A letter from Jessica

Posted by jessicamf on

Dear Ravelry Community,

I first would like to apologize for any stress and uncertainty that the Ravelry site redesign has caused in what is already a difficult year. I am so sorry that our actions, or inactions, have made anyone in the community feel unheard. We acknowledge that our responses up to this point have been insufficient.

It pains the whole team and myself that Ravelry, which we know is a source of comfort to many, caused any additional anxiety to anyone at all. I hope that people will find joy on Ravelry again and please know we are working hard toward this goal.

In the meantime, I thought that it might be useful to have some common questions answered by me today.

Why has this response taken so long?

I know it has taken so long for me to get to this letter and I sincerely apologize for the delay. Given the number of responses to the site redesign in June, we wanted to be very purposeful and thorough. We are still going through the wide range of feedback, getting more messages every day, and trying to navigate a path forward with accessibility leading. We hoped that the updates in the For the Love of Ravelry forum and on Ravelry’s front page would help, but that has not worked for everyone. We will improve starting now by publishing these updates on this separate Ravelry blog (which uses a standard blog template design) as well as on Ravelry’s front page.

Why has the community not heard from Cassidy on Ravelry threads and Twitter?  Why are we turning off Instagram comments and forum threads?

The moderators in the For the Love of Ravelry forum have been instructed by us to shut down the threads about the site redesign because we are just not able to keep up with the volume of posts in the forums and track the issues that people are bringing up, much less thoughtfully respond.

It is not because Cassidy and I and our team don’t care about the community. We understand that our choice to limit the redesign feedback channels to email-only has frustrated folks and is different from how we have collaborated about changes in the past. However, email has proved to be the only way that we can actually take in and track the flood of input and be able to do the real work of improving the site. We really do want to hear from you and appreciate your emails to contact-us@ravelry.com.

Another quick way that Ravelers will be able to give feedback very soon is the new beta testing feature that we will be launching. It will allow us to test new additions and changes to the site in a more organized way. (More details coming!) We are also looking into how we communicate on Ravelry’s social media, forums, and the blog to see where we can make improvements and lessen frustration.

With regard to tweets and emails sent by Cassidy, we would like to make clear they do not reflect the opinions and professional intentions of the Ravelry team, or the way we think about what people are experiencing. We have not been as aware as we should be that these messages were being sent. Cassidy was not in a state to be talking with people, though she does understand that this is no excuse and that the emails that she wrote were hurtful. She is ashamed and sincerely sorry. It will take a period of adjustment, but in the future Cassidy's role will be focused on technical work. She no longer has access to the customer service emails and her Ravelry mail is disabled.

Why didn’t we just go back to Classic Ravelry as the default?

We hear, understand, and believe that the New site is still not working for some. In addition to the updates and customization options that we’ve already shared, we are in the process of creating more with the goal of making the new Ravelry site work well for everyone. I want to stress that the updates that Mary Heather has posted are not the only things we are working on. We have also been searching for a consultant with a specialization in visual web accessibility that we can work with on an ongoing basis, as the people we have spoken with so far were only available temporarily. We are continuing to research, and this is a priority for us.

If you cannot use the new design right now, Classic Ravelry is still available to you, and you can switch your account to the Classic site through a toggle in your Profile drop-down menu. We have made no changes to Classic Ravelry (which you can verify by comparing the CSS files as they appeared on June 15: part 1 and part 2), and will not be adding new features or making changes to it, so it will remain the familiar site that you are used to.

Naturally, some people have wondered why we didn’t roll back to using the Classic site as the default, and of course we seriously considered this option.

Over the years, we had heard from many people who had trouble using the Classic version of Ravelry. Since June, many reactions that we have received about the redesign have let us know that the new design is much more usable for many of these Ravelers, including a large number of people with disabilities and folks with vision issues.

For example: we know that the new mobile site—which is many people’s only way to access Ravelry—is proving to be much more accessible to many Ravelers with disabilities. We are also finding that specific elements of the new design that some folks say affect them negatively are, to others, improvements compared to the old site.

After taking in the breadth of initial feedback, we came to the conclusion that switching back to Classic Ravelry would not serve the greatest number of Ravelers. It was not an easy decision to make, as we want the site to be the best it can be for everyone, but we feel confident that keeping the new design of Ravelry, with the customization options we now have available at ravelry.com/preferences (and more coming with accessibility forefront in our minds!) is the best solution for the most people.

If it is too much, why don’t we hire more people?

As Ravelry has grown, every change to the site both big and small, has elicited a larger response than the previous change. This includes both positive and negative feedback. Ravelry is only four full-time people and we have realized that we need to re-evaluate how our work is done.

We discuss the issue of staffing frequently. Because of how we choose to run this business and how we make money, our budget is extremely tight. Cassidy and I have always stated that Ravelry will be free for users, to make it available to all regardless of budget.  Though we have had the opportunity, we have not taken outside venture capital money to grow the business. Investors always have motivations (profit!) and we are dedicated to keeping our community’s values first. We have never been in it for the money (and as many yarn businesses know, there isn’t a lot of money in this industry anyway). Also, we’ve wanted to keep the ads focused on our own community’s businesses and are committed to keeping ad prices and designer rates low. We have no plan to sell Ravelry and we consider Ravelry to be a utility for the yarn community that we want to continue into the future. So while adding additional full time staff members is an ongoing discussion, it is not something we can currently act on.

So what comes next?

We are working on more customizations based on survey results and the input we've received.  We are confident that the forthcoming updates based on this data will be truly helpful to people who are having issues with high contrast aspects of the site design. Also, the new behind-the-scenes design system will allow for increased modern accessibility as we redo areas of the site and build new features. We will continue to consult outside accessibility experts as well.

I know that we have made mistakes and I am so sorry that we have made anyone feel unwelcome on Ravelry since June. We are working hard every day to improve and make Ravelry as accessible and useful as it can be.

We love building Ravelry together. We’ve often called the early years of Ravelry a “barn raising” and even though the site has grown so much since then, we still feel like it’s something that we all do together. You are as important to Ravelry as we, the staff, are.

I hope that the ability to use the site in its familiar Classic mode along with ongoing updates and improvements to the new design will help folks to enjoy Ravelry and gain trust in us again.

for the Ravelry team: Cassidy, Mary Heather, Sarah, Livia and Christina

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