9 UX Design “Fails” In Star Wars

star wars collage

Study Introduction:

A case study was commissioned to review the impact of user experience (UX) design in a galaxy far, far away. This appears to be a period full of technological wonder with faster-than-light space travel, advanced life-saving technology as well as advanced weaponry.

However, systematic design mistakes also proliferate. For example, pressure (literally choking pressure around the neck) from superiors to complete projects on time have caused workers to miss catastrophic failure modes. Flaws include obvious vulnerabilities such as allowing large star-ships to breach security inside a space station and destroy it.

To limit the scope of the analysis, only smaller-scale interactive elements are examined along with their impact on the human and alien factors. All issues discovered are true, from a certain point of view.

Methodology:

Because the events took place a long time ago, contextual inquiry or pure naturalistic observation was not possible. Instead, video file footage was reviewed. Three separate archives of events that took place over approximately four years was made available to the research team. Observed issues are listed chronologically and are categorized by the following impact scale:

MILD: Users may experience inconvenience or confusion completing their tasks.
MODERATE: Injury is likely or users will not be able to complete an important task.
SEVERE: Great injury or death is highly probable. I have a bad feeling about these, so fix, if possible.

Results:

1. Poor Shield Visibility

Training Blast

Observation: A helmet’s “blast shield” completely prevented a study participant from seeing out and led to friendly fire striking him during a training mission.

UX Recommendation: During the course of any blast, it may be vital that the user is able to see their surroundings and react appropriately. Consider selecting new materials for the shield that allow partial visibility while still polarizing intense light to keep eyes safe.

Impact: MODERATE

 

2. Slow Door Opening Velocity

Door Hit

Observation: Soldier’s (on far right) entrance into critical situation was obstructed when the door did not fully raise. Embarrassment caused by bumping his head resulted in him later missing many easy shots at escaping convicts.

UX Recommendation: System response time needs to be carefully integrated into the product requirements. In this case, users could reasonably expect an automated system to complete the process (open the door fully and completely) within 0.1 seconds.

Impact: MILD

 

3. Unlabeled Bridge Controls

Bridge controls

Observation: Controls used to extend a bridge looked too much like a door open/lock mechanism. Desiring to disable the door, one study participant destroyed private property and later regretted it upon needing bridge access.

UX Recommendation: Proper labelling of controls can help prevent mistakes such as these. Likewise, a careful selection of user interface elements could differentiate things with unique operations. Moreover, bridges should not be left in an open state without adequate warning – a clear OSHA violation that could easily be reported for unsafe worker conditions.

Impact: SEVERE

 

4. Head Mounting Unconstrained

Backwards Head

Observation: A large fuzzball creature, who in-fact possessed superior mechanical skills, incorrectly mounted a robot’s head in a reverse orientation… the latter exclaiming: “I’m backwards!”

UX Recommendation: Designers should consider a “poka-yoke” solution that prevents two parts from being joined together in an inappropriate fashion.

Impact: MILD

 

5. Communication Port Unclear

Comm Port

Observation: Small trashcan-like robot was electrocuted when it mistook a power port for a communication port and then received no sympathy from bystanders.

UX Recommendation: Like the prior issues, things that act different should look different, especially when consequences of a mistake are high. A visible shape-coding could prevent two parts from joining and make the proper function obvious.

Impact: MODERATE

 

6. Cockpit Info Missing

Hyperdrive Off

Observation: Status of advanced flight systems were not displayed to the pilot. A “hyperdrive” had been disabled remotely, but no notification was shown in the cockpit.

UX Recommendation: Feedback of system status is a key component to help the user stay in control and successfully complete their tasks. In this situation, a simple indicator could be displayed on the navigation computer noting the source of the problem.

Impact: MODERATE

 

7. User Permissions Insufficient

Door Security

Observation: Prisoner was allowed to easily escape after killing warden’s pet. By simply throwing a rock-like-skull at the door open/close switch inside his cell, “Fluffy” was instantly and tragically crushed.

UX Recommendation: Users can be given different permissions within a system. For example, novice users may be shown a user interface with a simplified set of options. Or, in this case, only jail-administrators should have access to door controls.

Impact: SEVERE

 

8. Improper Control Placement

Jetpack Hit

Observation: Study participant was accidently rocketed towards a “sail barge” from an inadvertent bump on his jet-pack. Appears as if he is now being slowly digested over 1000 years.

UX Recommendation: As early airplane designers discovered, it is dangerous when the ejector seat lever is too accessible. Controls with dire consequences should be not grouped with common or frequently accessed interface elements. Secondary steps can also be introduced to ensure the user’s intention was clear.

Impact: SEVERE

 

9. Limited Cockpit Ergonomics

Shuttle Ergo

Observation: Even a study participant without training in UX was able to identify that certain user groups were excluded from the design of a spacecraft: “I don’t think the {redacted} had {inaudible} in mind when they designed her.”

UX Recommendation: Although both pilots were able to successfully navigate the craft, seating was uncomfortable. Regardless, a careful consideration of the 5th to 95th percentile user groups could help ensure better ergonomics for all. This should be considered for any product, including things like handcuffs, which could be placed on variously-sized creatures.

Impact: MILD

 

Conclusion:

The videos reviewed in this study have been released to the public and are now widely available for viewing. Should you happen to see them and find additional UX issues, please feel free to share in the comment section below.

Even more troubling is word of the existence of three additional videos that surfaced from a period of time before the events above occurred. From the leaked footage, the design flaws from this other period are difficult for this researcher to even express in words. We must be cautious.

 

Comments (10) Add yours ↓
  1. Dude

    Satanek? Is that, like, Czech for “little Satan?”

    You little devil, you!

    June 28, 2014 Reply
    • Brandon Satanek

      Yup, a Slovak name. Being somewhat rare and unusual has provided me with two benefits:
      1) It’s easily remembered and a good conversation starter.
      2) Google searches for me (my name) are guaranteed to work.

      June 28, 2014 Reply
  2. Lando Jr.

    It was a skull. not a rock.

    June 28, 2014 Reply
    • Brandon Satanek

      Uggg, after all these years and even doing the frame-by-frame edit, I never realized this. I guess it is true what they say: the quickest way to get the right answer to any question is to post something wrong on the internet. Fixed.

      June 28, 2014 Reply
  3. Patrick Noonan

    Great article Brandon,

    Good to see there are other UX practitioners finding inspiration in the Star Wars universe. I recently wrote a blog on why R2-D2 couldn’t talk to explore the implications of natural language feedback on audio UX.

    http://akendi.com/blog/audio-interface-design-why-r2-d2-couldnt-talk/

    I think it makes a great companion to your article and I’d welcome your feedback.

    December 9, 2014 Reply
    • Brandon Satanek

      Thanks for the feedback and link! I will definitely check it out. (Sorry it took so long to respond, I just discovered my email was filtering out all of my blog comment notifications.)

      February 12, 2015 Reply
  4. Alline

    Great observations!

    May 28, 2015 Reply
  5. Christopher Carlson

    Since it happened so long, long ago, you would think we would have been able to fix these UX issues in our modern systems!

    July 25, 2015 Reply
    • Brandon Satanek

      Ah, but the “video footage” was only recently discovered, someplace far, far away.

      July 25, 2015 Reply

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