Monday, June 22, 2020

Ravelry and accessibility - the bloated blog post

(This post gets updated a lot. Last time any sections were updated was December 8 2020 11:19pm ET.)

What this is all about

On June 16, Ravelry launched a new look. This was over a year in the making, and the team behind the site worked really hard and spent money and all the usual other things you would expect for such a huge project. Unfortunately, it became pretty immediately obvious that the site was not accessible, even beyond the usual ways that companies miss on accessibility - there have been reports of nausea, headaches, and even seizures because of the new UX (user experience). As well, it's been reported that the new site is much more unusable with screenreaders. And I'm now seeing reports that the new look is playing havoc with the mobile experience: example 1, example 2.

BTW, if you're reading this and thinking, "Nausea, headaches, seizures? From a website? Seriously?!"...yes, seriously. It is a thing. Web accessibility issues can cause physical reactions. To understand more about how bad this is:

This is obviously very disappointing on a number of levels. Primarily, I don't want people to be hurt. Secondarily, I don't want people to be edged out of using an incredibly useful site. And also, for me specifically, business-wise, Ravelry as a selling channel for my patterns accounted for almost 90% of my sales last year, a percentage that's been steadily on the rise since 2013. Although I've had other sales channels, I always used to direct people to Ravelry by default because of the ease of use for all concerned.

The staff there were kind of listening at first, but improvement was slow, small, and grudging. The staff then began claiming not only that many of the reported accessibility issues don't exist, but that the new version of the site is "the most accessible version of Ravelry ever". Apologies have since been issued, and a commitment to improved accessibility has been made, but the most serious accessibility issues are still in place.

Overall, there doesn't seem to be any real understanding about accessibility on their part, no willingness to bring in expertise, no willingness to believe those who are reporting health issues, and I'm not confident this is ever going to be fixed.

(Incidentally, as a designer, I noticed that activity on Ravelry around my designs - likes, queues, etc. - has noticeably tanked since it became clear the redesign was harming people.)

Other informational resources:

Informational categories


WendyKnits said...

Thank you for the tips! I was quite horrified to hear about the harm the new site was causing. Fortunately for me, I simply find it annoying and glarlingly white/bright. My other issue is with all the new icons, which are so tiny I can't figure out what they are supposed to represent. I searched for a bit for some key to the new icons to no avail. It may just be my aging eyes, but I expect I'm not the only one with the issue!

Marion said...

Thanks for these notes! I'm going to be downloading my library onto a memory stick when I've acquired one.

Just a little heads-up: in your 'What you can do' section, 3rd bullet point, last sentence - shouldn't that be 'you should always get the main patterns page in the OLD look'?

Elsa said...

This is a very helpful post, thank you.

People should be aware that as the feedback form can only be accessed while you are logged in, it is NOT anonymous. This is particulary important as they are asking directly if people have a disability that affects how they use the internet, and then ask for further information. As of this afternoon they added a disclaimer saying that the information will not be shared outside the Ravelry staff, and will "eventually" be destroyed, but no time frame is given.

Zealot said...

Thanks for this. I signed both petitions and was finally able to turn off animation on my phone. They certainly hid that option well.

Now we just have to hope that TPTB at Ravelry stop nursing their wounded egos and do something to fix the problem. I won't be using NuRav when they cut off Classic unless they address the problems. It's not worth getting sick.

Thanks again and happy crafting everyone.

Nadaya Cross said...

Thank you so much for a summary of the issues that have happened with NuRav. I have been following the situation on Instagram, outraged and pained with each passing day. I am privileged that I do not experience any barriers with the new design, but I cannot tolerate the lack of communication, gaslighting, and willful ignorance (seemingly) from the Ravelry team. I started a blog where I can journal my projects, and I honestly needed an outlet for my thoughts. I will be looking at the resources that you provided for alternatives to Ravelry. I want to close my Ravelry account, but I haven’t yet because the idea is still painful and I don’t have the courage just yet.

Again, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your summary, links and the tips— I’d assumed that my eyes were tired from working online & that this was why I’d developed nausea and a headache with the new, brighter white screen and animation which surprised me. I assumed that my vision was responsible for my difficulty with the smaller icons (so ditto, aging & overworked eyes noted above!), and so was relieved to return to ‘Classic’ when that was offered. I’d minimized my time on the site & so not aware of the wider issues/responses, however there’s amble historical evidence of technology having unintended consequences— sunlight through poplar trees along a roadway when the automobile was first invented inadvertently caused seizures for some people (a precursor of strobe lights inducing seizures), fluorescent lights have caused migraines, blue spectrum light measurably impacts endogenous melatonin— and that’s just off the cuff. I hope that ravelry is able to find experts who are able to meaningfully help them amend the site so that it’s able to be enjoyed by all. I also appreciate the tips about how to secure your Ravelry pattern library and stash as I’m concerned that if/when ‘classic’ is done away with, I will selfishly need to find other options. I’ve signed the petition about the ADA, however the other petition had closed.

Anonymous said...

I'm proud of your stance! Many of us are trying to avoid Ravelry for other reasons as well. Also, buried within their community has always been some undesirable things. When I spoke up on this not long after they started the site, I discovered how rude and arrogant the owners were. I really wish Ravelry now had some serious competition so that all of us could get completely away from it.

Velynda Wilson said...

I love this! I am neurodivergent (dyslexic, dysgraphia, dyscalculia) The new Ravelry has caused sensory issues and confusion for me. My daughter, who is also neurodivergent, and I have been fighting for recognition for neurodiversity in an ongoing battle with Pinterest. I also have POTS syndrome with the new Ravelry site I seem to find an increase in the cognitive impairment. I have been looking for a user friendly alternative so I THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.