Technical case study: Rütli

(Please read the note at the end of this post about the use of the above photograph.)

There are many beautiful lakeside meadows in Switzerland, from the busier shores of Lake Zürich to my own favourite park in Spiez. One of the most famous of these meadows lies on the green shores in the eastern reaches of Lake Lucerne beneath high, forested cliffs: the Rütli meadow. History and legend tells how three leading landowners from the originally independent states (now cantons) of Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden (now split into the cantons of Obwalden and Nidwalden) formed a confederacy in 1291. Through various iterations and developments, this confederacy became the Swiss federation and, eventually, Switzerland. The meadow is therefore the birthplace of Switzerland and as such, is the centre of much patriotic fervour around the Swiss national day on 1st August, which celebrates the aforementioned formation of the federation.

Screenshot of the Rütli websiteThe land and the historic aspects of the Rütli meadow came under the management of the Swiss Charitable Society after it submitted a proposal in the 19th century to protect the site from a hotel-building project. Since then, countless schools, tourists, Swiss nationals and politicians have visited the site to see the historic centre of such a beautiful country. Now, the Society have launched a new website at www.ruetli.ch in order to re-vitalize interaction and to help bring the Swiss public and other visitors nearer to the Rütli meadow, through the exchange of personal experiences and a modern platform where users can share their own histories of the historic site. During the launch phase, which is currently running, the Society have also partnered with Swiss radio DRS 3 in a campaign to help generate awareness of the new website by inviting the public to submit their own personal favourite place in the country and set an explanatory pin on the interactive map.

The project for the new website is being managed by a team within my employer Burson-Marsteller Switzerland and I’m proud to say that much of the web concept, including the design, is mine. It’s proven to be a difficult project to work with due to very tight and inflexible time constraints, but the end result is well worth it. We’re continuing to work on the site, with our technical partner Information Architects in Zürich, and have a number of additions and amendments still in the pipeline for the next release. As the site is primarily targeted for Swiss residents, it’s currently only online in German and French; everyone who can understand these languages is welcome to register for a free account. (The website supports the use of Facebook Connect and a Facebook App is planned for later in the year.)

The image of the Rütli meadow accompanying this post was photographed from Brunnen by Matthias Kabel and published on Wikimedia Commons under the GNU Free Documentation License.