One of the more interesting elements of building a site like this working through the right level of “assistance” to provide a player. The goal, of course, is to make the game more fun for a player and (being pragmatic) do so in fashion which perpetuates their interest in the game. A lot of this thinking went into the design behind our words with friends helper .
We opted for a minimalist approach – enter your letters and we give you a list of possible words. The player is free to play them how they wish – keeping them involved in the strategy of how to put down their tiles while we help out with crunching through the dictionary of potential words. This gives a nice balance of help without making the game too easy…
Naturally, we did a version of the scrabble solver which was customized into a words with friends helper. Same basic design, just optimized some features for that game. Interestingly enough – while I suspect most of our audience is actually playing words with friends, the bulk of our scrabble traffic is on the regular scrabble solver. We actually saw a similar effect on the hangman offering – people tend to use the relatively generic hangman solver rather than our customized hanging with friends cheat.
We did look at a couple of alternatives – the algorithm behind the scrabble helper is actually fairly flexible. One of our early designs actually envisioned a full board solver. From a technical perspective, this would have been fairly straighforward. We would have basically written some loops to generate the additional cells (full board vs. row) and then extended our solver to iterate across the different rows/columns. The biggest challenge, from a usage perspective, is the chore of entering / maintaining every more. We suspected that would turn off about 99% of the audience (based on analysis of a couple of similar sites)…. and thus our simpler approach (which gets a bit more love).
The key is balance – give people just enough assistance that they can win a little more often, while giving them just enough skin in the game that they want to keep playing..
Incidently, we’re open to feedback – if there’s a feature you like / hate / love / need, drop us a line and we’ll take a look at it…