UIEtips: Avoiding Demographics When Recruiting Participants – An Interview with Dana Chisnell

Jared Spool

October 2nd, 2013

When we’re planning a research study and get to the all-important consideration of the participants we need, we turn to Dana Chisnell.  No one spends more time thinking about how to get the right people involved with research than Dana.  In today’s reprint, Dana reveals the problems you can run into when you focus on demographics.

For more of her thinking on recruiting research participants, and how that step of the study can provide bonus user research, join us on October 17, 2013 for her virtual seminar, Gaining Design Insights from Your Research Recruiting Process.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

What kinds of problems do teams run into if they focus on demographics?

A few years ago, I did a study for AARP on the AARP.org web site. AARP is an organization for Americans over age 50. Among other things, AARP was interested in learning about how well their message boards, of which there were dozens active, worked for typical older adults.

We conducted a usability test in three different locations with 20 participants in each location. In the first location, we recruited based on segments. We recruited 6 people in their 50s, 8 people in their 60s, 4 people in their 70s, and 2 in their 80s. AARP is about age, after all. We did not select for what people did online.

When we got to the section of the test where we wanted people to do tasks with the message boards, we found that across the age brackets, most participants had not used message boards before and didn’t want to. Many simply refused to do the task. I asked them to do the tasks anyway. Guess what? The data wasn’t valuable. Message boards were not successful with these people because these people were not motivated to do the task.

Read the article: Avoiding Demographics When Recruiting Participants – An Interview with Dana Chisnell

What have you done to ensure you have the “right” folks in the test? Tell us about it below.

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