When he created the free game Wordle, Josh Wardle got six things right, writes Clive Thompson in his Medium column. These six things can be described as design principles for just about any creative endeavor:
1) You don't need to reinvent the wheel
2) Making something as a gift is a powerful motivation
3) Make things for an audience of one
4) Observe what your fans are doing
5) Forget the app store: Make stuff on the open web
6) Engineer for occasional use, not for addiction
From Clive's column:
Brooklyn-based software developer Josh Wardle created it last year as a gift for his partner, who was obsessed with word games like the New York Times' "Spelling Bee". Wardle put the game up for free online in October, and it quickly went all hockey-stick. There were 90 people people playing it in November, 300,000 by early January, and only a few weeks later, about 2 million a week. One survey estimates that 14% of American adults are playing Wordle.
What's the allure? Some of it is just that Wordle is superbly designed: You have six attempts to guess a five-letter word, and you get Mastermind-like clues as to what you got right (and wrong) with each guess. It's social; because everyone is hunting for the same word each day, you can race against friends and commiserate (or crow). After you solve it, you can humblebrag-share an image of your solution on TikTok or Twitter or any socialtube. And because it's a word game, it prompts tons of fun strategy sharing online — including intellectually nifty essays explaining "sonotactics" and the "sonority sequencing principle." Did I mention? It's free.