Samantha Andrews

← Projects

Reflection Questions Web App, 2020

A repository of reflection questions and journaling prompts

Check it out at ReflectionQuestions.app!

reflection questions app

I experienced the power of thoughtful reflection during my freshman year of college when a professor required every student keep a journal. Each week I wrote my thoughts in response to an assigned set of reading questions. These prompts gave me the space to question existing beliefs and strengthen my critical thinking skills.

I decided to publish my growing list of reflection questions and prompts as a web app and share the power of journaling with the world. Included in this repository are over 400 prompts from Dr. V.B. Price at the University of New Mexico.

I built ReflectionQuestions.app over the course of March and April 2020, finally launching it on Product Hunt on May 4.

My process #

As a designer who codes, I started by making several wireframes for the user interface. I used Lauren Hom's WTF Should I Letter site as inspiration and landed on a simple, single-page web app layout that was guaranteed to look good on any device.

Then, I started exploring technologies and libraries that would allow me to build the web app as quickly and efficiently as possible. Since I had already designed the UI as a single-page application, I knew I wanted to use Create React App on the front end. Create React App is the perfect framework for single-page web applications. Create React App also sets up your development environment so that you can use the latest JavaScript features, provides a nice developer experience, and optimizes your app for production.

I also needed somewhere to store my repository reflection questions. I chose Firestore because I wanted to learn how to use a serverless, NoSQL document database.

Due to the simplicity of the feature set, which was essentially randomly displaying a reflection question or prompt when a user reloads the page or clicks the "Next prompt" button, I didn't want to spend time creating a full-featured API with associated routes. Instead, I read the documentation about how to connect a Firestore database to a JavaScript application, and determined that was the best way to get my data to display to users.

With wireframes in hand and technology-related decisions made, I was ready to start development.

I compiled all of the reflection questions and prompts in a spreadsheet. Then, I converted the spreadsheet into a JSON document and wrote a script to add all of the entries to my Firestore database.

Then, I fired up a new Create React App project and connected it to my Firestore project. Getting the data was straighforward and easy. At first, I was fetching all of my database records at once, and then shuffling through them on the front end. This proved to be expensive, and I quickly hit my Firestore usage limitations. So I switched to make a new fetch request every time a user clicked the "Next prompt" button.

Although the functionality is simple and straightforward, I wanted to make sure I caught any errors that users might run into. So I installed Sentry for error monitoring.

The last step was to style the application. I used mostly FlexBox to style the layout before moving on to fonts and colors. I choose two fonts from Google Fonts, Montserrat and IBM Plex Serif and kept the color scheme simple, save for some nice pops of lime green. As a final touch, I added a fade-in animation to the prompts so that they would appear soft and smooth when a user shuffles through.

The end result is a free and simple repository of reflection questions and journaling prompts for anyone who wants to start a regular journaling practice!