Re: Web site specificity: opinions?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Thu, 2 Feb 2012 06:03:34 -0800 (PST)
On 1 Feb 2012, at 2:28 PM, Greg Nelson wrote:

> There has been a perennial debate in our community.  Drawn in the most
> extreme terms: some want a minimal web site which just gives people
> contact information and gets them to talk to us in person; others want
> a maximal web site with pages about everything anyone could ever want
> to know about us.

One of the difficulties with where you are now is that you have no experience 
to ground the beliefs about websites. In time opposites like this work 
themselves out.

I suspect this is a fear of being too open and scaring people off. People 
believe that personal contact is persuasive and written information is 
impersonal and confusing.

One factor to consider is if you have a member who is willing and able to 
update the site on a regular basis. If not, it can be expensive to keep up a 
website. If you choose a technology like Wordpress or Google Sites many people 
can learn the skills to keep it up to date. Google Sites has less flexibility 
but anyone can enter information.

Wordpress is infinitely expandable and serve you well when you get to the point 
of needing to store documents. We are almost 12 years from move-in and finding 
the document dispersion a huge mess, literally. We have years of different 
people keeping records in different places or in different ways. The Facilities 
Team discovered that new member (very experienced professionals, however) were 
filing documents by the name of the vendor, Dynatemp, while the previous 
members had been filing them by subject, HVAC.

We stored documents in YahooGroups since the first meeting only to have all the 
attachments stripped a few years ago. Anything not pasted into a message is 
gone. One person set a new list for a team and deleted the old one. History 

A comprehensive website avoids this problem, but you need members to maintain 

> We have brought up a new web site for our community that everyone
> agrees looks lovely, but it moves toward the minimal in content.

I commend you on the website. It is beautiful and very simple. No visually busy 
stuff. But as it grows, it doesn't have to be more complicated. Everything 
doesn't need to be on the front page.

> she
> wouldn't have even bothered contacting us if she didn't already have
> some information about our policies.  (Hearing this, two other
> prospective members jumped in and agreed.)

I think this is typical of many cohousers who are capable of developing a real 
estate project, conceptualizing an ecologically sustainable environment, 
building a workable financial structure, and confronting the reality of many 
opinions in one place. Information tells this kind of person that you have 
thought about these issues. These are the people you need to build your 
community. They think critically, look before they leap, understand the hazards 
of dreams. 

It can't all be done by those who enjoy schmoozing and are good at it. You need 
both. The schmoozers are unlikely to read the website beyond the first social 
event. Put that upfront with nice pictures so they can stop there. Put the 
other stuff deeper. 

> Keeping more information on
> the web makes it harder to maintain (as policies or other information
> changes) and potentially makes the site harder to navigate, less
> streamlined, less "pretty", etc.

It doesn't have to be more complex. Think in terms of moving toward more 
detailed. Broad categories toward more detailed. You might also set up 
categories in terms of your team structure so the website reflects your 
organizational structure. Then when people read the website and transition to 
understanding your governance, it will be familiar. And the reverse. When 
members go back to read the website, they will be able to navigate because the 
structure is the same.

Maintaining does require updating but think about the alternative. As I 
explained above, if you don't put it on the website — your own, not Yahoo's or 
Google's — where is it? As you grow, making updated information available in 
any way other than a website is even more difficult. Where do all those paper 
copies go? And how can members be sure they have the most updated copy? 
Reminding people that we already have a policy is now necessary because they 
have forgotten five years ago helping to write it.

When you evaluate the pros and cons, don't leave out the pros and cons of your 
other alternatives.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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