Tips for Recruiting Research Participants

Jared Spool

February 7th, 2011

Our good friend, Dana Chisnell, wrote a fabulous answer on Quora, sharing her tips on recruiting participants for user research:

Do the recruiting yourself. This gives you bonus research data about your people, and you may learn things you hadn’t anticipated that will influence how you conduct the study. It also starts a relationship with people that gets them invested in taking part. It’s the start of a conversation with you and your organization. They’re more likely to trust your motives and give you a deeper, richer view of their lives.

Focus on behavior, not demographics. If you want people to use your tool to do a particular thing, look for people who already do that somehow. For example, if you want people to use your design to store their photos and music and other content, find people who have a lot of that type of content and who are concerned about losing it. If you want people to use your design to generate invoices, find people who are doing that now and observe what they do to generate invoice when they’re in the mode of doing it. If you want people to use your design to remember to take their medicines at the right time in the right dosage, find people who have persistent conditions that need medication and who have been diagnosed with the type of condition you want to help them deal with.

You’ll see that I never once mentioned age, sex, income, location, education level, marital status – or any of those things that marketers go on. Because it doesn’t usually matter. What matters for UX design is behavior. Do people do the thing you want to make a design for?

There’s a lot more insight in her answer. A must read.

Some other thinking on this topic:

One Response to “Tips for Recruiting Research Participants”

  1. Edwin Says:

    Jared,

    I agree that we should focus on behaviour

    But some of the demographic factors, like sex, age, education level do influence the behaviour, no?

    By instance people with a low education have in general lower vocabulary skills, which could have an impact on the kind of vocabulary you’ll use on the website. Those people have also another search pattern.

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