This is a case study on Ravelry as a collaboration website. This is part of the Akvo sponsored study on Open Design Appropriate Technology, but it is not an appropriate technology site at all - it is "a place for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, and dyers to keep track of their yarn, tools and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration."[1]

Why does a knitting site belong in this study?

  • It is a place for sharing, modifying, and discussing designs.
  • It offers structure relevant to the particular tools and activities that bring the participants together.
  • It has been enormously successful, growing very rapidly in its early months, and continuing to grow and stay active as it passes the two years mark. This begs the question - why have no appropriate technology collaboration sites approached this kind of growth and activity?

Is this success due to:

  • The popularity of the subject - a popular pastime rather than a somewhat geeky area) with limited appeal),
  • The nature of the subject - where collaboration is easy as designs and tools have much in common, unlike the wide range that exists within appropriate technology,
  • The superior design of the site,
  • A combination, or something not mentioned here?

Ravelry is successful for a different reason from Wikipedia - it's aided by

  • the fact that there is a consistent structure to knitting patterns,
  • certain consistent behaviors between knitters, not only in knitting garments which they can photograph and compare, but in keeping stockpiles of yarn.
  • the passion of people engaged in an activity they have an emotional connection to.

Ravelry is far more than a Facebook or Ning site for knitters. The knitting-oriented features are key to making it useful and desirable for knitters. The search features, the ability to "favorite" patterns and other items to keep track of them, and extensive databases make it a great place to find information, and an easy place to spend time.

Features[edit | edit source]

The main features come down to databases, favorites, project management and forums, applied to the needs of knitters and other dealers-in-yarn. Those are simple ideas, but they're integrated and very well executed.

Usability and navigation[edit | edit source]

The site is a breeze to navigate, with a wide range of features, but without feeling too cluttered. E.g. see the yarns page, which offers a rich choice to the user: it has "popular yarns", "search yarns," "browse by fiber," "featured yarns," and a search for the "local yarn shop directory." Scroll down a little and you have two galleries: "yum! new yarn!" and "yarnies" (contributors to the yarn pages).


It smashes several of my ideas about successful collaborative and social sites:

  • It's closed - okay, I know Facebook has proven that closed can work, but I just prefer things open.
  • It's niche
  • it's highly structured
  • It was able to get going with a small number of members.


  • a database of over 1600 patterns and thousands of yarns for people to browse and add to their queue system.
  • Search for patterns, yarn (in other people's "stash").
  • Search for users by location, or whether they have completed a certain pattern.
  • See at a glance what the community is up to, with highlighted information such as "popular yarns".
  • It has a forum (it has just 6 (all active) making for a nice clear one-page overview. It does let you create "groups" though, and lets you organize groups and forums using tabs.)

user profiles

  • User profiles are the typical social fodder, but Ravelry also lets you do some project management with a list of queued projects, and a hit parade of past accomplishments.
  • a blog (fed from your existing site).
  • the "stash," which is a place to document whatever yarns or fibers you own. Just take pictures of it, upload, and tag them. It then resides in your stash, until you've used it (which then goes into your "used" pile). The hope is that Ravelry users will keep their stashes up to date, letting other users ping them to purchase or swap the yarn, or ask questions.
  • the stash actually helps to solve a real world problem in the crafts community--dyeing. Each lot of yarn has its own unique color, and if you somehow can't get more of a certain color later on, you're pretty much out of luck. Assuming people have tagged their stashes correctly, you might be able to pick up that oh-so-important missing piece of your project.
  • Each project gets its own page where the creator can blog about the experience, and share tips and pictures. (Structure can be helpful.)

External links[edit | edit source]

Social network Ravelry solves a tangled problem

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Attributed to co-founder...
FA info icon.svgAngle down icon.svgPage data
Authors Chris Watkins, savannah barr
License CC-BY-SA-3.0
Derivatives Ravelry als Kollaborationswebseite
Language English (en)
Related 0 subpages, 3 pages link here
Impact 244 page views
Created April 24, 2009 by Chris Watkins
Modified June 9, 2023 by StandardWikitext bot
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