When I started learning User Experience Design, I began seeing UX in everything. This new worldview was highlighted for me recently as I was watching Star Wars (the original trilogy, obviously). What follows is some professional advice for the Galactic Empire.
The Galactic Empire is the perfect example of bureaucracy gone wrong. They seem to have created a culture of incompetency with zero accountability. Those at the top seem endlessly frustrated by this situation, but no one is willing to address any of the underlying systematic issues.
I get it, Darth Vader, the Dark Side is very powerful. But all I’m saying is that some nice UX could go a long way.
The Storm Troopers: A Cautionary Tale in Undervaluing Employees
There are so many things wrong with the Storm Troopers that it’s hard to know where to begin. But that’s kind of my point. This stuff is so obvious that clearly no one at the top has bothered to pay any attention to this mess. Here is a situation where a little contextual inquiry could go a long way. Maybe follow around some Storm Troopers for a day. Ask them about their jobs and their pain points.
Let’s start with an easy one: those uniforms. Just from some basic observations, it appears that the helmets greatly impede peripheral vision and the body suits vastly constrict movement. Whoever designed those things apparently never bothered trying one on. And yeah, they look cool, but maybe that shouldn’t be the Empire’s biggest priority.
We see several different uniform types, and they all seem to suffer from this oversight. Would you want your bodyguard wearing this? What if a threat appears slightly to the left or right?
Then there is the issue of training. None of the Storm Troopers seem to have had any. They can’t shoot, drive, or operate equipment effectively. We can make fun of them all we want, but this seems to be a failure of management. The poor Storm Troopers are clearly not being provided with the skills to succeed. The Empire needs to invest a little in its employees. After all, the Storm Troopers are the face of the brand.
Accessibility: "A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away" is No Excuse for Shoddy Standards
When it comes to accessibility, the Empire actually does a fantastic job in certain areas. For example, R2-D2 manages to get around everywhere on his wheels. The Death Star, in particular, is filled with ramps and elevators. There also appears to be great support for people who speak different languages. Many people are multilingual, and for those who aren’t, there are droid translators all over the place.
In other areas, however, the Empire has a lot of room for improvement. There is a wide diversity of species in the Star Wars universe, but we don’t see this variety within the Empire’s employees. In fact, all of the uniforms and equipment seem to be made for a very specific body type. Even someone as skilled as Chewbacca has a hard time flying an Imperial ship. By being so exclusive, the Empire is missing out on a lot of talent. We don’t see this racism and narrow-mindedness within the Rebel Alliance, where the non-humans prove to be a major asset.
The Death Star: Badass Triumph turned Design Disaster
Before addressing the glaring security flaw, let’s start with some of the smaller issues with the Death Star design.
1) Things seem to be poorly labeled. This is a tightly-run battle station. There is no excuse.
2) Why are there so many cliffs? This is just basic workplace safety. Being a soldier for the Empire is obviously going to come with some danger, but this is an easily-avoidable risk.
3) Why is everything so flammable? This goes for all the other transport vehicles as well. For the amount of effort that is clearly going into designing and building all of this equipment, a little of that could be directed towards safety. A little effort up front would prevent a lot of problems down the line.
Now, back to the glaring elephant in the room. Obviously, the team that designed the first Death Star missed a major structural problem.
They should clearly have done some more testing in the planning stages. After all, the Rebels were easily able to find this flaw once they got hold of the schematics. And yeah, the Empire thought itself unstoppable, but a little risk management would have gone a long way. They can afford to build a Death Star, but not to cover up that little hole leading to the main reactor? Sloppy work, guys.
Okay, so they missed something big. It shouldn’t have happened, but it happened. But then, after this flaw was so dramatically pointed out to them, the second Death Star was built the exact same way! This was the perfect opportunity to learn from their mistakes — it was built-in research — and they blew it. (Literally, hahaha.)
In fact, it appears that the Emperor’s entire project management strategy was to intimidate and threaten everyone involved in the planning and construction until the new Death Star was complete. His number one goal seems to have been getting it constructed as quickly as possible, regardless of how many corners were cut. This terrible management strategy of course resulted in yet another public and dramatic embarrassment for the Empire. Which leads me to my next point . . .
The Empire: A Problem of Culture
Overall, the Empire has a major culture problem. Morale seems to be terrible. There is a very strict hierarchy, and everyone in middle management seems terrified of the higher-ups. The overall lack of an open, creative, and positive atmosphere has created an environment where no one wants to speak up and report obvious flaws. And when people do speak up, it doesn’t go well.
This lack of empowerment leads to a lot of disfunction and some major breakdowns in communication. On multiple occasions, the Empire sets a trap for the Rebels, the Rebels obliviously fall for it, and then things completely fall apart on the Empire’s end. The Empire has way too many resources to be getting their asses handed to them by a clan of teddy bears. They need to take a long, hard look at their culture and leadership structure.