no member of our HOA would
tackle the task, even those in IT. Why reinvent the wheel?? Within weeks the site was up, and the first month we had 45 members (140 homes)logged in. We completed a community survey, evaluated the various opinions, and made decisions based on 68 ballots. The greatest accomplishment has been to diffuse the "anger and hostile feelings" the are often directed towards the BOD. Thank you Doug.!!!
RobertZ1
(Michigan)

Posts:66


11/22/2007 7:37 AM  
I am glad to know that there are communities with the ability to move forward with a internet site for members and the community at large, but my concerns are the same as Ronald W.

We are a small (100 +/-) homes HOA, and are a volunteer/chose to join HOA, no requirement to join and no requirement to pay dues (no liens), other than the ability to be kept off the association owned and operated (board member volunteered care, with a hired maintenance company, seasonally)properties. This small park/beach and boat ramp is available to be entered by whomever walks onto the property (locked boat ramp for insurance purposes and liability).

When you combine the VOLUNTEER aspect to being a member and the ability to use the property at will. The joining part, becomes redundant if not ridiculous for some homeowners, who are NOT members. They feel the park is an entitlement ot their homes, even though they are told it is a privilege afforded by being a member of the HOA.

Now to say that a site on the internet will increase membership, or aleviate some of our problems would be GREAT, but at what cost to ALL the current members?

What advantage would this site bring to our NON-DUES paying homeowners who are malcontents for the most part, along with being constant critics with their non-participation in dues (read that as lack of PAYING dollars). These same homeowners support some form of revolt for the purposes of disregarding and violating our HOA Charter and sub-division deed restrictions.

A supposed HOA internet created site (they created) has already been used by a few of these to support their continued nonsensical arguments and giberish, the only point to their languishing words, are THEY are NOT in charge!

Having to continue to fight these arguments with those (casual site member reader) who DO NOT know better has become a fire fight of words every other day. The lies perpetuate onto themselves and therefore give these fools a foundation of sudo truth, how repulsive and idiotic the whole circle has becomes.

Then you say you want to improve and update for the good of all, I have been witness to many an argument that is NOT based on truth but supposed intelligent folks WANT to believe that the person they heard the lie from would NOT lie. Not to them, but when proven a lie, it hurts ALL the HOA for no good. Spreading rumors and inuendo, is very EASY with this medium, and the resolutions are NEVER that!
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