March, 2018
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



The Launch of a New Chapter Website

MARK GUERTIN

The St. Louis Chapter is pleased to announce the launch of its new website, available at https://stlashi.org

As the public face of the St. Louis Chapter, the website offers a mobile, user-friendly display of the chapter’s membership. Prominent on the site is the “Member List,” where St. Louis real estate agents can go to find the names and contact information of every chapter member who is an ASHI Certified Inspector or an ASHI Inspector.

Designed to provide the public with helpful information and services, other features of the website include the following:

  • access to a virtual home tour
  • links to the ASHI Standard of Practice and Code of Ethics
  • maintenance tips and links to useful resources
  • chapter event calendar
  • online form to contact the chapter or its members

The complete list of ASHI Certified Inspectors and ASHI Inspectors is automated, based on each inspector’s current membership level. Listings for Affiliates, Certified Inspectors and Inspectors are randomized on each page load to avoid giving any one business an advantage based on business name. 

Most importantly, the website is designed to manage most of the chapter’s administrative functions to help the officers and committee chairs in the day-to-day operations of the chapter. The website has a robust membership and subscription management system that manages all facets of both inspector and affiliate membership. Chapter members can use this site to pay their chapter dues, and all payments processed through the website are posted to QuickBooks Online, which eliminates the need for manual accounting. 


The site also has an excellent event management and learning management system. Chapter leaders use the learning management system to validate attendees’ continuing education units (CEUs) and to issue certificates. Other functions include processing applications to join the chapter, managing historical documents and handling requests about how to “move up in ASHI.” The website also houses a library of forms and many other features.

Chapter leaders approached the development of this new website differently from the previous site, which was largely “custom code.” To avoid reinventing the wheel, the chapter decided to use existing apps that could be integrated into the website to manage administrative functions. This methodology helped to significantly reduce the cost, and it will help manage future site maintenance and updates. Plus, the chapter is not locked into using a specific developer to maintain the website over the life span of the site. The website is built on the WordPress platform and the Pro/X-Theme, along with well-supported plug-ins to deliver 100% of the functionality needed.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOUR INSPECTOR OR BUSINESS WEBSITE
We learned a lot from our experience launching a new chapter website—much of our new knowledge applies to individual inspector websites and business websites as well. 



First, you should know whether your website is “mobile friendly” (or what’s known as “being responsive”). More than 60% of searches now come from mobile devices, so having a responsive design is imperative. Responsive web design is an approach that creates dynamic changes to the appearance of a website across a wide range of devices, from mobile phones to desktop computers. 

Did you know this? If your website is not optimized for mobile-friendly use, the search engines will penalize how your website is ranked.

Other things to consider when developing a new website include the following:

  • one, clear call to action
  • text that doesn’t require zooming
  • adequate space for “tap targets”
  • no horizontal scrolling
  • white space
  • design simplicity

Today, most websites are built on the WordPress platform. Choose a well-maintained theme and use a “child theme.” The child theme allows you to customize the site without losing the customizations when updates are required. The St. Louis Chapter chose Rockbridge Designs to develop its site. Rockbridge came recommended by the ASHI Store. For assistance with website design and hosting, contact Rockbridge Designs at admin@rockbridgeservices.com or 609-631-0609, http://RockbridgeDesigns.com/ASHIThey will provide information about custom products and services for home inspectors.