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Ravelry Brain Implosion, or How to Kill Your Brand in 7 Days

I didn’t want the first REAL meat and veggies post on my site to be about this. I wanted it to be about making stuff. Because that is what I do. However, making things doesn’t happen in a bubble. In order to make things, we rely on a community of other makers. That community needs to be inclusive. No if ands or butts.

Ravelry’s old logo. A pistachio colored banner with a red yarn ball, and the word Ravelry. Also features a small Pride flag.
Ravelry’s old logo, complete with Pride flag to show their history of inclusion.

Many of you will recognize the name Ravelry, and you should. As a knitting and fiber website, it has a shocking 9 million members. THAT IS A COUNTRY. It was started by Cassidy and Jess Forbes in 2007. I have been an active member since November 2007. Would’ve been earlier, but there was a waitlist in the early days.

A woman and child sit on a brown couch, both knitting on double pointed needles. It is a knitting lesson between mother and child.
Here I am teaching Finn to knit on DPNs in about 2007, 2008.

I owe a lot to Ravelry. It introduced me to many new to me crafts. It empowered me to go out and learn more. It connected me with like-minded makers and my core friend group is from their forums. I have ventured hundreds of miles with strangers and slept on a hotel floor because of Ravelry. I grew up on Ravelry. My kids grew up watching me on Ravelry. I BECAME RADICALIZED ON RAVELRY. That’s right. A bunch of knitters awakened my political fire. (Homeschoolers later stoked that fire. It’s a weird world) Ravelry has been integral to who I have become, and their message of inclusion in the fiber community has helped to shape me.

Where am I going with this? I am just setting the groundwork to let you know how much I support Ravelry and want it to succeed. Be patient.

The new Ravelry Logo, a red, misshapen circle with a white lowercase R in the center.
Ravelry’s new logo for their “non gendered” design. BTW It’s a SHE and they call her lumpy.

On June 16th, 2020, Ravelry rolled out a new look to a shocked audience. There was no warning. No community input. And as we would find out in the days to come absolutely zero consideration for accessibility. When I first logged onto the New Ravelry (Nurav from here on), I thought, “Wow, this is overly feminine and ugly. But whatever. I can live in an ugly house.” Within 5 minutes, my mild dislike became a painful pressure behind my right eye. I went to the forums to see that others were having issues with migraines and even seizures! I thought, huh. That is terrible. I think I am dehydrated, and that is why I have a headache. I have zero migraine issues. I have zero vision issues. I am unaware of any neurological issues. As I sat there, sipping water, reading about the update, my headache took a turn.

I lost 24 hours of human time to that migraine. I lost words. I was recovered the next day, but I wasn’t actually fully recovered until FRIDAY. Meaning, I lost almost a full work week of my productivity for 10 minutes on Nurav. I was lucky. There are at least 6 reported seizures from the new site design.

Okay, so mistakes were made. Ravelry has always come through. They would again. Cassidy, eventually, made classic Ravelry an option for those with issues. Only problem is, in order to get there, you have to go through the ANIMATED log in page and click through a website that causes seizures and migraines.

Time ticked on. More and more people added to the voices saying this is painful. People started questioning the beta testing process. Turns out, on a website of 9 million people. The beta testing pool was a mere 100 people. Statistically, that amount isn’t even considered relevant. Not to mention, the invitations for testing seemed to be targeted. They were not randomly sent out. Nor, were they targeted in a way that included a wide variety of users. For example, there are groups on Ravelry that are for disabled crafters. As far as we can tell, none of them were targeted for beta testing. Beta testers have also come forward and said that they told them that Nurav was a migraine trigger. So, they knew before release that this would cause harm to a portion of the population, and went ahead with the roll out, anyways.

A black twitter screen with the following exchange. The Candi-lorian: I get as a web designer myself... I’m kind of meh on it. Accessibility. (Migraine triggers specifically) is a concern with those button colors. Going to take a while to adjust. And that font is almost lobster. Come on now. Cassidy Forbes: Okay I hear that you don’t care for the logo,, but I think maybe you haven’t looked at lobster in a while. Haha lobster sucks The Candi-lorian: I said near lobster. I’m more concerned about the colors honestly. like, the yellow highlight on the teal button. Did you all do accessibility testing? Cassidy Forbes: All the colors have been contrast tested, yup. Lily Draws: Please be aware that contrast testing is a good start but doesn’t tell the whole story. Many people have problems with extremely high contrast, which many of the complaints I’ve read are pointing to (Headaches, eye strain)

Other things became obvious. When asked if the site had been accessibility tested, Cassidy slyly responded that the colors had been contrast tested. Contrast testing is not the same as accessibility testing. Her claims caused users to question if it had, though. A community of crafters is usually going to be pretty knowledgeable about colors.

Shows a comparison between the bright color scheme of the New Ravelry and the same colors in greyscale. There is little variation between the colors in greyscale, if any.

Forums posts were opened up for people to voice their concerns, but replies were turned off, moderators did not respond, and comments were heavily moderated. Then, people started noticing changes leaking into Classic Ravelry and were posting screenshots. The main mod jumped in and said that we were not allowed to talk about classic rav changing because it absolutely was NOT changing. Because gaslighting disabled people always goes over well. Even if Classic rav isn’t changing, and it is a browser update issue, come in and talk about it, do not discredit the observed truth of people.

We are now on day 4 of absolute radio silence from Cassidy, the owner of Ravelry. Day 8 of Nurav being live, and Classic Rav is still opt in. They have stated that they think it is “best” to leave Nurav as the default. Which they have been told hundreds of times across many platforms is putting unaware community members at risk. There are also reports that screen readers are no longer working on rav, making it inaccessible to the visually impaired.

Here is the thing. Accessibility should never have been an after thought. They should’ve had it as a cornerstone of their design. Yes, able bodied people will mis-step. But once you know better, you DO better. By continuing to dig in their heels about this new design, they are telling disabled crafters that they don’t belong there.

Had they stepped up and fixed it, apologized, and sent out the message of inclusion for Disabled crafters that they have trumpeted for EVERY OTHER marginalized group, they would’ve recovered, easily. Their insistence on protecting their design over the lives and wellbeing of their members is excruciating to watch. It is like watching a beloved parent choose their new shiny sports car over their actual human children.

They put out a big ol’ NOT WELCOME sign over a huge online community during a pandemic when EVERYONE is more isolated, but especially those who are disabled. Our lives aren’t even valued enough for people to wear masks, and now we find out that our safe space, our community, our friends, do not value us enough to change a shitty design.

I will not stand by while a community that I have helped build and that has helped build me excludes disabled people. As much as it hurts to watch Ravelry dig it’s own grave, I will grab a shovel and help if they don’t meet the EXTREMELY reasonable demands.

1. Classic Rav needs to be the default.
2. All animations must be opt in.
3. A warning that Nurav can cause seizures and migraines must be displayed
4. An OUTSIDE evaluation for accessibility for whatever final version of Nurav they arrive at.
5. An apology, message of inclusion, and an action plan for going forward with creating an environment of inclusion for disabled people.

Until that happens (and it needs to happen as quickly as humanly possible), I will be packing up my rav bags and getting ready to abandon ship. I suggest that anyone who considers themselves an ally for disabled folx do the same. You cannot be for INCLUSION and actively work to EXCLUDE disabled people. And you are not an ally if you benefit from a community that not everyone can access.

As of today, Thursday June 25th, the sign in page is static with an opt in for the animation. Classic Rav users can bypass the eye scorching sign on page if they enable cookies and have classic rav selected. HOWEVER. They have also published a survey that is not anonymous. Which is really not following best practices with surveys. They also had the survey up and live for about 30 minutes before telling users that it was not anonymous, and there is no way to deselect your choices on the yes/no buttons or slider bar. You can only delete your text comments. They have also been whooshing and deleting ANY posts talking about the survey or update in a less than stellar light. Cassidy remains silent. Mods remain aggressive. Acceptable change remains far from happening.

It is also worth noting that pro trump ravelers will not use this site to boost their story. Liking a politician or a political party is not EVEN CLOSE to being on the same page as being discriminated against because of a disability. Who you support politically is a choice. Being disabled is not. I am enthusiastically anti-trump. So, you have found the wrong audience in me.

EDIT 06/30/2020

Y’all I can’t even with you. I moderate the comments. I will not post anything that is saying that the trump ban is comparable to this. Because it isn’t. Who you support politically is a choice. It is not a disability, and no business is required to give you a platform. Especially not mine.

Also, I will not post ANY comment that misgenders or dead names Cassidy. End of. Even if it is a slip of the memory or the fingers. It will not be posted here.

I also wanted to discuss the Ravelry “apology” that they publicized on multiple platforms, but to be honest, I didn’t have it in me. This has sucked all of my energy and I have been having a hard time finding the energy to create since all of this has started. Which, is a part of being non-neurotypical. But, I couldn’t let it slide by with nary a mention. So, here it goes.

Their apology is extremely problematic and doesn’t address any of the issues. It is very much an “I’m sorry you were having problems, others weren’t. We are awesome, fuck you” apology. Their wording and the way that they stressed the accessibility testing that they did do (which was not nearly enough) made it sound like those who were having issues were a small fraction of the population and were basically just whiners who don’t like change. The emphasis on increased sales and membership reinforced that they ARE a business, and they are interested in one thing, and that isn’t the community that we have all built.

It was double speak to protect their assets and it threw disabled people under the bus. We are in the middle of a pandemic. Any hobby website that isn’t experience an increased interest over previous years, is obviously doing something wrong. As far as increased purchases, hell, before the update, I spent more on patterns this month than I ever have at one time on rav. Because we are in the middle of a pandemic, and I wanted to put money in designer’s pockets and make sure that I had plenty to knit over the next few months. But, that was before the update. Saying sales and enrollment have increased this JUNE means that there were 16 days pre-update included in their statistics.

They even included screenshots, that they knew would cause migraines, in their apology.

So, it is official. I am through with Ravelry. I am leaving my profile up for a bit longer, and I have edited to to say why I have left. It is also worth noting that Ravelry is punishing designers who spoke out against them by unfollowing them on social media, and contacting some of them to be outright argumentative. They aren’t the sort of people that I thought they were.

Also, if you want to read about something else absolutely horrifying that Ravelry allowed to happen on their platform, head over to https://shop.thebluebrick.ca/blogs/test-blog/i-am-leaving-ravelry?fbclid=IwAR2MulW2Ajg1D7YWaup3RCDMiUWibQkrTxWQuR-4qD-HRZgARsK8e1yaAlw

20 Comments

  1. Kit
    Kit June 24, 2020

    Thank you for writing this up and for being so thorough! I have been watching and posting in the feedback threads with growing dismay. It’s so clear that TPTB aren’t interested in fixing the issues, and after reading momcook’s posts about how editors and mods treat the low vision community I have realised that Ravelry isn’t as inclusive as it makes itself out to be. I would have been so excited about the Pride banners two weeks ago but they feel completely hollow now. Since there are no feedback threads anymore and people could die from this I have written to some of the newspapers that covered Rav’s Trump announcement last year and suggest that others consider doing the same if they feel able.

  2. Kris
    Kris June 24, 2020

    Spot on! I am so disappointed and angry. Migraines have been something I have dealt with for nearly 30 years. Never has a website triggered one as quickly as nurav. And that it’s still up is wrong n

  3. Kathy C.
    Kathy C. June 24, 2020

    Hi, so you may not be aware but the light green text on your site with the white background also doesn’t pass color contrast guidelines. Plus the text size of the white text on the green background in the Submit button is also unreadable and doesn’t pass color contrast guidelines. I’m using the Paciello Group Color Contrast Analyser. Clearly, Rav needs to make some accessibility improvements but give them credit for the efforts they have put forth thus far.

    • juli
      juli June 25, 2020

      Thanks! I am working on making it more accessible. Website design is not my forte, and this is my 2nd post. 🙂 I appreciate the input and I will get to work on it!

    • juli
      juli June 25, 2020

      It should also be noted that they are KIND of trying as of today. The sign in page is static, unless you press play. The Classic Rav users can skip the new sign in page entirely IF they enable cookies. And that is where it ends.

      There are no cookies available for doing the bare minimum with no compassion and no communication. Sorry. Rav and Cassidy have a history of dismissing disabled people. Rav is either inclusive, or it is not.

  4. cassiopeia
    cassiopeia June 24, 2020

    YES to all of this. Ravelry can get fucked if they think they don’t have to listen to disabled folks. Thank you for writing this. 💜

  5. Nadine
    Nadine June 25, 2020

    Thank you for this. Being neurodiverse with multiple disabilities I am one of those seriously affected by migraine and visual disturbances. I have lost a week and am still in pain. From Classic Ravelry and after 10 years there with no issues. We (the disabled) need people like you to stand up for us especially since Ravelry are now trying to silence us.

    • Nancy Zuker
      Nancy Zuker June 28, 2020

      Sounds like your 14 months of redesign left out many important parts for a world of people. Why did you think you could do it all without consultation with experts.
      The DAYS I have lost to migraines is staggering!!! And I’m a NURSE. I will no longer recommend your site and yes I notes how your numbers are up. But any organization can make their data look great… I work with scientists that need their work checked everyday. The excuses for for changes fall FLAT just like Trump. Leave politics out. I’m sad for your organization. Nancy

  6. Rose Fu
    Rose Fu June 25, 2020

    Wheres the love button. I’m downloading all the stuff I need before I too pack my bags. I feel like I am in mourning.

  7. Wendy Newton
    Wendy Newton June 25, 2020

    I cannot believe they can’t find an avid UX/Accessibility designer in 9illion people. This is common on dev teams led by dev– they are so focused on making a cool product they mis the customer part entirely. None of this is industry best practice. Typically, they exhaust themselves giving birth to the new site and then can’t function through valid feedback because they didn’t bother to expect it. Project managers are sooo under valued.

    • Alison
      Alison June 28, 2020

      This!

  8. Trudy
    Trudy June 25, 2020

    Does anyone know of a thread or hashtag (ideally Twitter for me) where alternatives to Ravelry ate being discussed?

    • juli
      juli June 25, 2020

      I don’t know of a place where alternatives are being discussed, but there are twitter threads hiding under #ravelry where designers are dropping links to their pages that are outside of Rav. I have heard whispers that reddit and discord would be good temporary places to rehome the social aspects of rav, but I am not on those sites, yet, so I cannot say whether or not they would be good for that.

  9. J
    J June 25, 2020

    You have a very “I’m entitled” attitude. Ravelry is a private company and doesn’t owe anyone anything. They aren’t required to “warn” anyone, they aren’t required to ask for input on how THEY run THEIR company, The depth and breadth of their beta test is, frankly, none of your business. The audacity of your “demands” list is comical. You know what’s EXTREMELY NOT reasonable a little your demands? It’s NOT your company. Let me go on record to say I HATE Ravelry, I hate the way they fractured the fiber community last year out of their perverted idea of inclusivity. I also suffer from migraines, have vision problems and neurology related vision issues. I’ve been on the site a few times since the changes and haven’t had any problems. I’m not a fan of the bright white background but I don’t see any difference at all between theirs and yours. Perhaps less rant, more make would be a good path.

    • juli
      juli June 25, 2020

      You are incorrect. As a website that acts as a business, they are beholden to the Americans with Disability Act (Although individual judges may rule otherwise, the DOJ sees websites as businesses under the ADA) So, they DO have a responsibility to make it accessible. Also, there is nothing entitled about standing up for disabled people. Disabled rights are human rights. But thanks for trying.

    • Isabeau Suro
      Isabeau Suro June 27, 2020

      Ravelry is a private company *that is explicitly community-oriented*, whose owners have been vocal about inclusiveness towards often-excluded groups (at least for LGBT and BIPOC). It’s not profit-oriented; it’s people-oriented.

      And even with sites that don’t care about users, there are standard practices, like having a period of (usually opt-in) testing to hammer out bugs and give people a chance to adapt to the change. And, y’know, not keeping designs that cause seizures.

      You hating ravelry gives you a fundamental misunderstanding of what rav is.

  10. Siobhan
    Siobhan June 25, 2020

    I am queer. I have a migraine disorder. I have fibromyalgia.
    I am a pagan. I am polyamorous and panromantic. I am the mother of a genderfluid adult. I am the mother of a transgender adult. THANK YOU for your honest and open commentary on their unnecessary and perplexing changes. Revelry, when I joined in 2010 was wonderfully inclusive, radical, exploratory, experimental, and open to us all. It seems that those like me are not welcome there anymore, and are being pushed out without words. That’s fine. I won’t give them the time of day to anyone that creates a ‘gender neutral’ logo that is labeled a she.

  11. Teri Hubbard
    Teri Hubbard June 26, 2020

    I left Rav, sadly. Not for political reasons, but because it was obvious the “the powers that be” didn’t understand inclusion. Blatant disregard for an entire group shows the true values of the owners. Such a shame. Ravelry was a happy place for so many makers, now it’s just another area of contention.

  12. Corine
    Corine June 27, 2020

    Thanks for writing this up. It was 10 seconds before my eyes started “bugging” (precursor to aura which is precursor to migraine attack).

    I have just deleted my Ravelry account.

  13. Debra Coker
    Debra Coker June 27, 2020

    I’ve had multiple issues with Ravelry over the years, and I’ve discovered that the owners are rude and don’t care a lick about anyone’s opinions other than their own. They have offended great numbers of their followers many times. Although I still have a page there, I try hard to not spend money on the site anymore. I praying for someone else to get a site going that is serious competition for them so that I can migrate.

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