The Interstellar UI not so Stellar
The idea of communicating with another person in the past using gravity is a pretty cool idea. However, if the 5D beings could build such a thing, they should also have been able to design it better.
For one thing, there was no “undo.” If Cooper had accidentally pushed a book, he could not unpush it. If he knocked a heavy paper weight onto the watch and broke it, there was no way to go back in time and undo the dropping of the weight. A simple undo switch would have solved this. A more intuitive “switch” could be Cooper standing on the other side of the bookshelf so he could pick books up and put them back on the shelf.
Cooper had to create his binary code messages in reverse, reading from right to left. Then once he pushed a book, he’d need to imagine what it all looks like from the other side. This surely took up mental energy, and could have easily led to mistakes. Without the ability to undo, these errors lead to frustration, miscommunication and decreased user confidence. In order to see how the book gaps looked when laid out, he would need to move over the book shelf to look “over” it from the bird’s eye view. This is another case where simply allowing cooper to stand on the other side of the bookshelf would have improved the user experience significantly.
In order to navigate through time, Cooper needed to float around the bookshelf maze world. Perhaps people who live in five dimensions have lost a linear view of time, so it made sense that time would be structured differently. However, Cooper is not them, and the 5D beings need to have some user empathy. When Cooper needed to find the book shelf at the right point in time, he needed to check each room he came upon. I will agree that this layout affords a trip down memory lane. However, when you are short on time and need to save the world, I believe other user goals should be prioritized. If the rooms were laid out chronologically in a line, or navigable by a search bar, the search time could have been reduced significantly.
Some of the books require pounding with a fist. Not moveable with a simple click, swipe or voice command — a pound. This kind of interaction might be better suited to a high-energy toddler.
They knew their user was Cooper, and knew that he would recognize how to use the bookshelf. Because of this, he was able to quickly figure out how to communicate to her, and everyone on earth was saved. Quick recognition and the ability to use an interface are good qualities that cannot be dismissed.
All in all, the five-dimensional beings should have been able to design a better user experience. It wouldn’t have been all that difficult, and there are countless improvements they could have made. However, saving everyone on Earth is a pretty satisfying user outcome, so they didn’t exactly fail.