Innovators take note: people may want some peace and quiet these days. 

Pre-pandemic, Wordle's design model would have been laughed out of the C-Suite conference room. One browser based site with only one page. No ads. No links. No click-bait. No pictures. No mascots. No plots. No headlines. No widgets, news feeds, hyperlinks or media content. In fact, there's no marketing at all. Wordle has a plain interface, not even sound effects. No tracking of users. No user sign in at all, thus no user data capture. No effort to maximize user time on the site. No selling of related content. No app in the app store, thus no in app purchases. 

How could a user find this appealing? 

Yet, Wordle has taken over the internet in popularity, jumping from about 90 users in November, 2021, to an estimated 4 million as of this writing. It will probably top 6 million by the time this post is up. The New York Times and other news media are analyzing Wordle, searching for its genius. Designers and developers of every type are asking, what makes Wordle so compelling?

Remember the old gameshow hosted by Chuck Woolery called Lingo? Or maybe you remember a board game called Jotto? Think Hangman meets Mastermind. Take 6 tries to guess a 5 letter word. That's Wordle. It is just a simple browser-based game, written by Josh Wardle and named as a riff off his own. A plain interface, devoid of animation, welcomes global players to one game per day. After each guess, the game then shows you if you guessed a correct letter in the correct space, a correct letter in the wrong space, or if the letter is not in the word at all. A simple keyboard keeps track of the letters for you. You can share your results with friends. That's it. 

As of today, there are already about three dozen Wordle copycats. 

For players who cannot wait 24 hours for another word, a different developer has launched a Wordle game in an unlimited version. There is a version that lets you change the number of letters in the word, one where the game plays against you and changes the word as you go, and one where all you have to do is guess one single letter, and you get 26 tries. All but one notorious exception (that was removed by the app store and forced to apologize) are sticking with the basic model of a stripped down web based site, no ads, plain interface, no memberships. Free to play and ad free. 

The answer to Wordle's phenom success may just be its simplicity. People like that it breaks all the rules. Its developer, Josh Wardle, is a software engineer with an impressive resume, who has experience creating viral experiments. He knew what he was doing in deconstructing the norms of websites today to design Wordle, much the same way Picasso was a stunningly accomplished classical painter before he pioneered Cubism. 

Some marketing experts think the stripped down aesthetic of Wordle is the way to go at this point. People seem drawn to the negative space and quiet of the single page site. According to behavioral scientist Becky Ingram, we have pandemic fatigue, information overload, and are exhausted by sign-ins, sign-ups, and user agreements. She told the New Statesman that the aesthetic of Wordle is a welcome relief from the cognitive overload of the internet.