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A web-based flight search and reservation system that can be re-branded for use with multiple airlines

At a Glance
  • The ExpandTheRoom team brought how the consumer FEELS front and centre in UX design, and this is something that became ingrained.

    Raymond Bate Senior Digital Product Manager, SITA

Solving for Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond

Developing innovative solutions for complex problems is what we do, but sometimes the solutions we uncover extend beyond the problems we were asked to solve. How do we help a client internalize not only a solution to the problem in front of them but an entirely new way of design thinking?

SITA is one of the world’s first and oldest travel IT companies, providing a variety of products and services to over 400 airlines and affiliates across the globe. We were thrilled when they came to us and our Atlanta partners, aspirent, looking for help with the next generation of SITA Horizon, their flagship web-based flight search and reservation system.

A Tricky Product for a Tricky Organization in a Tricky Industry

As one of the first ever teleconnected industries, commercial aviation as a whole comes with a myriad of inherent challenges.

Additionally, because of its history, status, and legacy customer base, SITA faced a number of challenges unique in their industry:

Finally, there were challenges unique to the Horizon product line:

SITA was ready to adopt an Agile methodology, and this project was to be their initial run.

ExpandTheRoom explores the world to understand the SITA requirements
Visiting the customers (clockwise from top left) – Air Inuit: Kuujjuarapik, Quebec, Air Inuit: Montreal hangar in HQ, SITA: ETR’s NYC HQ, Air India: Mumbai, Horizon Working Group: Istanbul, Turkey

A Global Solution Requires Globetrotting

To begin wrapping our heads around such complex systems with so many unique challenges, we initiated a massive discovery effort involving 8 weeks of stakeholder interviews (we talked to nearly 40 stakeholders), heuristic analysis, competitive analysis, user research, and “Airlines 101” sessions, resulting in a 210-page report.

After that, we hit the road to conduct extensive field research, ideation workshops and usability tests with ticketing agents and airline stakeholders in the US, Canada and India. Additionally, we created a usability lab at SITA’s annual Horizon Working Group summit in Istanbul, Turkey. This gave us direct access to representatives from over 20 of SITA’s airline customers – all in one room!

After completing and analyzing our field research, we realized SITA needed us to do more than just design their new flight search and booking experience. They needed a flexible, modular design system that could ensure quality and consistency while also accommodating the brand identities of their many global customers. They also needed that system to be extendible and forward looking so they could use it to build new products and services long after we were gone.

Finally, they needed the whole thing to be wrapped in a philosophical framework rooted in the core values and goals of their organization. This framework had to provide guidance on not only how to use their new design system, but why.

ExpandTheRoom working session in India
Meeting the reservation agents – Air India HQ

A Design System with 35,000 Ft. View

After working through both our initial challenges as well as new challenges revealed through the Discovery process, we offered SITA a solution in the form of Altitude: a modular, scalable design system and pattern library.

Altitude includes the following features:

Altitude was designed to offer SITA team members everything they needed to apply the principles of user-centered design to the design system ETR developed for Horizon. This allowed SITA to bring the design process in-house and continue to update Horizon themselves even after ETR finished our work on the project.

Altitude also laid the groundwork for the application of the Horizon design system to the many other products SITA offers their airline customers, ultimately allowing the creation of a cohesive design system to be applied across the full suite of SITA products.

Screenshot of SITA Horizon final product
Screenshot of SITA Horizon final product
Screenshot of SITA Horizon final product
Screenshot of SITA Horizon final product
SITA Altitude – Sneak peeks of the final pattern design library

Setting a New Course – Forward

SITA immediately adopted, and continues to evolve Altitude, along with its design principles company-wide. They have begun the process of onboarding their customers to the newly design Horizon platforms, starting with RwandairDrukair, and Air Creebec.

We at ETR excel at creating and implementing full design systems. In addition to the work we’ve done with SITA, we’ve created robust designs systems for great companies like Time Inc., The American Kennel Club, and Remedy Health Media, to name a few.

You might also enjoy learning more about our approach to managing a massive set of project deliverables across scores of stakeholders all over the globe: One Tool to Rule Them All: A Look Back on Our Year-Long Quest to Deliver a Massive Design Project Solely on UXPin.

Thinking about a project like this one?

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We’d love to learn more about your needs and share our process on how we help organizations navigate digital initiatives just like this one.

Adam Kurzawa
Director, Business Development
Joe Rosenthal
Business Development, Midwest