Sunday, 12 June 2022

Introducing ... Cardle!

Yes, it's yet-another Wordle clone, this time about cars:

Like so many other fans of Wordle, I'd been wanting to try doing a nice self-contained client-side game like this, and after trying the Australian Rules player version of Wordle, Worpel (named after a player), I saw a pattern that I could use. Worpel uses "attributes" of an AFL player like their height, playing position, and team, and uses the Wordle "yellow tile" convention to show if you're close in a certain attribute. For example, if the team is not correct, but it is from the correct Australian state. Or if the player's height is within 3 centimetres of the target player's.

After a bit of head-scratching I came up with the 5 categories that I figured would be challenging but with enough possibilities for the "yellow tile" to be helpful. There's no point having a category that can only be right (green tile) or wrong (black tile). The least-useful is probably the "model name" category but of course that is vital to the game, and having played the game literally hundreds of times now, it has on occasion proved useful to know that a certain character appears in the target car's name (obviously cars like the Mazda 6 are hugely helpful here!)

It has been a while since I last did a publicly-visible web side-project, and I wanted to see what the landscape was like in 2022. The last time I published a dynamic website it was on the Heroku platform, which is still pretty good, but I think there are better options these days. After a bit of a look around I settled on Netlify, and so far they've delivered admirably - fast, easy-to-configure and free!

There has been some criticism bandied about for create-react-app recently, saying it's a bad starting point, but for me it was a no-brainer. I figure not having to know how to optimally configure webpack just leaves me more brain-space to devote to making the game a bit better. So without any further ado, I'd like to showcase some of my favourite bits of the app.

Tile reveal animation

Wordle is outstanding in its subtle but highly-effective animations that give it a really polished feel, but I really didn't want to have to use a Javascript animation library to get a few slick-looking animations. The few libraries I've tried in the past have been quite heavy in both bundle-size and intrusiveness into the code. I had a feeling I could get what I wanted with a suitable CSS keyframes animation of a couple of attributes, and after some experimenting, I was happy with this:

      @keyframes fade-in {
        from {
          opacity: 0;
        50%  { 
          opacity: 0.5; 
        to {
          opacity: 1;

I really like the "over-bulge" effect before it settles back down to the correct size. The pure-CSS solution for a gradual left-to-right "reveal" once a guess has been entered worked out even better I think. Certainly a lot less fiddly than doing it in Javascript:

.BoxRow :nth-child(1) {
  animation: fade-in 200ms;
.BoxRow :nth-child(2) {
  animation: fade-in 400ms;
.BoxRow :nth-child(3) {
  animation: fade-in 600ms;
.BoxRow :nth-child(4) {
  animation: fade-in 800ms;
.BoxRow :nth-child(5) {
  animation: fade-in 1000ms;
Those different times are the amount of time the animation should take to run - giving it the "sweeping" effect I was after:


As developers we get far too used to working on our own, fully up-to-date, desktop, browser of choice. But a game like this is far more likely to be played on a mobile device. So I made a concerted effort to test as I went both with my desktop Chrome browser simulating various mobile screens and on my actual iPhone 8. Using an actual device threw up a number of subtle issues that the desktop simulation couldn't possibly hope to replicate (and nor should it try) like the extraordinarily quirky stuff you have to do to share to the clipboard on iOS and subtleties of font sizing. It was worth it when my beta-testing crew complimented me on how well it looked and played on their phones.


The site gets 98 for mobile performance (on slow 4G) and 100 for desktop from PageSpeed, which I'm pretty chuffed about. I spent a lot of time messing around with Google Fonts and then FontSource trying to get a custom sans-serif font to be performant, before just giving up and going with "whatever you've got", i.e.:

font-family: 'Segoe UI', 'Roboto', 'Oxygen',
          'Ubuntu', 'Cantarell', 'Fira Sans', 'Droid Sans', 'Helvetica Neue',
... sometimes it's just not worth the fight.

The other "trick" I did was relocating a ton of CSS from the various ComponentName.css files in src right into a <style> block right in the head of index.html. This allows the browser to get busy rendering the header (which I also pulled out of React-land), bringing the "first contentful paint" time down appreciably. Obviously this is not something you'd want to be doing while you're in "active development" mode, but it doesn't have to be a nightmare - for example, in this project I made good use of CSS Variables for the first time, and I define a whole bunch of them in that style block and then reference them in ComponentName.css to ensure consistency.