Monday, June 22, 2020

Problem and tips and resulting changes here

(This post keeps getting updated. Last update was June 29 9:21pm ET. Note that there is now a PETITION for Ravelry to hire accessibility expertise; please see the 'What you can do on your own' area of the post for more info.)


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 into 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).

(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 have other sales channels, I've always directed people to Ravelry first because of the ease of use for all concerned.

The staff there are kind of listening, but improvement is slow, small, and grudging. One staff member in particular has been consistently gaslighting and making microaggressions in their communication, which is very negatively affecting the site's reputation. Overall, there doesn't seem to be any real understanding about accessibility on their part, and I'm not confident this is going to be fixed anytime soon. I'm obviously not happy about this - for one thing, activity on Ravelry around my designs (likes, queues, sales, etc.) has noticeably tanked since it became clear the redesign was harming people.

Other informational resources:


Tips for making Ravelry less awful for users having problems (loads of good resources here)


What the staff have been doing (last broad communication was on June 26)

Animation on the login screen has been stopped, and this is the default. There is also now a Play button to activate it. When activated, the Play button becomes a Pause button to turn off the animation again. Note that the animation doesn't truly pause, it just snaps you back to the still image, so there is probably going to be a sudden "leap" of the balloons and animals back to their starting position when you hit Pause.

There is also now a toggle for users to switch back to the old look. This is being referred to as "Classic Ravelry". However, there are some problems with this:
  • There is widespread reporting from users that this Classic look you can toggle back to is not identical to the pre-redesign Ravelry. It looks extremely similar to many people, but it, like the redesign, is still causing health issues. (I remember seeing a post in one of the forum threads explaining how the staff had technically achieved the toggle, and that this hack was not the same thing as truly reverting back to the original look; if I find that explanation again I will post it here - however, this tweet by @sdeutsh summarizes the issue.) Note that Ravelry continues to refuse to roll back the new look nor offer it as opt-in with the original UX as the default.
  • Before you log in and toggle your settings to Classic, the new look is the only one available for the login screen. However, once you are in and toggled over to Classic, a cookie on your machine will be set so that the next time you go to the login screen, you will see it in Classic.
  • Even if you're already logged in, you have to experience the new look of the site before you can access the toggle (although see the 'What you can do' part of this post for a way to get around that). 
  • Also unfortunately, it appears that they eventually want to remove the toggle, as they have promised to give users six months' notice before doing so.
  • The log out screen is always in the new look.
Other key updates so far include:

  • There are no bouncy yarn ball animations when you buy a pattern from Ravelry when you're not logged in. (This is good news for designers who may be directing non-Rav users to Ravelry for purchase of their patterns.)
  • Visual changes have been made to the forums - I don't know how much of a difference this is making for people, but one user posted, "beautiful, have eliminated most of my nystagmus response."
  • There are two new settings in the accessibility section of your preferences (one of the tabs when you're editing your profile): The ability to get rid of the black drop shadows site-wide, and the ability to switch the font display among Inter, your system default sans-serif font, or Helvetica. However, these are opt-in, and also, you can only set these options if you are toggled to the new Ravelry - they disappear if you've toggled to Classic Ravelry. Meaning, that if, for example, you hate the drop shadows, you first have to toggle over to new Ravelry and experience the drop shadows before you can actually get rid of the drop shadows. I have just discovered that the 'turn off drop shadows' setting has absolutely zero effect on drop shadows in Ravelry Pro.
  • There's another setting in the accessibility section that I hadn't noticed before but which seems to have been there for a while. It's a toggle for "Freeze animated GIFs", which is supposed to prevent animated GIFs from playing; presumably, however, this only applies after you've logged in, and therefore does not affect the login screen. And again, this option is something you have to opt into, it's not a default.
  • The staff have begun a readability survey. This was rolled out to a select group of Ravelers, but one of the users who received it has shared the URL publicly; Ravelry staff told her she could pass it on. They have also posted, "When we have more complete data from the readability survey, some of the post-launch changes we made may be adjusted based on that data."
  • There is a feedback form on the website for the new look (link goes to Classic Ravelry version). Earlier today, it was apparently available only in the new look, but this has since changed; it will now respond to your Classic Ravelry toggle setting. However, there are problems or potential problems with this form:
    • Be advised that since you must be logged in to see the form, your answers are not anonymous. 
    • As per one of the comments on this post (thank you Elsa), one of the questions is whether or not you have a disability that affects how you use the Internet, and if yes, further details are asked for. There is apparently now a disclaimer saying that the information will not be shared outside Ravelry and will eventually be destroyed, no timeframe given.
    • Twitter user @sdeutsh wrote a thread on the problematic aspects of the feedback form.
  • NEW: Ravelry staff member onestitchshort posted that starting this week, they are looking only at bug reports and the survey as channels of communication.

What you can do on your own (some of these tips are potentially very helpful!)

  • IMPORTANT: Now circulating is a petition to Ravelry to hire an independent accessibility expert to assess the site.
  • Dealing with the stark whiteness: There is a Chrome extension which lets you toggle in and out of a high-contrast mode. If you're having problems with Ravelry's new look, and use Chrome, please give this a try. There may be high contrast mode toggle extensions available for other browsers that you can search for, as well. Unfortunately, this is not a solution for everyone; one user on Instagram, who has eye conditions that make them photosensitive and blue light sensitive, said that they always have the dark mode extension on their devices, yet still can barely stand to look at the redesigned site for more than a few minutes. YMMV?
  • Dealing with unreadable text: For some, readability can be improved by zooming in. I personally like the 125% setting.
  • Dealing with motion: Rav user castlemilk posted some tips for avoiding the migraine- and seizure-inducing bits. Rather than linking to her on-Rav post, I have copied and pasted her info here:
    • iDevice users: settings -> accessibility -> reduce motion (it's under the subheading "Motion" on iOs)
    • Mac users: choose the appropriate options as listed in this resource
    • Windows 10 users: Settings - Ease of Access - Display - Simplify and personalize Windows - set Show animations in Windows off (castlemilk hasn't been able to test this herself)
    • Android users: It sounds like it’s fairly hairy to set a "reduce motion" option on an android device but there is a Ravelry post explaining what might work for you. Here is the Ravelry post text, it's by user CathyWithaC using a Fire Tablet:
      • Under settings, look for something like device options and serial number at the bottom of that list. If it says Developer Options below that, that's what you want.
      • Otherwise, to get the Developer Options to pop up press 7 times on the serial number (after about 3 times you'll see it starts counting down, and after 7 the option will pop up). Honestly, I thought this was weird myself, but trust me I've done it twice now, on my fire tablet and on my Galaxy 7 phone.
      • Tap on Developer Options and scroll down (it's a ways) to the Drawing section and you will see 3 animation options, window animation scale, transitions animation scale and animator duration scale. Set all 3 of them to the first setting - animation is off.
      • I know it’s complicated but I hope it works
      • On my android phone it was Settings - About phone - Software information - Build number that I had to tap 7 times to get the developer options. In case that helps anyone else.
  • Getting rid of the new look altogether: 
    • You can add the text "?newlook=0" at the end of any Ravelry URL and it should automatically take you (assuming you are logged in) directly to the old-look version of that Ravelry page without having to bother messing around with the toggle. Once you're there, the old-look version should continue to show as you navigate around, unless you actively toggle it back. For example, the URL for the main patterns page is https://www.ravelry.com/patterns, which may or may not take you to the old look depending on your current settings in Ravelry, but if you go to https://www.ravelry.com/patterns?newlook=0 instead, you should always get the main patterns page in the old look. Note: This hack does not work for the login screen, even though there is now a Classic Ravelry version of the login screen.
    • Some users are reporting that using Internet Explorer somehow gives them a completely unchanged version of the site - it might be worth trying that.
    • NEW: Twitter user @TNProgrammer has created browser extensions to fix the new colour theme:
    • Some Rav users have created Stylish themes for other people to use, which you can apparently overlay over websites to customize the CSS. Important note: One Rav user pointed out that there are are data privacy issues with Stylish and that Stylus is recommended as the replacement add-on "if you don't want your data trawled". Cascadea (for Safari on Mac) is another potential alternative.
      • EWM has created "two themes that can be used by anyone who is using a computer with Chrome, Firefox, or Safari(Mac Only) and Android users using Kiwi Browser...All the instructions on getting the themes set up is on the Project Page for the main theme and the Project Page for the secondary theme has the url for the logo replacement theme." (This unfortunately means that the links to the themes are on Ravelry, but I've added the "?newlook=0" to the link URLs to make this as painless as possible.) EWM has posted that Stylish, Stylus, and Cascadea can all grab her userstyles. She says, "The only things that can’t be helped are kindles and iOS devices."
        • The main theme: "'Ravelry - Return to Subtle Greens' brings back elements of the older version of Ravelry and helps with some of the visual issues folks we having."
        • The secondary theme: "'Ravelry - Bring Back the Yarn!' replaces the new logo with the old logo."
      • ElaineT77 has made a Stylish add-on theme. She says it "lets me enjoy the new look & feel while avoiding a headache". Her instructions are as follows: The Userstyles.org website is slow and crash-prone so here is what you can copy/paste into Stylish"
  • "Jumping ship" from Ravelry: (either temporarily or permanently)
    • As a user:
      • This video shows you how you can download your entire Ravelry library in one go using a Chrome plugin. Be warned that the video does contain screenshots of the "Classic Ravelry" state that is still causing problems for many users. (Thanks to Twitter users @GwwgReads and @Sarah_Dawns for the video and the warning, respectively.)
      • If you have the paid version of Knit Companion, you can have it display your Ravelry library. Twitter user @got1eyeopen has kindly tweeted a screenshot of what this looks like (warning: contains a swear)
      • Instagram user @atomicagecrochet explains how she's replaced a lot of her Ravelry Notebook with Evernote
    • As a designer:
      • Alternative or additional sales channels for designers:
      • Twitter user @Velociraptoria_ has created a thread on how designers can set up their own websites
      • Knitter Liza Rico wants to put together an alternative, accessible fibre platform and has a GoFundMe for it. (Note: I have absolutely zero idea how much skill or ability she and her husband have to put something this together, I am only providing the link here for the purposes of awareness.)

What I'm doing about access to my own patterns


I don't want people interested in my patterns to be at risk of harm, so I've gone through the template and pages in my website here, and done the following:
  • Switched the links for any patterns that I sell myself directly to go to the LoveCrafts pattern page instead of the Ravelry pattern page. (I also have an Etsy shop, but LoveCrafts has project tracking features which makes it a bit more like Rav, so I chose to go with those links.)
  • Switched the links for all my free self-published patterns to go to new LoveCrafts pattern pages instead of the Ravelry pattern page.
  • Unfortunately, there's a small number of Ravelry pattern page links left - these are informational pages for patterns which were published by magazines but which aren't available for single purchase anywhere. I'm going to have to figure out what to do about those ones. I have, however, made sure that every Ravelry link on this site that I'm aware of forces the Classic toggle on the destination, although I realize this is not a panacea (see earlier information on this post on how Classic Ravelry is not the same as original Ravelry).  
  • In the social media icon list I've got near the top of every page, I've moved LoveCrafts and Etsy out to the beginning of the list (at the left side), and the Ravelry icon (again with the "?newlook=0" style of URL behind it) is at the end of the list (on the right).
  • I'm going to continue to sell my patterns on Ravelry, in order to avoid inconveniencing the audience there who are not experiencing accessibility issues. But I'm also exploring new sales channels, too, because a lot of designers are talking about where else they could go, and frankly, I'm super-keen on making as many channels available to folks as possible. First priority for me, though, is to make sure this blog post continues to include crucial updates on the situation.
I do hope I can switch this all back soon. It's true that the most harmful stuff (animation on the login screen) has been fixed, but there are still lots of problems, e.g. it's now completely unusable by people with screenreaders. So until we get better accessibility features on Ravelry, it'll stay the way it is for now.

3 comments:

  1. 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!

    ReplyDelete
  2. 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'?

    ReplyDelete
  3. 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.

    ReplyDelete