Contributed by George Thorsen, webmaster, and Sue Heller, Associate webmaster
As webmaster, I knew that the eUnify Portal would take away a lot of what used to be the meat and potatoes of what formed the topical content of the web site’s homepage. There were always lean times when no one thought to send any information to the web site preferring the more well-established and office administered Newsletter although the web site had a different and larger audience. I never saw this as a competition but rather as two types of mass media sharing the common goal of disseminating information about Lake Heritage and its activities. In fact, the web site includes an archive of monthly Newsletters going back to 2012.
The presence of a password controlled, personalized site like the eUnify, the Resident’s Portal, is a better vehicle to transmit news of a sensitive nature. The Portal has functions that no public web site is able to duplicate such as seeing personal financial data, requesting poll passes, vehicle stickers, discussion groups and viewing detailed financial files regarding LHPOA’s finances. Once again, the eUnify Portal does not compete with the web site as they have different roles but it will take on tasks that formerly were performed by the web site. The Portal will in the future be used more than it is now as we have only scratched the surface of its many and varied functions. Several modules have either been hidden or not deployed such as online voting, classified, and online payments that may become part of the portal experience in years to come.
So, although the emergence of the eUnify Portal is a good thing for the members of the association, it presents the web site’s administration with new challenges, the greatest of which is how to replace what hitherto had been their content. Upon examination of messages sent using the web site’s forms, it has become obvious that a great part of the web site’s audience comes from beyond Lake Heritage. The questions posed are often those of potential home buyers who ask questions such as what are the yearly dues, what kind of rules apply to home construction, what size boat is allowed, can they visit LHPOA property without a realtor, etc. It becomes clear that the web site is the public face of Lake Heritage, its most visible presence available to anyone with an Internet connection.
So, some things have to change if the web site is to attract the number of users that has been increasing year upon year since its creation in 2015, easily numbering in the hundreds of thousands of users per year.
I propose that the re-purposed web site’s new core of topical information include:
1) a synopsis of new articles found on the Portal. In other words, publish the first few sentences of an article and then end with a Read More on the eUnify Portal.
2) an index of the monthly Newsletter
3) special features such as garden of the month or businesses in Lake Heritage (there are only two)
4) home of the month
5) save a buck; a monthly feature which focuses on ways to save money by means of smart shopping, using technology, discounts, energy saving devices, etc.
6) an in depth study of one issue related to governance and by laws reform explaining what is and what is proposed in the way of change.
The web site has new features such as a photo gallery function and the use of photographic images and videos will increase.
The association has five means of mass communication in digital form at its disposal to reach its members: email blasts (now an eUnify Portal function), the web site, and the digital monthly Newsletter. The web site is one of the four. In passing we still have our analog forms of contact: the phone, the US Postal service and signage at the gatehouse. How things have evolved!
For the web site to remain healthy and attractive to its readership, it needs topical content to attract interest. The web site is the one means of mass communication that remains under the administration of volunteers and it works on a shoe string budget. Our staff is comprised of two association members, the webmaster and associate webmaster. There will be other changes in the works as the eUnify Portal’s usage grows and takes on more functions.