How to Recruit Participants for UX Research

Recruitment for UX research is a critical (often the most critical) factor in conducting the research.

There is little point in getting a refined product offering, a well-thought through and constructed test and good moderators  only to apply the test to the wrong people. So you need to carefully consider who your target audience is for the test and optimise how to recruit them.

There are points to consider before going into the recruitment phase;

  1. Do we know exactly who the user is for the user research?
  2. How difficult are they likely to be to identify and get hold of?
  3. Can colleagues or customers help in the process?
  4. What type of user research are we doing and how likely are they key audience to participate?
  5. Do we need to incentivise them in some way?
  6. Can we do the recruitment ourselves or is it so specialised (or so much work) that we will need a consultant to help?

It is better to be clear upfront about the objectives and likely obstacles as you can spend a lot of time on the process only to find you are not getting the right people or simply struggling to find matches to your requirements.

Let us look at three important recruitment methods for user research in slightly more detail.

Using a Client

Often your clients will have access to (or perhaps even be) the type of people your looking to use in your test. They can certainly help to inform the process and provide vital information about user characteristics, behaviours, attitudes etc. They might also have access to specific individuals through customer/sales lists. You can lose a degree of control if the client isn’t briefed properly or doesn’t brief their staff and you are in their hands in terms of timing but it can yield useful access in some circumstances.

Using an Agency

If you are looking for very specific, hard-to-reach groups or, alternatively if you have a large well-defined market but don’t have time, a recruitment agency can help in several phases of the process. They can assist in identifying targets; they can participate in the recruitment and even conduct the interviews if you wish. Obviously this costs money and takes time, but it does provide a measure of thoroughness, professionalism and control.

Guerilla Recruitment

This is, basically, identifying targets in their natural habitat, as it were. In other words accosting people in public places and persuading them to engage and participate. This can be especially useful where your research relates to a specific place or function where it is easy to identify and engage people in a short conversation. It is probably less suitable for more complex interviews. This can be done quickly and pretty cheaply but is only applicable to clearly defined needs and situations.

If you are considering recruitment for a research project and identifying targets is an issue for your organisation, why not ring us on +44(0)800 0246247 or email us at for an initial discussion on how we might help?

Related Posts