ciao.ch, the platform developed with and for teenagers – interview with Marjory Winkler

  • Thierry Krummenacher

ciao.ch is more than just a platform to help young people. It is a community, a family. We helped the CIAO association launch the sixth version of their website.

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Marjory Winkler, director of the French-speaking Swiss association CIAO, had one goal for the new version of ciao.ch: to (re)build a platform that young people felt as truly theirs. So we worked with them to develop one. It was fantastic to see the rapid rise in the number of visits and forum messages after the go-live! We take a look back at a super project and an excellent collaboration in seven questions.

Marjory Winkler, what does ciao.ch mean to you?

ciao.ch is a platform for young people. It focuses on promoting health, preventing risky behaviour and protecting young people.

Specifically, ciao.ch allows young people to find out information, discuss topics with their peers on the forum, test their knowledge with games, and ask questions to professionals in the relevant field – anonymously and free of charge – and receive an answer within two working days. Anonymity is probably the biggest challenge underlying the platform. It enables people to feel free to speak and discuss their concerns without fear of judgement.

In addition to being a meeting place, ciao.ch also offers information and articles written by experts. The constant aim is to encourage the adoption of respectful behaviour towards yourself and the freedom and values of others.

The first version of the website was created back in 1997 – what were the biggest challenges for the new version?

Firstly, identifying what we needed to keep from old versions and what to build from scratch. We sometimes have browsing habits that we do not question. So we systematically asked if a particular way of browsing was just out of habit or if it was genuinely something useful.

Secondly, allowing the website to evolve over the coming months and years continuously. We needed a technology that would enable us to remain flexible so that we could continuously adapt to the young people’s needs and browsing habits. The current website is the sixth version of ciao.ch. We continue to improve it by adding new functions, some of which have been directly requested by young people. A flexible website enables better control of our investment in terms of human and financial resources.

You chose Liip to accompany the association in this adventure. Which of our skills and values were you particularly interested in?

You won us over with the agile approach, your experience with large-scale projects, and your confidence to ask questions.

There were many requirements in our tender. We had a lot of ideas and also a very long history. This project felt like a mountain to us! Various companies responded with options for a showcase website, without taking the time to understand what the platform really was. Liip, on the other hand, presented a genuine project. You also challenged our objectives and priorities to avoid creating a ‘monster’ that would be impossible to maintain technically or financially.

By choosing to work with you and take an agile approach, we knew that we would not be disappointed with the results – because you did not propose a one-size-fits-all solution.

What was the impact of the project?

The release of the new version was eagerly awaited. Both young people and professionals appreciated this new release. The number of visits to the site and the number of questions asked on the forum increased quickly after the launch.

Excitement about the forum was the big (and satisfying!) surprise to come out of the project: the space for peer discussion was rarely used in the old versions of ciao.ch.

During this latest redesign, we simplified it as much as possible. Users exchanged fewer than 200 messages via the forum in 2017, whilst more than 32,000 posts were created in 2020! It’s absolutely crazy!

Of course, the epidemiological situation played a part here, too. But that being said, if the tool were not suitable, young people simply would not have used it.

How have young people reacted to the new website? Has anything changed for them with the new appearance of ciao.ch?

The response has been very positive. The first message posted on the forum after the go-live was from a young man who was delighted with the new version.

For us, the project’s success lies in the fact that young people have taken ownership of the site. They talk about a CIAO community, a family.

When you look back now, what do you think you will take away from this adventure? Would you do anything differently?

We did such great work to launch the sixth version of ciao.ch! And we are still just as motivated to continue developing the platform. I think I speak on behalf of both the CIAO and Liip teams when I say this!

Agility and working in iterations were key to the fast progress, staying true to young people’s expectations, and incorporating their feedback at every stage. Each pause between sprints was an opportunity to revalidate our requirements and realign with our overall objectives. It was a way of retaining a good overview and identifying areas for improvement. It was a healthy, much-needed approach that I will put into practice more often.

How would you describe your collaboration/project with Liip in three words?

Commitment, trust and prioritisation!

A few weeks before the launch of the new version of ciao.ch, I had a moment of discouragement. We had used up the majority of the budget and had not yet tackled redesigning the forum. The Liip team came to me with prioritised solutions and encouragement. I realised that both the Liip and CIAO teams were really committed to this project. That gave me the boost I needed!


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