In 1977 I started working at CL Mauro Associates. I really didn't have a clue. I had completed a BA in general psych and 2 months of a masters in applied psych. But we worked on fun projects like CAT scanners, Gamma cameras, sewing machines, and hair dryers. I would just ask a teacher at school what to do, apply the latest points from my textbook reading, or make procedures up. We had some good insights like telling Motorola they had to find a way to make beepers vibrate, and Singer that they needed a compact sewing machine. In 1978 I suggested that Chuck Mauro hire a professor from school – Dr Hugh Bowen. A few months after he joined he fired me for insufferable pushiness with clients. This was a huge favor and started a long road toward moderating my tendency to be insufferable.

Starting out at AT&T

In 1978 went to work at AT&T Long Lines. This was bliss. I had Gary Griggs and Dr. Darryl Yoblick as mentors. I had Dr. Bob Bailey as a professor. I got to go to AT&T training and conferences where I was awed by the senior guys like Chapanis, Norman, and Shneiderman. But there was a siege mentality. The “personnel sub-system” people sat together, but isolated from everyone else at the company, and battled the dark force of programmers. I learned to fight (while very slightly moderating my tendency to be insufferable).

One programmer had built a whole interface of questions ("What is your street address"). When I told him to at least put a question mark at the end of each sentence, he told me computers could not make question marks. I went home and looked up the ASCII code. I've never been sure if he was testing me, or did not know himself!

"Grandmother studies"

I made it a practice to run “before and after” studies. I tested screens, documentation, even forms that had been improved based on usability principles. These were all “grandmother studies.” The differences were so obvious you could just ask your grandmother and she would tell you. But they were statistically significant and had big dollars attached. They got some management attention. After a while the programmers got scared enough of these studies to leave me alone and mostly code what I asked for. I would walk around with the loaded labor rates in my $150.00 calculator, which had four memory slots. When a programmer said it was too hard to code I would calculate the cost in user time, per year. Mostly I got the coding done.

Cracking the problem of standards

At AT&T I learned a lot. I designed a much improved bill, only to have the managers tell me they hated it. They said people might not understand it and call with questions. So I learned to listen to the business goals before I started designing. I was also loaned to the BSP-007 taskforce on interface design standards. It was amazing. Dever was there (he designed the touch tone keypad). It taught me a lot about how to NOT build standards. Everyone just sat around making fragmented recommendations. No one could ever pull them together into a design. It was about 1984 when I really cracked the problem of standards, with customized page types. And I've done over $25 million in custom standards projects since then.

The move to Bell Labs

In 1980 my Division level manager told me I was “A” rated and should be “rounded out” to become a generalist manager. He said I should run a word processing group next. I asked to be transferred to the Labs as that was the only place they allowed specialists in usability. My management refused, so I quit and went to work the next day as a contractor at the Labs in Whippany.

Bell Labs was lovely. The technical staff was much more sensitive to usability issues and the debates were a joy. It was the first time since working with Chuck Mauro's industrial designers that I was really working WITH the technical staff. Occasionally the submarine warfare people would drift down the hall and ask how to solve a mysterious interface problem with fake scenarios like "You are showing a forest on the screen and you want to see the different types of animals. Some are dangerous." Brent Coy was heading a great team that got to test outdoor equipment for vandalism, often with sledge hammers.

The early signs of a real business

In 1981 Bob Bailey called me up and asked if I wanted to start a company with him and a sales guy called Ted Lesher. I thought Bob was just amazingly brilliant and I could not refuse that chance. We started Human Performance Associates (HPA) selling contractors to AT&T. It was pretty easy. I was the first contractor and AT&T would pay a salary plus about the same amount more. It was enough to move things ahead. Bob, Ted, and I spent hours in restaurants and our basements trying to figure out how to make a real business out of usability. That was a thought process that went on until about 2002 when I finally cracked it at HFI. We talked about certification of software, products, and other services that never really worked. But the business started to grow. Bob left and I inherited a 50:50 company with Ted. Ted did not understand the first thing about usability. But he knew a lot about sales and some about business. Without Ted I would never have made it work. He taught me the value of professional sales. Without things like an 'assumptive close' the waters coming could not be survived.

The first "course"

In 1982 IBM asked for a course on user interface design. I typed out the course materials on a typewriter (in Courier font) and photographed the sheets way up close with a macro lens so the text looked very big. The resulting 35mm slides became a two day course in mainframe usability. Some of the content from those slides still exists in the HFI courses today, maybe 35 course versions later. About that time I helped out Sid Smith at MITRE work on his mammoth guidelines document. It was a brave effort and it also taught me a lot about what would not work in a standard. I don't think many people have ever read it, much less internalized it. But it was great inspiration for the course and I still think that is the right vehicle for design advice.

Selling usability

In 1983 AT&T went through divestiture and all the contracts stopped cold. Our usual clients all said they were not sure who they were working for and what was happening. We should call in about a year. This was scary and we rushed to fill the breach, mostly with insurance company work. Bill Galitz had been in that space, so there was precedent.

I learned to sell usability with a pretty aggressive approach. I would almost grab project managers by the throat and present the user-centered viewpoint up close. Our classes were mostly a brainwashing exercise. You needed that then. In about 1998 I would grab people and say "Usability is Important!" They would look at me funny and say "Of course. How do we do it?" This was a sudden and difficult transition. But until then selling usability had to be hard hitting even if I sometimes made people mad or even occasionally made a developer weep. Ted would take me in to a company and just ask them to show me a screen. I had to reel off 10-15 nice strong usability issues, with supporting theory. It might be embarrassing for developers, but it did sell. After a bit of a dip following divestiture we were running again, with HPA at over a million a year and a dozen staff.

HFI is born

In 1988 I decided I wanted out of the East Coast and decided to move to Fairfield Iowa. My friends from the Transcendental Meditation movement were there and it seemed like a safe place to raise kids. Ted told me I was nuts and could never survive. So we split the company (he went under in two years). I found myself with course materials, a couple of clients, and a few staff members out in the cornfields of Iowa. We had the Human Factors International (HFI) office in a farm house on 25 acres.

If the East coast was tough, the Midwest was far less aware of usability. The GUI revolution happened and that actually made it worse for a while. Everyone thought that GUIs were "User Friendly". It took about a year before they realized that GUIs gave more degrees of design freedom and also more ways to screw up. We rushed to prepare courses for GUIs and projects flowed nicely.

Flying around

I learned to fly a plane and would travel wherever there was a chance to talk about, teach about, or do usability work. We slowly built the sales force and technical staff. It was totally unstructured. I taught the technical people by hiring them and putting them on projects. We did expert reviews, standards, training, fixing train wrecks, research, and anything else that came up. They would fail and I would stay up all night fixing it. But hiring creative and eccentric people made it fun. It truly was usability work in the garage (well, a farm house). Clients had no idea what good usability was, so the criteria of success was mostly if Eric liked it.

...And here we are

Today HFI has over 200 staff. The sun never sets on our offices and we work in an amazing diversity of environments (I'm typing this returning to my home in Mumbai from working in Africa). Things are far more organized. We are process driven, tool supported, metrics driven, formally trained, secure, and very certified. We are cost effective and competitive as hell. But I do think those early days were a bit more fun!

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Privacy policy

Reviewed: 18 Mar 2014

This Privacy Policy governs the manner in which Human Factors International, Inc., an Iowa corporation ("HFI") collects, uses, maintains and discloses information collected from users (each, a "User") of its humanfactors.com website and any derivative or affiliated websites on which this Privacy Policy is posted (collectively, the "Website"). HFI reserves the right, at its discretion, to change, modify, add or remove portions of this Privacy Policy at any time by posting such changes to this page. You understand that you have the affirmative obligation to check this Privacy Policy periodically for changes, and you hereby agree to periodically review this Privacy Policy for such changes. The continued use of the Website following the posting of changes to this Privacy Policy constitutes an acceptance of those changes.


HFI may use "cookies" or "web beacons" to track how Users use the Website. A cookie is a piece of software that a web server can store on Users’ PCs and use to identify Users should they visit the Website again. Users may adjust their web browser software if they do not wish to accept cookies. To withdraw your consent after accepting a cookie, delete the cookie from your computer.


HFI believes that every User should know how it utilizes the information collected from Users. The Website is not directed at children under 13 years of age, and HFI does not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from children under 13 years of age online. Please note that the Website may contain links to other websites. These linked sites may not be operated or controlled by HFI. HFI is not responsible for the privacy practices of these or any other websites, and you access these websites entirely at your own risk. HFI recommends that you review the privacy practices of any other websites that you choose to visit.

HFI is based, and this website is hosted, in the United States of America. If User is from the European Union or other regions of the world with laws governing data collection and use that may differ from U.S. law and User is registering an account on the Website, visiting the Website, purchasing products or services from HFI or the Website, or otherwise using the Website, please note that any personally identifiable information that User provides to HFI will be transferred to the United States. Any such personally identifiable information provided will be processed and stored in the United States by HFI or a service provider acting on its behalf. By providing your personally identifiable information, User hereby specifically and expressly consents to such transfer and processing and the uses and disclosures set forth herein.

In the course of its business, HFI may perform expert reviews, usability testing, and other consulting work where personal privacy is a concern. HFI believes in the importance of protecting personal information, and may use measures to provide this protection, including, but not limited to, using consent forms for participants or "dummy" test data.

The Information HFI Collects

Users browsing the Website without registering an account or affirmatively providing personally identifiable information to HFI do so anonymously. Otherwise, HFI may collect personally identifiable information from Users in a variety of ways. Personally identifiable information may include, without limitation, (i)contact data (such as a User’s name, mailing and e-mail addresses, and phone number); (ii)demographic data (such as a User’s zip code, age and income); (iii) financial information collected to process purchases made from HFI via the Website or otherwise (such as credit card, debit card or other payment information); (iv) other information requested during the account registration process; and (v) other information requested by our service vendors in order to provide their services. If a User communicates with HFI by e-mail or otherwise, posts messages to any forums, completes online forms, surveys or entries or otherwise interacts with or uses the features on the Website, any information provided in such communications may be collected by HFI. HFI may also collect information about how Users use the Website, for example, by tracking the number of unique views received by the pages of the Website, or the domains and IP addresses from which Users originate. While not all of the information that HFI collects from Users is personally identifiable, it may be associated with personally identifiable information that Users provide HFI through the Website or otherwise. HFI may provide ways that the User can opt out of receiving certain information from HFI. If the User opts out of certain services, User information may still be collected for those services to which the User elects to subscribe. For those elected services, this Privacy Policy will apply.

How HFI Uses Information

HFI may use personally identifiable information collected through the Website for the specific purposes for which the information was collected, to process purchases and sales of products or services offered via the Website if any, to contact Users regarding products and services offered by HFI, its parent, subsidiary and other related companies in order to otherwise to enhance Users’ experience with HFI. HFI may also use information collected through the Website for research regarding the effectiveness of the Website and the business planning, marketing, advertising and sales efforts of HFI. HFI does not sell any User information under any circumstances.

Disclosure of Information

HFI may disclose personally identifiable information collected from Users to its parent, subsidiary and other related companies to use the information for the purposes outlined above, as necessary to provide the services offered by HFI and to provide the Website itself, and for the specific purposes for which the information was collected. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information at the request of law enforcement or governmental agencies or in response to subpoenas, court orders or other legal process, to establish, protect or exercise HFI’s legal or other rights or to defend against a legal claim or as otherwise required or allowed by law. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information in order to protect the rights, property or safety of a User or any other person. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information to investigate or prevent a violation by User of any contractual or other relationship with HFI or the perpetration of any illegal or harmful activity. HFI may also disclose aggregate, anonymous data based on information collected from Users to investors and potential partners. Finally, HFI may disclose or transfer personally identifiable information collected from Users in connection with or in contemplation of a sale of its assets or business or a merger, consolidation or other reorganization of its business.

Personal Information as Provided by User

If a User includes such User’s personally identifiable information as part of the User posting to the Website, such information may be made available to any parties using the Website. HFI does not edit or otherwise remove such information from User information before it is posted on the Website. If a User does not wish to have such User’s personally identifiable information made available in this manner, such User must remove any such information before posting. HFI is not liable for any damages caused or incurred due to personally identifiable information made available in the foregoing manners. For example, a User posts on an HFI-administered forum would be considered Personal Information as provided by User and subject to the terms of this section.

Security of Information

Information about Users that is maintained on HFI’s systems or those of its service providers is protected using industry standard security measures. However, no security measures are perfect or impenetrable, and HFI cannot guarantee that the information submitted to, maintained on or transmitted from its systems will be completely secure. HFI is not responsible for the circumvention of any privacy settings or security measures relating to the Website by any Users or third parties.

Correcting, Updating, Accessing or Removing Personal Information

If a User’s personally identifiable information changes, or if a User no longer desires to receive non-account specific information from HFI, HFI will endeavor to provide a way to correct, update and/or remove that User’s previously-provided personal data. This can be done by emailing a request to HFI at hfi@humanfactors.com. Additionally, you may request access to the personally identifiable information as collected by HFI by sending a request to HFI as set forth above. Please note that in certain circumstances, HFI may not be able to completely remove a User’s information from its systems. For example, HFI may retain a User’s personal information for legitimate business purposes, if it may be necessary to prevent fraud or future abuse, for account recovery purposes, if required by law or as retained in HFI’s data backup systems or cached or archived pages. All retained personally identifiable information will continue to be subject to the terms of the Privacy Policy to which the User has previously agreed.

Contacting HFI

If you have any questions or comments about this Privacy Policy, you may contact HFI via any of the following methods:
Human Factors International, Inc.
PO Box 2020
1680 highway 1, STE 3600
Fairfield IA 52556
(800) 242-4480

Terms and Conditions for Public Training Courses

Reviewed: 18 Mar 2014

Cancellation of Course by HFI

HFI reserves the right to cancel any course up to 14 (fourteen) days prior to the first day of the course. Registrants will be promptly notified and will receive a full refund or be transferred to the equivalent class of their choice within a 12-month period. HFI is not responsible for travel expenses or any costs that may be incurred as a result of cancellations.

Cancellation of Course by Participants (All regions except India)

$100 processing fee if cancelling within two weeks of course start date.

Cancellation / Transfer by Participants (India)

4 Pack + Exam registration: Rs. 10,000 per participant processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the course (4 Pack-CUA/CXA) registration before three weeks from the course start date. No refund or carry forward of the course fees if cancelling or transferring the course registration within three weeks before the course start date.

Cancellation / Transfer by Participants (Online Courses)

$100 processing fee if cancelling within two weeks of course start date. No cancellations or refunds less than two weeks prior to the first course start date.

Individual Modules: Rs. 3,000 per participant ‘per module’ processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the course (any Individual HFI course) registration before three weeks from the course start date. No refund or carry forward of the course fees if cancelling or transferring the course registration within three weeks before the course start date.

Exam: Rs. 3,000 per participant processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the pre agreed CUA/CXA exam date before three weeks from the examination date. No refund or carry forward of the exam fees if requesting/cancelling or transferring the CUA/CXA exam within three weeks before the examination date.

No Recording Permitted

There will be no audio or video recording allowed in class. Students who have any disability that might affect their performance in this class are encouraged to speak with the instructor at the beginning of the class.

Course Materials Copyright

The course and training materials and all other handouts provided by HFI during the course are published, copyrighted works proprietary and owned exclusively by HFI. The course participant does not acquire title nor ownership rights in any of these materials. Further the course participant agrees not to reproduce, modify, and/or convert to electronic format (i.e., softcopy) any of the materials received from or provided by HFI. The materials provided in the class are for the sole use of the class participant. HFI does not provide the materials in electronic format to the participants in public or onsite courses.