Monday, March 31, 2014

WYSIWYG or is it!

I recently read an interesting thread in Ravelry about an ad that made me realize just how easily we can be misinterpreted. This is important to me because I have just started running ads for Robin Hunter Designs. The ads on Ravelry screens are very small. Notebook ads are 140 x 200 pixels. That's not a lot of space for detail. Just try squeezing in a photo and some text.

The original poster in the thread thought she was seeing something offensive. She raised the issue to get advice. A couple of posters were convinced she was seeing spam and suggested ad blocking software downloads. A number of others had trouble finding the ad and asked more questions. There were several posts about the advertising guidelines that Ravelry uses and how abuses could occur. Five posters found the ad but were sure they were not seeing something offensive and tried to clarify with descriptions. One poster found the ad and did find it offensive. All of this happened in the space of 24 posts and less than 24 hours before the moderators locked down the thread.

The acronym WYSIWYG stands for what you see is what you get. I think it's important to realize that we don't all see the same things in the same way. There are also specific reasons to do with the way our brains work which explain how two people saw something different from the other posters. 

"Researcher Mark Changizi of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York believes it has to do with the human tendency to visually predict the near future. Because there's a lag between the time that light hits the retina and the time when the brain perceives that light, Changizi thinks the human visual system has evolved to compensate for the neural delay by generating images of what will occur one-tenth of a second into the future." (

BTW: I did email Susan and make sure she has no problems with me writing about this ad. She told me the photo used was in the running to be used as a ravatar for the 2014 Iknitarod  but came in second in a vote so it was used  for an ad instead.You can find their group here. You can find Susan's site here.


  1. Thanks for the insight! I hadn't considered low resolution to cause such misunderstandings.

    I guess that's why retailers usually uses focus groups/test groups, to get this kind of feedback. And when you add different cultures and languages to the mix, it gets exceedingly difficult to navigate the possible traps of words, symbols, body language etc. that are profanities or taboos in other languages.
    It's almost impossible to not offend anyone without becoming bland.

    I have so many stories, but they all involve just this - taboos or profanities when using words, logos, brands etc in other languages, so I'll leave those to the avid googler.

    1. We knitters just don't have the resources to pre-test our ads. I've already found the size is a challenge in creating any of the Ravelry ads. My husband works in retail marketing for a bank and he has a lot of stories about customer misinterpretation and complaints about even the focus group tested ads.

    2. When I look at the photo with that woman's bias in mind I can see how she could have misinterpreted it. However both of the leaping dog's feet are on this side of the other dog, although partially hidden by the words. I agree that we just can't please everyone and I can't start trying to ether. Thanks for the posting.