How to recruit UX research participants?
by Emma Peters, UX Consultant

How to recruit UX research participants?

Recruitment: a word that can instil unease in the most seasoned of researchers; it will make or break your research, rendering it a critical component to get right.

I’ve learned some lessons! I have personally experienced the good, bad, and ugly of research recruitment. Experienced researchers quickly gain a sixth sense to spot participants who do or don’t meet the specified recruitment criteria. Here are our top ten tips to recruit on-brief research participants:

  1. Who’s your ideal research participant? The first step may appear obvious but establishing exactly who you need to research can sometimes be the hardest step. List out the criteria you need in an ideal participant. Split your list into ‘must have…’, ‘rule out if…’ and ‘ideally…’.
  2. How to find your ideal research participant? Consider the method/s you’ll use to find your participants. Do you have your own database? Could you free-find participants through social media or your clients’ communications channels? Do you need a mixed approach? Consider the ease, feasibility, and risks of each method.
  3. How to incentivise your research participants? It’s important to incentivise participants for their time. If you can’t incentivise through cash, consider vouchers. Ensure participants know that they can make a difference. For particularly specialist topics, expect to increase your incentive value.
  4. How to screen your research participants? Check participants are suitable by screening them against your criteria. Create a screener questionnaire via an online form. Don’t give too much away! Research participants should have minimal prior awareness of what the topic of research is. Include a few red herrings to not reveal your research topic or prime your participants.
  5. How to communicate with your research participants? How you communicate with your potential participants and your client is key to recruitment success. If the client is sharing the screener through their communications channels, provide some examples on what to say, and what not to say! Avoid words like ‘test’ which can be off-putting.
  6. How to monitor your research recruit? Check, check, and check again! Review the progress of your recruit and keep abreast of how it’s going. Ensure all parties are up to speed. Flag any concerns and take action promptly.
  7. How to choose research participants? So, you’ve collated a list of potential participants, now it’s time to consider if they’re suitable. A spreadsheet is one way to start your review. Highlight suitable respondents in green; yellow for maybes, and red for unsuitable.
  8. How to invite research participants? Introduce yourself and your involvement in the project. Tell them (excitedly) they are eligible, and you would like to invite them to take part. State the date and the time you are inviting them to as well as any additional information such as a reminder of their incentive and what is involved. Use a clear and compelling email subject line to highlight it in their inbox.
  9. How to ensure the technology works? If you’re conducting remote research, arrange a short video call with each participant to check the device they’re expecting to use is AOK. Get them familiar with anything they may be required to do such as share their screen. Use the opportunity to introduce yourself and build rapport. Sometimes, it may be appropriate to incentivise the tech check.
  10. How to start a research session? The time has come for you to facilitate your research sessions. Start slowly by explaining how the session will run. Be as open about the process; that you are recording the session, and if anyone is observing the call. Emphasise that there are no right or wrong answers!

Recruitment doesn’t have to be daunting, chunk the process into bitesize steps and remember that clear communication with all parties is key throughout. If in doubt, communicate! Flag concerns: ask questions and ensure everyone’s in the know. A task shared is a task halved.

UX Consultant Emma Peters

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