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Author/s Cariad Eccleston
Year/s of development 2022
Many of us will be familiar with Wordle, a popular game by created by Josh Wardle in which the player gets 6 chances to guess a five-letter word. The players gets to know which letters of their guess were in the solution-word (marked by a yellow or blue square) and whether those letters were in the correct position in the word (marked by a green or orange square).
Arguably the most interesting part of the game's popularity is its social element. When the game became popular in New-Zealand, people started share how many guesses they had needed. One player then created a grid of emoji squares to signify her process without spoiling the solution for others. After a share-button was added to the game, which copied your personal grid to your clipboard, it became easy to share and the game went viral. (source for this background is this interview with Wardle on Slate)
In addition to making the game go viral, each grid gives a little narrative that other players can understand. C Thi Nguyen wrote a Twitter thread about this which you can read here. He says that people got to know the game through "incomprehensible little box-chart graphics" but after playing the game you realize "Every game of Wordle is a particular little arc of decisions, attempts, and failures. But each little posted box is a neat synopsis of somebody's else's arc of action, failure, choice, and success."
Now in addition to the onslaught of Wordle grids on social media, my Twitter feed now seems to have one tweet complaining of the accessibility of those grids for every three Wordle tweets. Here's the problem: to screen reader users (such as blind/low vision people), the visual of the grid is read out linearly, which is little more than noise. On Twitter, people beg users to change up their way of sharing their wordle results without the use of emojis. Several programs have been made to convert the squares to a meaningful description. Wa11y, for example, lets readers paste their wordle result into their website and converts it into a "sharable" written version.
Wa11y's code is available on github. I am pasting a snippet of it below this post. The program labels yellow/blue squares as "hasMisplaced" and green/orange squares as "hasPerfect". Thus if there are only black squares (indicating that every letter of the guess was incorrect) it does not say '5 black squares' (or "black square black square black square black square black square" depending on which screen reader you were using) but simply returns "Nothing.", which is a more meaningful description of not getting any letter right. If there are 5 green/orange squares, the person has all letters correct, so the program returns "Won!"). If there is a mixture, it will return which position in the line is misplaced and which are perfect.
Wa11y is not the only program available, so if someone wants to reply with a comparison, go for it!
An example is Wordle Result Image Generator, which generates a shareable image and alt text for the image. Github link.
Another example is WordleBot, which adds explanations to the grid, but is still not useful to screen readers because it still includes all the square emoji's in the post: announcement link (I'm not sure the source code is available for this one)
Now the existence of Wa11y is very good, but sharing the grid of square emoji's has already become a habit for Wordle players and it is the simplest action. Telling every individual to change their behavior, then, will take a long time and meets resistance from players. So it makes much more sense for the Wordle website to provide both a grid and a text-based version for readers to avoid the extra step which is seen as a nuisance. I say both options, because people also share their results privately and if they know they are chatting to can and wants to see the grid, the written explanation is not necessary.
Going back to the narrative arc of the grid that C Thi Nguyen described, I am curious how different textual translations give a different narrative of the game. I was surprised, for example, when blind digital accessibility expert suggested ""Screenshot of Wordle score. Three rows of 5 squares. Bottom all green, middle alternate green & grey, top 2 yellow, 2 grey 1 green" which is a literal description, but arguably does not provide the same narrative. How do you think different programs create different narrative arcs for Wordle? How could this be improved?
There's much more to say, but I am interested to read what others have to comment, so I'll end here for now.
This is a snippet, the rest is available on https://github.com/cariad/wa11y.co):
let explanation = '';
if (!hasPerfect && !hasMisplaced)
explanation = 'Nothing.';
else if (decoded.perfectIndexes.length === 5)
explanation = 'Won!';
else if (decoded.misplacedIndexes.length === 5)
explanation = chopAggression >= 1 ? 'all in the wrong order.' : 'all the correct letters but in the wrong order.';
else if (hasPerfect && hasMisplaced)
else if (hasMisplaced)
const prefix = chopAggression >= 5 ?
const result =
if (chopAggression >= 4)
return result.replaceAll(' and ', ' & ');