Re: Web site specificity: opinions?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 4 Feb 2012 11:19:47 -0800 (PST)
On 3 Feb 2012, at 7:51 PM, Mariana Almeida wrote:

> What I would include on the site are potential deal breakers: like no dogs or 
> cats, or no wheelchair accessible common house, no meat, huge deposit, or 
> something else like that which would immediately be used to screen people out.

I think there are two different questions to address here — one is for a group 
that is not even built yet, and one that is established. 

For a community that is still forming, a detailed website can tell someone 
whether this is a serious group of grown ups who have the ability to pull this 
off or not. Is it worth my time? Do I even want to go to a meeting?

Some people lurk for a very long time before ever making contact. If they have 
only a minimum amount of information, they see no progress and go away. One 
woman told me she watched the website and lurked on the email list for a year 
before  making any contact at all.
> I needed to see your policies before I even considered your community. I 
> really doubt this was a make or break, even if they say so now. I don't know 
> which policy they meant, but it would need to be pretty fundamental one (e.g. 
> no dogs) to count as a screening point.

I think it isn't really about screening — pets, children, and schools are 
probably screens — but it's the tone and the openness also. If the website 
gives the sense of being impersonal and "empty", it can't keep people at the 
site long enough to remember it exists.

>       * Something about the make up of the community, but still general (17 
> adults, 9 children aged X toY). Professions include...blah, blah, blah.People 
> love to read detail about something they desire. Someone else mentioned 
> having visited a website of a community they adored from afar before moving 
> in. But I question if the website detail really added that much to a very 
> human, very transactional process of getting to know folks and looking them 
> in the eye before deciding to live there. 
>       * The general layout of the community, an image would nice. 
>       * Something about the time commitment
>       * Values, etc. 
>       * That you do have policies and something about the governing structure
>       * The size of the unit, location, any unusual terms having to do with 
> sales. 
>       * Not much else. 

All this and AS MUCH OF THE LOCATION AS YOU KNOW. Seems obvious, but I've been 
on sites where I didn't even know which continent they are on — literally. You 
may not know the street address or even the street yet but get something on 

A good point that you aren't creating demand but building on what people may 
already have heard about cohousing. So include links that tell them what 
cohousing is. The Coho US site is convincing evidence that cohousing is an 
established concept.

Forming communities won't have all of the things on the list so they have to 
compensate. It has been reported consistently on Cohousing-L that the "who we 
are" pages are very popular. Is there anyone like me? Are there people there 
who share my interests? That's what some people want to know first.

> I just don't see cohousing community websites as being able to stoke demand 
> where there isn't any. I think they let people know that you exist, you're 
> organized enough to have a website, that you're looking for members. The rest 
> is face to face. Those who want all-volunteer endeavors to have as rich as 
> web presence as stores are just misguided. 

I don't think "rich" is the issue as much as openness and as much as is known. 
In fact, if a site looks too professional it can turn off the people looking 
for a neighborhood and a community of people. It will look to polished and 
markety and commercial. It also won't be sustainable by community members. Even 
if you have a professional in the group, they may not want to come home and do 
more webwork. One community had horrible difficulties with their site and email 
list because it was maintained by a professional designer member and he didn't 
consider it priority work. No one else could step in.

People are busy, and cautious. They need to know who you are. And I repeat my 
oft repeated number — 10% of our initial members moved here from out of the 
area, at least 3 households from more than 3 states away. They aren't going to 
be dropping in to pot lucks or orientations. I already knew the area but I was 
in town and had met the group only twice before I moved here to move in. 
(Move-in was delayed so I was in a rented room for 3 months.)

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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