Waterfall strikes again? -> Singaporeair site s*cks


Singapore Airlines is one of the worlds most respected airlines. They keep winning airline awards. I happened to live in Singapore and therefore it is most easy for me to fly Singaporeair. And, I have to admit, it is one of the better airlines and I especially notice this when I fly other airlines.

A well respected company. Known for its good service. A national company many Singaporeans are proud of. Yet, last week, they made an unbelievable F*** U*. So bad, that I'm seriously considering of starting to fly other airlines. Even though it doesn't relate to their flights but... their website.

Last week, Singaporeair did a sudden deployment of a totally new site. Absolutely no incremental deployments, but what seems to be perhaps years of work, suddenly deployed all at ones. I have heard that the company doing this for Singaporeair is... Accenture! (couldn't find anything on the web). And it is an absolute disaster. At first, I just thought the UI was bad, but no... the whole site is bad... but that's not all. The last days I have not been able to buy tickets anymore, which I assume is the main purpose of the site. Every time I try to buy a ticket, I get "system error". Everything in this deployment smells like a waterfall project gone very bad. But let me dive a bit deeper.

First, this was an all-at-once deployment, whereas it seems it would have been "easy" to do it incrementally. But lets assume that it is done "all-at-once" because of difficult technology changes. Even then, the old-site of Singaporeair was gone! Why would they run that risk and not, instead, have the old and the new site running together at the same time. Even the ISP I used for years (pair.com), they never swapped out their webmail at once, but kept the new site as a beta next to the old site. With a site where, I guess, a large part of your purchases come from, why would a company like Singapore Air run the risk of loosing that income (which they have now)?

All-at-once deployment aside, I'm not a UI expert, but the new UI sucks enormously. Not only make the choice of colors and fonts it hard to read, also it takes me a longer to buy a ticket (the one time I succeeded) because there are en enormous amount of clicks. Also a lot of technology seems off or used wrongly, which is visible by e.g. 1Password not working anymore for payments. Not only did they change their site, but also their booking confirmation emails (WHY!?). They didn't bother to inform tripit.com about that so that all the frequent travelers using both these services are not able to combine them. UI-wise, these things ought to have been discovered with earlier review cycles (sprint reviews) as they seem so obvious. If they would have bothered to take one frequent user of the site and let them use it, it would have been obvious. Why am I so sure? Well, just google Singaporeair and new site and you'll find complains for example on BusinessTraveler such as "Awful is an understatement" or Australian Frequent Flyer Community such as "Gotta say that I hate the new website." I mean, that is obvious and should have been found way earlier in the development. Not sure how this site was developed, but it smells like a pure waterfall.

All that aside, if I could use it, I would be somewhat happy. But if I try booking a (try it!) from "Singapore" to "Salt Lake City" date of departure "August 5", date of return "August 12", I'll get:

System Error

A system error has occurred. Please try again.


I tried it again and again the whole week. I reported a bug even. But no luck, it seems to not be possible anymore to book a ticket with the new site. This is truly unbelievable, how could a respected company such as Singapore Air allow to deploy a website which is SO BUGGY that even the basic functionality which is the main revenue stream for the company... does not work!

This was reported in the local newspaper: Straights Times in their article "Bumpy start foe SIA's new website". Didn't read the whole article (don't want to subscribe to straights times) but the most amazing part of the preview is the responds from Singaporeair Spokesman Nicholas Ionides:

'As with any major IT project, we do expect teething problems but we expect to be able to iron out these issues in due course. We will closely monitor the website's performance, and make adjustments where necessary.'

So, deploying an all-at-once, unusable, buggy and slow website in 2011 is *still* expected? I do not know where Nicholas has been the last 10 years, but I wouldn't expect it and find it truly shameful.


Waterfall ? Most unlikely. Most probably Unified Process (or a custom version of its own) gone bad :) !

I agree that the new SIA website is badly done. First time I saw it I thought it was a striped down maintenance mode page, until I realized it is a new design. Usability is bad, navigation is horrible, response time is slow. Also, which respectable global companies would put their logo on the RIGHT of the website like SIA did? I wonder if they used an outside design firm for this, but its design is just the polar opposite of what you get from Apple / late Steve Jobs.

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This page contains a single entry by Bas Vodde published on May 28, 2011 11:38 AM.

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