Today I’m happy to announce the launch of Spellie – a spelling word game for kids.
It might look similar to other word games out there, but this one has a few unique features specifically developed with young spellers in mind.
- Daily puzzles from a curated, kid-friendly list of words
- 3 difficulty levels to challenge spellers of all ages
- Easy mode is appropriate for K-2 and has hints and help
- Hard mode is challenging enough for adults, but with words that any Grade 4 student can spell
- Letters can be entered in any order
- Brighter, more kid friendly colours
- Kid-friendly font (Andika) with either uppercase or lowercase letters
- Alphabetically ordered keyboard
- No restrictions to entering words that might not be in the dictionary
- Over 400 emojis that you can collect as rewards for spelling and imagination
Spellie was born when I tried doing the daily Wordle’s with my daughter Astrid. If the word was one she knew, like ROBOT, then she had a chance of figuring it out. But if it was something like QUERY, she was lost.
So I paired up with David (a friend, former coworker, and parent of 2 kids of his own), and we decided to build a Wordle-like word game that would appeal to our kids. One with easier words and a friendlier user interface.
We went through a lot of iterations and design ideas.
The first prototypes were in a spreadsheet where we tested out various word lengths. We quickly found that shorter words were actually harder than longer words because you get less feedback. This was challenging for young spellers as they know more 3 and 4-letter words – so we added hints and help.
After the spreadsheet prototypes, we moved to a simple webpage. We decided to use alpine.js as our framework for managing state and UI transitions. Once we had the base game working, we slowly added more kid-friendly features like cursor support, hints, animations, and emojis.
We tested different feedback to indicate duplicate letters (which often leads to tricky puzzles) but never came up with anything we loved. It’s something we might revisit in the future, but for now, we’ve reduced the number of the puzzles that have duplicates in them.
Next came the more kid-friendly font and colours. I’m not entirely happy with the colours, but we’ll tweak them over the next few weeks.
The final change was rebranding from Wordle Kids to Spellie. With the NYT acquisition of Wordle, we didn’t want to run into any copyright issues. Our game is clearly inspired by Wordle (like many others out there), but we’ve built it from the ground up to be a completely different experience.
We still want to do work with the user interface, but we’re happy enough with where things are today to launch it. I don’t usually develop software projects in my spare time, but it’s been an absolute joy to work with my friend David on this. Seeing our kids enjoy something we built and improve their spelling has been very rewarding.
Let me know if you have any feedback or want to help contribute.