Ravelry and accessibility: What Ravelry has fixed/improved

(Last update was April 1 2021 4:54pm ET.)

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.

Other key updates so far include:

  • On March 24, Ravelry released a "dark mode", which is called "Balwen". There is also a fourth mode, "follow system settings", which means that whatever mode your device is set to, Ravelry will follow suit. 
    • A number of posts I've seen advise that dark modes in general are bad for people with astigmatism, so if you have astigmatism and didn't already know this, please proceed with caution with any dark mode.
    • Reaction is mixed (I've been tracking posts on multiple Ravelry forums, Twitter, Instagram, and a large Discord group). Of users who commented on the effectiveness of dark mode who also identified themselves as being negatively affected by the new design:
      • Many are reporting that dark mode doesn't help and causes just as much physical harm as the new design; a number of these comments come from people who also mentioned that they love using dark modes in other places.
      • There are a number of reports that the dark mode is just as contrasty as light modes, making it largely useless
      • However, there are also a lot of reports coming out from people who have found the dark mode to be better for them than Herdwick and Merino. 
        • Many of these reports are not glowing; the language I've been seeing so far is along the lines of "slightly better", "isn't great but it's better", "okay, I guess?"
        • But there are other people reporting significant improvements: "I like it", "so much better for me", "I actually feel much better", "so much nicer for my eyes".
      • Conclusion: Dark mode definitely is not the answer for everyone; many find it is still physically harmful, and for those who do find it an improvement, only a portion find it a significant improvement.
    • Note: Dark mode does not affect spacing and line weights.
    • Tips for using the dark mode:
      • Zoom to 125% and change monitor brightness settings
      • Works best when combined with Dark Reader because it turns the text grey instead of white and you can knock down the contrast
    • I've seen multiple people say that Ravelry's dark mode is not a true dark mode; the contrast is too high and it breaks a lot of dark mode best practices. Apparently it is missing layers. (I know very little about proper dark mode practices so I can't offer any expertise here, unfortunately.)
  • NuRav can now be customized with one of two light theme/skin options: Merino (default) and Herdwick. According to Ravelry, Herdwick "lightens the colors of button and info boxes, removes hard drop shadows sitewide, and changes the page background color to a light grey". They cite various surveys they conducted, "comparative research; consultations and conversations with neurologists and accessibility experts; feedback...data from industry experts like WCAG and NN Group" as informing sources for the design of this new skin, and apparently it was tested by 12,000 active Ravelry users, including some who are members of accessibility-related groups on Ravelry, and who have accessibility options turned on in their Ravelry settings. Ravelry also mentioned that over 4,300 users who were using Classic mode were invited to test Herdwick, but has not indicated how many of those invited people actually tested it. Reactions have been mixed (you can see a lot yourself by searching for 'herdwick ravelry' on Twitter):
    • The good: 
      • One user who could not previously use NuRav safely are reporting that they can, using Herdwick and a style sheet.
      • Measured improvement for eye strain (although still not perfect)
      • Brightness has really been toned down
      • Much easier to use
      • Grey background helps, anywhere from a little bit to being a lot less jarring
    • The bad: 
      • Vertigo, eye strain, and headaches still being reported
      • Just as migraine-inducing as Merino (Herdwick has apparently failed to take into account feedback about light sensitivity triggers)
      • Nausea and head pressure from Herdwick (desktop only) not experienced in Merino
      • Text is still too small/thin/hard to read
      • Lines are going wonky (button outlines)
  • 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 the majority of people experiencing problems, 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 (but see Remaining accessibility problems for more information on this.). The black drop shadows setting now also affects Ravelry Pro in addition to main Ravelry.
  • 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.
  • UPDATED: On the rebranded version, there is now a 'skip to content' feature in the header for keyboard navigation users. It will appear after the second tab stroke on the page (which is weird and off-standard for accessibility, but at least it's there), and if you use it, the tabbed focus also skips to the content.
  • There's now a live update notification for screenreaders for when users get new Ravelry messages. However, I have yet to see any indication that the rebranded version of Ravelry even works for screenreaders in general anymore; all the reports I've been seeing say it does not.
  • UPDATED: Ravelry launched "swatching" on August 18, which is a beta testing feature, enabling them to test new additions and changes in a more organized way. More information about this feature can be found in their August 18 blog post.
  • Ravelry staff seem to have stopped communicating about site changes only within the Ravelry staff itself (which, as has been demonstrated, is not accessible for many users); recent updates have been available both on and off Ravelry.
  • The staff reports having reached out and initiated conversations with people who have volunteered or referred to do accessibility consulting for Ravelry (however, this seems to have gone nowhere).
  • UPDATED: There is a feedback form on the website for the new look - triple-dub dot ravelry dot com slash feedback slash 4939 - but see Ravelry's problematic response for more information on this.
  • The staff created two readability surveys, now both closed.
    • The original readability survey was rolled out to a select group of Ravelers, but one of the users who received it shared the URL publicly; Ravelry staff told her she could pass it on. They 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." 
    • The second readability survey was for everyone, and closed at noon ET on July 16See Ravelry's problematic response for more information. According to the Ravelry blog, "We received over 10,000 completed surveys as well as feedback via email, and we appreciate each and every response and message. We’ll use this information to determine which potential customizations and options will be most helpful to Ravelers, and look forward to sharing more after an analysis of the data." The August 4 update stated that they were continuing to design customizations.
  • UPDATED: Ravelry settings now include a Reduced Motion option which will disable motion in Ravelry's interface, e.g. navigation underlines, 'drop out' effects when deleting items, enlarging effects used when expanding collapsed boxes, and sliding navigation menus on mobile view.
  • UPDATED: There have been some slight adjustments to text line height based on readability survey results and, apparently, WCAG guidelines (no mention from  Ravelry as to which level of WCAG is being adhered to here).
  • UPDATED: Inter is now the default typeface, but if you had it already set to Helvetica, you will continue to see Helvetica.
  • There are some new accessibility-related searchable attributes in Ravelry's pattern database: digital audio, digital Braille, press Braille, screen reader access
  • Not related directly to Ravelry but still speaking to an improvement in their awareness of at least one accessibility issue - since October 15, they have been providing image descriptions on all their Instagram posts.

NEW: Fixes which have been taken away:

  • The toggle for users to switch back to the old look. This was referred to as "Classic Ravelry", and it didn't work for everyone, but it did allow a lot of people who couldn't use the new design to continue using Ravelry (see Remaining accessibility problems for more information on this). Once you were in and toggled over to Classic, a cookie on your machine was set so that the next time you went to the login screen, you would see it in Classic.

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