Sarah and Brad here, the people behind the scenes of My OT Spot.
This post is a bit out of the ordinary for us not being a super researched and educational post. Not to worry, though, we’re still working around the clock (on weekends, anyway!) to continue to provide you guys with great, 100% helpful content to guide you through your career as an occupational therapist or OT student.
In this post, we wanted to give you all a little bit about us and talk about how we’ve been building My OT Spot to where it is today and what we hope it will become.
In the last few weeks, we’ve started to see some great upward momentum with visitors to the site and followers of the Facebook community. Our dream of creating this site and reaching people is starting to become a reality. We wanted to share our excitement with you guys who have made this possible!
Making the Big Idea a Reality
For those of you are new to the site, I’m Sarah Stromsdorfer. I’m a practicing Occupational Therapist in Georgia working in the adult rehab setting.
I happen to be a Googling fool when I’m trying to figure out interventions or information about certain diagnoses that I’m treating. As I’ve been doing this, I realized the need for more OT-specific information out there.
So as Brad and I (Brad is my partner on the site + in life) were walking our dog Ellie one night, I decided I was going to go for it and make a website that has the content I couldn’t find.
The problem was that I had NO idea how to begin this process, and the thought of making a website on my own gave me palpitations.
Thankfully, Brad likes learning this kind of thing. After coming home from his day job in finance he would watch YouTube videos and read countless articles and before I knew it, he knew how to put together a basic website.
We spent about two and a half months building the site and writing articles before we “went live” in early May 2016 and have been learning from our mistakes ever since. 🙂
Brad has been instrumental in making this a reality, so I wanted him to share his side of the My OT Spot action.
Starting From Scratch (Brad’s Stuff)
What’s up everybody! I’m Brad Stevens, and I help Sarah with all the technical and behind the scenes stuff for My OT Spot.
When starting out, I had a lot of experience working with computers and software since my job is in banking and finance. I spend a lot of my day doing paperwork, Excel, and email, so this was a totally new side of computer systems I had to learn.
I first started by researching WordPress. To make our site look really professional, I realized we would need to build a custom WordPress.org website. There are other options like WordPress.com, Wix, Square Space, and Google Blogspot, but those did not give us the full functionality and customization I knew we wanted long term.
Picking a Theme
If WordPress is the engine of the site, next I needed to find a theme which can be thought of as the body of the site (like the body of a car).
I spent a LONG time looking for a beautiful professional theme. There are ENDLESS options out there, which makes it hard to make a decision. Not all themes make sense for a blog-centered site we wanted to create. Theme Forest is a popular place to shop for themes.
I first purchased a theme for about $100 that I started building the site with for a few weeks. I quickly realized the design theme was not at all what I visualized the site to look like. I knew we didn’t want to just settle for something we weren’t totally happy with, which was an important lesson early on.
We finally settled on a Pexeto theme which cost about $60.
Hosting the Site
This was one of the more frustrating aspects of building the site. I learned that hosting is basically a physical computer somewhere in cyberspace where our site lives and is connected to the internet. We pay the host a monthly fee to use their hardware and services to provide our website to the world.
A lot of professional online marketers recommended BlueHost, so that’s who I went with at first. Unfortunately, this turned out to be poor hosting for our site since it made our site really slow and we often had issues accessing the site because it was down.
I spent a long time doing research to pick our next host and looked at Cloudways.com, FastComet.com, WPEngine.com, and SiteGround.com. I ended up choosing SiteGround.com because it is highly reputable and more affordable than other plans like WPEngine.
Coding and Customization
I never would have gotten all the little glitches and design elements fixed without WP Curve. They are a great service that you pay $80 – $200 monthly (depending on the level of support) and they will do any small WordPress coding job that takes them less than 30 minutes.
There were also some things that I had to figure out on my own by simply Googling, watching tutorials online, or sending emails to service providers.
Plugins also took a lot of learning to figure out what you need and what you don’t. Some of the more critical ones we use today are: Yoast for SEO, Backup Buddy for saving the site, SumoMe for social sharing, Jetpack for site stats, and WP Smush for images.
I never knew how much time and technical expertise it would take to build a WordPress site. Knowing what I know now, I would not recommend it for anyone who thinks they can just read a few tutorials and throw it together in a weekend.
To build something on WordPress is a serious undertaking that will require significant time investment your first time around. It also will probably cost a few hundred dollars if you need to hire people for the more technical coding elements like I did.
Not to mention, getting things done requires extra effort if you have a self-appointed Chief Distraction Officer like Ellie!
After all this, I’m happy I spent the time and figured out how to do it myself because it’s something I’ve always wanted to learn and I can take my knowledge to build other sites too.
(Side note from Sarah: I still can’t believe how much time and effort Brad has generously dedicated to make my idea a dream come true. I honestly think I would have broken down and cried the minute I tried to figure this all out by myself. Thank goodness I have him as my co-pilot!)
Wow, so there you have it! More than you ever wanted to know about how to make a website! I wish my content writing strategy had more to talk about than cracking open books and research articles. 🙂
All joking aside, the process of creating this site and the articles has been pretty crazy and a LOT of work, but being able to see our site actually be helpful to people has been so worth it. We love hearing from you all and can’t wait to continue to build this site up to where we want it to be.
I want to thank you all so, so much for visiting our site and dropping us a line anytime. If there’s anything we can do to make the site a better experience for you, please don’t hesitate email me at [email protected].
And I really hope to meet everyone at AOTA next March in Philly! If you’re coming, shoot me an email and I’d love to chat!