Cool stuff and UX resources

< Back to newsletters


Although most of you aren't really going back to school, there is something about the Back-to-School time of September that makes me feel it's time to learn something new. One of my favorite things to do, if and when I get any spare time, is read. And there are some really great books out there these days. I thought I'd review a few of the ones I've been reading lately.

I've got three different types for you to choose from:

  • Light Reading – lots of content but mainly with pictures, so it also works to just skim through and get ideas
  • Makes You Think – no pictures here, but the reading is not too tough and the writing style flows enough to make it a pretty easy read
  • For Brainiacs Only – dense reading full of research findings. Tough reading, but wow, do you know a lot when you are done!

Light Reading

My pick in the Light Reading category is Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds (Peachpit Press, 2008).

If you haven't "read" this book you should definitely get your hands on a copy. It's full of pictures and lots of examples. It's not about usability or user interface design per se, but it is all about how to display information and present your ideas visually.

We know that showing PowerPoint slides with tons of bullet points is not a good idea, but exactly what ARE we supposed to do instead. This book shows you what the alternatives are and gives lots of visual examples.

Living up to the Zen part of the name, there are great nuggets sprinkled all throughout the book. For example, in a section called "What Makes Messages Stick," Garr Reynolds talks about Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotions, and Stories. I also liked his ideas about storyboarding a presentation.

Even someone who is not naturally visually inclined like me can take what he has in this book and put it to work. I started revamping my presentations when I was only 1/3 of the way through the book. If you don't get at least 15 great, practical, and very important ideas out of this book then I think you are asleep.

Makes You Think

My pick in the Makes You Think category is a book with a misleading title.

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert (Vintage books 2006) sounds like a self help book, but it's not. It's a book about human memory of the past and human imagining of the future, and about how our mental processes around the past and the future affect what we do in the present.

This book is full of very well-chosen and well-explained research that Dr. Gilbert writes about in a supremely engaging way. He covers literally hundreds of studies, but he makes it so interesting you don't realize you are getting a review of the research.

For example:

  • People will estimate fairly accurately whether and how much other people will donate to charity, but will overestimate how much they themselves will give.
  • Providing a very expensive choice when people are making a purchase decision will make the next less expensive choice seem like a bargain.
  • People routinely overestimate how happy and how sad they will be if certain life events happen to them.

And... Well, you should just get the book and read it.

For Braniacs Only

One of the areas of psychology I've been learning and reading about lately is the Unconscious. In fact, I'm so fascinated by this field, I've decided it's the most important and fruitful area for psychologists interested in interface design, user experience, and usability. It turns out that most of our decisions are made unconsciously. The last 5 years has seen an explosion of research into the unconscious, and one of my favorite books right now is a book that dives into this research.

The New Unconscious, edited by Hassin, Uleman, and Bargh (Oxford University Press, 2005) is a great book, but it's not for the faint of brain. It contains nineteen chapters by different authors, each describing in research-journal format one, or in most cases many, of the research studies they have conducted around the topic of unconscious mental processing.

If you think the word unconscious doesn't go well with the phrase mental processing, then you should consider reading this book.

Some of my favorite parts include:

  • The description of the subliminal techniques that were used in a campaign ad in the US in the year 2000 where the face of Al Gore appeared on the screen while simultaneously the word RATS was presented, covering the whole screen, for one thirtieth of a second.
  • The description of how the amygdala in the human mid-brain is involved in our decision making.

If you like reading research studies and you are interested in the frontiers of human behavior, then I heartily recommend this book.

These are just a few of the books I've been reading. I wonder if there's a pop quiz this week?


Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds (Peachpit Press, 2008).

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert (Vintage books 2006)

The New Unconscious, edited by Hassin, Uleman, and Bargh (Oxford University Press, 2005)

Leave a comment here

Reader comments

Robert Wolverton

I just wanted to say thank you for the recommended reading list. I thoroughly enjoyed Presentation Zen and put the lessons learned to immediate use - quite successfully I might add. One member of my team commented: "By far the best PPT I have seen come out of IMX. It says a ton without using a bunch of words. Cool."

Mike Wheaton

I read Stumbling on Happiness recently and found it very interesting to say the least. Thanks for the recommendations; I'll most likely look into Presentation Zen and maybe The New Unconscious if I'm feeling brave.

Gary Pendergrass
L-3 Communications

For those interested, the elements of SUCCES referenced in the Zen book are fleshed out in the very readable Made to Stick, a bestseller from 2007 by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.


Sign up to get our Newsletter delivered straight to your inbox

Follow us

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 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 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.