TY Writer wireframe

How I Built ThankYouNote.app: A Tool to Help People Write Better Thank You Notes

I set out to build ThankYouNote.app as a way to test my skills with generative AI technology.

I wanted to create a tool to help people write more and better thank-you notes.

The development process was focused on building the form inputs in a way that was intuitive and easy to use. In future iterations, I developed a custom plug-in to make changes easier. The plug-in provides a short code to place the thank you note generator on any WordPress page and makes the prompt accessible from the administrator dashboard.

I also integrated Stripe so people could make payments to create more thank-you notes.

Creating brand assets and implementing them into a WordPress site took some time but was necessary for a standalone website.

I made decisions about prompt engineering based on what inputs would be most helpful for composing a thank-you note.

In the end, I engineered the prompt to be “zero-shot” so that no training data would be required.

The app does everything I wanted it to when I started development, though there are always ways it could be improved (e.g., more specific prompts or field types).

Some next steps for this project include the following:

  • making the form inputs more inclusive and intuitive
  • adding the ability for people to easily send their thank you as a handwritten note through the mail
  • adding features to enable “bulk” thank-you notes for occasions like weddings and graduations.
What prompt did I use?
{{who-type}} {{who-named}} helped me by "{{what}}".
That made me feel good because "{{why}}".
Think step by step like an expert 'thank you note' writer.
Think about writing the best 'thank you note' to {{who-named}}.
Write {{who-named}} a 'thank you note' that might be best:
Why did I build ThankYouNote.app?
  • Generative AI technology has been at the forefront of my mind, and I wanted to test making an app that leveraged it.
What are some possible applications for the tool?
  • Helping people write more and better thank you notes was something I could quickly get behind, so that’s how I decided to move forward with building the prototype.
What was the development process like?
  • At first, I mostly spent development time designing and building the form inputs.
  • I also wanted to enable payments, so I integrated Stripe so that people could immediately access more thank-you notes if they wanted.
What non-development work had to be done?
  • Creating brand assets and implementing them into a WordPress site. This is a common but still time-consuming process.
What decisions were made about prompt development?
  • I had to decide what inputs I wanted for the thank you notes. I required a “who-type” input to describe the relationship between the thanker and the person being thanked—a “what” input describing what the person did to receive the thanks—a “why” input describing the benefit of the person being thanked.
  • The “why” may seem redundant with “what,” but I recently learned that telling the benefit you received and what the person did is essential to practicing non-violent communication.
What was used for website integration?
  • I developed a custom plug-in that provides a short code to place the thank you note generator on any page in WordPress.
  • I used Stripe payment links, so I didn’t have to build a custom payment form.
How much training data was used?
  • Zero training data. I designed the prompt to be “zero-shot” to prevent having to train a model.
How long did it take to train your model?
  • No training is required!
What are some limitations of the tool?
  • I originally wanted to do something more ambitious with the outputs (e.g., handwriting thank-you notes as an upsell), but I decided to stick with generating text to release sooner.
Are there any plans to improve the tool?
  • I have already added inputs to the form and refined the prompt with the help of some initial feedback. I expect to continue updating the form and improving the prompt as I receive additional feedback.
What’s the difference between this tool and others like it?
  • There are other “thank-you note” generators, but many require signing up before generating any thank-you notes. I wanted my tool to be as accessible as possible, so I decided not to charge for at least three thank-you notes per day.
  • There is also the need for more diverse perspectives in some of these other tools, which rely too much on k-shot prompts or example thank you notes as training data.
What are some next steps for this project?
  • The first step is continuing to gather feedback and using that feedback to improve the form inputs and user experience overall.
  • I plan to add more payment options for people who want to generate more than three thank-you notes daily.
  • I want to provide the ability for people to easily send their thank you as a handwritten note through the mail.
  • I also think there is an opportunity to add features to facilitate common “bulk” thank-you notes for occasions like weddings and graduations.
  • Generating multiple thank-you notes at the same time would be helpful.
  • A feedback mechanism to facilitate a reinforcement learning system could be exciting but likely overengineering for something as simple as thank-you notes.

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