Perhaps the most prominent benefit of Ravelry is the notebook, which helps you organize your projects, yarns, patterns and other resources. Though not every yarn artist will want to organize his or her stash of yarn, or track every project online, these features are available and can help you plan future projects. You can also track patterns you find throughout the site, marking them as favorites or placing them in your future projects queue.
Besides the tools and site features, Ravelry benefits from having a clear target audience. With the central topics of knit, crochet and spinning, members have an idea of what to expect out of their social networking experience at Ravelry. Pattern authors and yarn dealers can benefit from this target audience, too, sharing their business to a captive market.
Ravelry's sponsors are regular site members who pay monthly rates to place their ads throughout the Web site. Advertisers are encouraged to submit useful and attractive ads, which go through an approval process before they're posted. Ads range from $5 per month for yarn purchase links to $40 per half-month for a 225-by-175-pixel ad displaying a featured pattern. Advertisers can also sponsor groups and provide charge-per-click links to their online stores.
One of Ravelry's challenges is competing against sites that offer free patterns. Joyce Y., an organizer for a Meetup.com crochet group in Raleigh, N.C., said that her primary reason for joining the site was to find more free patterns online. She was disappointed that she could rarely find a pattern she wanted that she did not have to pay for. She and others in her group prefer other sites like the company Web site for Lion Brand Yarn, which only requires you to sign in to view and download patterns, or Crochet Pattern Central, which requires no sign in and brings together links to many free patterns across the Internet.
Another challenge for Ravelry has been limited resources. Ravelry programmer Casey Forbes used the site as an opportunity to learn a new programming language (Ruby). Then, he and wife Jessica carefully controlled the growth of the site by limiting how many invitations they would accept each month until they had the staff and technology to support the demand. This means that Ravelry has developed relatively slow compared to other commercial sites with more money and employees. Site members can also see this as a benefit, knowing the site is created and maintained by yarn artists such as themselves. Whenever Casey and Jessica have added to their site staff, they have always hired from among their members, strengthening this benefit.
For more on social networking Web sites and other related topics, see the next page.