The masses embraced the online puzzle Wordle by early January 2022. Launched in October 2021, it had 90 users on November 1. Numbers skyrocketed to 300,000 by the middle of January.
Wordle has ensnared the numbers people and the word people, the Scrabble obsessives and the Sudoku fans. It’s easier than the New York Times’s Spelling Bee; it’s free; and it’s one small thing that’s solvable when much else during a pandemic seems insurmountable. A quick timeout where the only variants that matter are those in your vocabulary.Lisa Bonos, The Washington Post.
But things started to take a frustrating turn after inventor Josh Wardle sold his creation to The New York Times in late January 2022. On the NYT watch, sometimes, the five-letter words were not easily or widely known.
Growing numbers of users who are unable to easily guess the day’s word are frustrated and turned off.
Games aside, the Wordle journey holds important lessons for us.
When developing and managing online solutions: Understand your audience. Human-centered design matters a lot for buy-in, favorable word-of-mouth, and return users. Adoption and growth.
But it’s not just about the looks. It’s also about the content and engagement. If the solution becomes too hard to understand or easily engage, you risk losing your audience. Can you afford that? Probably not.
It’s also worth remembering that this Wordle downturn and outcry has happened in less than one month.
The NYT can afford to take this hit. Most others cannot.