First-Time Usability: Recruiting

Tips on creating and conducting your first usability test.

Now that you’ve decided who/what to test, made a plan, and created the script, it’s time to recruit your participants.

There’s a few things to know upfront about recruiting:

  1. Make sure to screen tightly so you get the right type of user.
  2. If you need 10 people, invite 15. People’s schedules are hectic and someone will flake so schedule more than you need.
  3. Pay your participants.

So how do you recruit?

While it’s always important to create designs that are intuitive to a wide user base, the closer your designs can represent the needs of your target audience, the more they will understand implicitly. With that in mind, you need a screener. A screener is a short questionnaire that will help you quickly select participants that have the characteristics of your target audience. The goal of your screener is to sort out who will be a a good representation of your audience.

Here’s some help on crafting screeners:
User Testing Blog
General Assembly Blog

It’s important to note that a great questions will ultimately help you save time and frustration. Years ago, I was interviewing teachers mostly found by word of mouth. I relied on participants to recommend their colleagues and coworkers and I didn’t have a thorough screener. While interviewing a participant, it became very clear that he was not a teacher, as he couldn’t answer many of the specific questions. I ended the interview early as he was clearly making up answers. This resulted in a loss of time (for me) and money. In addition, we had to do extra recruiting to make up for the loss.

Now you have a screener, so blast away — use any lists you company may already have. If you don’t have any lists of users, think of this as an opportunity to gather people. Keep in mind unusual options too, like the volunteer section of craigslist.

Once you’ve collected responses and narrowed down the right participants, reach out to start scheduling. Here’s some great insights and templates for great recruiting emails (by Charles Liu):
3 Email Templates for Recruiting All The Users You Need in 24 Hours

You’ll also need a way to sort and organize your responses. I use google forms, as it shows results in a google spreadsheet that is easy to sort and group.

And that’s the basics! Be sure to refer back to your initial plan and scope for scheduling purposes.