CUA of the Month – March, 2008

Jim Angus
"On the NIH sites, most folks are looking for health-related information, often for an ill family member. This makes it extremely important to distill the site down to something that really works – and quickly."
Jim Angus
Associate Director of Communications
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Extramural Research

Site Design That Saves Lives Usability Pioneer Helps NINDS Bring Healthcare to Users' Fingertips

by Christine Schrum

Jim Angus doesn't consider himself a "usability person" – which is ironic because he's one of the world's very first. A website designer since the Internet's earliest days, Jim spent decades developing what he calls "workhorse websites, where users can get what they want quickly and easily, without extra fluff."

It wasn't until 2001, when working for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), that Jim realized there was an entire discipline devoted to the principles he'd long put into practice. As project manager for the review, redesign, and rebranding of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) website and intranet, Jim collaborated with HFI's usability experts – and found he had a lot in common with them.

"I realized I was one of them," Jim recalls. "There was already a language to describe the types of things I was doing in a very unstructured way – I just had to learn the vocabulary."

That vocabulary came to the fore as Jim and HFI's usability experts began evaluating the NINDS sites' strengths and weaknesses. One of over 2 dozen research institutes and centers comprising the world-famous National Institutes of Health (NIH), NINDS conducts and supports research on more than 600 brain and nervous systems disorders. As a result, its website and intranet are extremely content- and information-heavy.

"On the NIH sites, most folks are looking for health-related information, often for an ill family member," says Jim. "This makes it extremely important to distill the site down to something that really works – and quickly."

At the onset of the project, NINDS sites' users, stakeholders, and staff complained that they could not easily find the information they were seeking – especially on the intranet.

"Category names just didn't make sense," Jim says. "The site really didn't serve the needs of the staff. The intranet had become a dumping ground for files that someone thought should be shared with staff."

Following the Schaffer-Weinschenk Method™, HFI's usability team conducted surveys and focus groups to help determine what information was most needed by users. Along the way, Jim realized HFI's approach closely mirrored that of his own.

"Basic things," he says, "like the fact that you talk to your users early on in the design phase. Who's the audience? And if you manage to reach that audience, what tasks do you want them to perform? It's actually pretty amazing – most people haven't thought these things through."

All too often, says Jim, organizations design sites based on an insider's perspective rather than according to what users actually need.

"They'll think they have a design that everyone will understand," says Jim, "but the only way to demonstrate that is to test it on real users who represent the target audiences. Web developers and content folk are just too close to the project."

Based on HFI's end-user data gathering, the team redesigned and restructured the NINDS intranet to better serve the needs of its audiences. They implemented "parametric searches," which enabled users to search for content by effectively narrowing the field of possible results. They created links that empowered staff to update site content and suggest changes. They changed the top level navigation so that it featured "community" tabs that allowed them to "push content" specific to each of the 3 NINDS communities: administrators, researchers and funding specialists.

"The improvement with the intranet was remarkable," says Jim. "We saw a huge increase in traffic." They also found the community-specific Web pages were popular and that people frequently used the feedback links.

The public website had different challenges. According to Jim, NINDS had previously invested in a new content-management system that would help keep the site's content fresh and make distributed content management possible. However, the CMS also imposed heavy technical constraints on how the site could be structured.

"That's where the JADs (Joint Application Development teams) came in," says Jim. "We had HFI's usability people, our content people, and technical developers all at the same table. By meeting together often, we came to understand the technical limitations – and strengths – and were able to suggest a design that really worked for users and worked with our technology."

To help users find what they needed fast, the team implemented an A-Z disease index and a disease "Quick Link" pull-down menu for the most frequently requested disease fact sheets. Visually, Jim says, HFI's design experts took care to give the site more "emotional appeal" and to place key information where people's eyes were most likely to scan.

The results were wildly successful. Summative evaluation showed that users were able to accomplish specific tasks with much greater ease. Furthermore, Web traffic logs indicated that users were staying an average of 20 minutes on the site. As Jim points out, "people don't stay on sites where it's difficult to find the information they're looking for."

During the project, Jim was so impressed with HFI's usability-based research and design methodologies that he signed up for CUA training to further his own skills.

"Working closely with HFI's usability experts, everything just clicked," he said. "When I took the training, I found there was a whole lot that I didn't know."

At that point, Jim knew the next logical step: institutionalizing usability at NIH.

"We engaged HFI's consultants and sent several members of our Web team to take HFI's usability training. This meant that everyone, including me as manager, had a strong basis in usability."

Jim says the team's training paid off in the new NINDS sites and was an excellent investment for NIH, helping the redesign efforts for many of the organization's sites. Personally, the CUA certification has given Jim more credibility when dealing with decision-makers and stakeholders.

"For Web designers, you really need something that sets you apart and effectively raises the standards for the work you produce," he says. "Becoming a CUA helps to accomplish that."

A strong proponent of HFI's usability training, Jim personally recommends the CUA course to anyone involved in Web design and content.

"There is a body of knowledge, a community of practice, and a wealth of best practices out there. All you have to do is take a few steps into that community and begin to explore."

CUA of the Month

Each month we highlight the successes and achievements of a different member of our CUA community. If you are a Certified Usability Analyst and would like to be considered for CUA of the Month recognition, please send a brief professional bio to

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.