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User Testing Recruitment: 10 Smart Tips To Find Participants Fast
How can a company accelerate its user testing recruitment process? Here we share 10 tips to get the job done quickly.
Any B2B company knows the user experience (UX) for their website, app or any other product is important. What they might not fully grasp is the massive impact UX has on business results.
According to Forrester, if you craft an intentional and strategic UX, you could increase conversion rates by as much as 400%. On average, every dollar invested in UX brings 100 in return. That's an ROI of 9,900%. Meanwhile, 89% of consumers shop with a competitor after a poor user experience.
Despite the upside, business leaders know UX improvement is not easy, and in-depth user testing is a key part of the challenge. And if we look further upstream in the process, we see user testing recruitment might be the true bottleneck. Recruitment for usability studies involves getting qualified people to cooperate willingly and authentically. For many companies, recruitment is by far the hardest part of user testing.
How can a company accelerate its user testing recruitment process? Here we share 10 tips to get the job done quickly. The first two tips lay some important groundwork while the remaining eight dive into more specific methods about how to find research participants faster.
Tip 1: Develop clear recruitment criteria
Before running off to look for testing candidates, you need a crystal clear idea about who your users are and how your product helps them do their job. While this may sound obvious, some nuances found in user testing recruitment might not surface in other types of B2B marketing research.
A simple job title alone is insufficient. To gain more insight, talk to product managers, developers, marketing, technical support, training experts, technical field representatives and actual users. Decide beforehand what you will be asking these stakeholders. Consider questions, such as:
- What is a user’s typical job title, employer and industry?
- What are some user characteristics? (area of expertise, beginners, advanced, experts, frequency of use)
- Who might be an unconventional user? (e.g. administrative assistants)
- What tasks does the product help with? How complex are the tasks?
- In what environment is the product used?
- Who supports users of the product/solution?
These types of questions provide you with a more granular view of potential user testing participants. While this requires some up front time investment, it saves you time later as a higher percentage of participants will be qualified to complete user testing.
Tip 2: Decide on the number of test subjects
How many participants does it take to derive meaningful user testing results? It’s important to choose this number wisely. Aim too low and you might not reach statistical significance. On the other hand, a large user testing pool might delay the time to complete your study while not adding any useful insight.
For any usability research, there are diminishing returns as the study progresses. In general, the initial users will detect the most important issues. Later, responses may become repetitive and only confirm prior observations. While it’s possible that participants at the tail end will pick up something important others missed, it's less likely.
The quality of your participants makes a big difference here. If the participants are well vetted and highly engaged in the usability testing process, then a smaller pool may be adequate. If you’re shooting for statistical significance, you’ll need at least 10 to 12 participants. For less formal studies, 4 to 5 participants might provide enough actionable insight.
Tip 3: Use a research recruitment platform
Since we’re concerned about speed, this recruitment method cuts to the chase. For user testing studies, recruitment platforms are by far the fastest and highest quality solution. One of the main reasons is that market research recruitment platforms have the vetting process built-in. This not only ensures the highest quality participants, but it also saves you time. Finding people to participate is only half the battle. Making sure they are qualified also consumes time and resources.
Specialized recruitment agencies are especially good at more complex usability testing research, such as for sophisticated software or SaaS products. The best platforms have millions of pre-qualified participants. This not only solves recruiting headaches, but end-to-end solutions also take care of scheduling and participant payment.
Given the high level of service and speed, these platforms come with a cost. It’s no surprise that participant incentives play a huge role in successful target audience recruitment. Incentives directly impact the number of applications and the speed at which you can recruit. Average payouts are around $100 per hour, and highly specialized occupations may see fees up to $500/hour.
Recruitment platforms may satisfy the requirements for smaller research pool sizes since the participants are qualified and fully engaged. This means you can expect faster, reliable results with less participants. These solutions might even save you money if you consider the time required to achieve the same results on your own. Given the ROI attached to UX improvement, you can make a strong case for this strategic expense. Research recruitment solutions allow you to field your study with qualified participants in a matter of days.
Tip 4: Leverage colleagues, friends and family
While conducting user testing on colleagues, friends and family is not ideal, it can be a way to garner quick feedback especially when faced with tight time and budget constraints. While this audience may very well be biased, it’s also a known audience and one who is most likely willing to jump in and help. This means that they would be easy and quick to recruit.
The early phases of R&D, for brief studies and when testing simple user interface features would be the optimal scenarios for recruiting colleagues, friends and families for research. And internal teams can be especially helpful and when evaluating low-fidelity prototypes and early designs.
When you get to final user testing, you’ll want to avoid using anyone close or familiar to you as your participants. This is when you’ll need to recruit blind and find qualified participants who have no skin-in-the-game or relationships and so will be completely unbiased in their responses.
When using friends, family and colleagues even for a brief or simple exploration, you still need to offer some type of incentive and respect for their time and opinions—even if it’s just a token gift card.
Tip 5: Test existing users
If your product is already launched, you probably have an existing user base. Existing users can provide valuable insight into your current product iteration or for evaluating a new feature. Even though you won’t be testing new markets or audiences, current user feedback is still valuable. Think strategically about how you recruit existing users as you don’t want to harm any customer relationships.
How will you reach out to existing users to participate? You could try email, pop ups or social media posts. Providing an incentive and including that in your participation request will certainly increase your odds of getting people to participate. An incentive will also minimize the chance users will be bothered, annoyed or insulted by the request.
In-app or on-platform testing can be hyper-targeted as well. While a user is completing a certain task, you can send a message that asks them to evaluate the UI or process. Even better, this type of inquiry can be automated. Again, some sort of incentive should be offered. Knowing they will receive an incentive for their time and participation will motivate users to take the needed time with their responses.
Quick response user testing can generate fast results but is not likely to provide in-depth usability insight. For the best results, when crafting your question(s), keep in mind that in this scenario users won’t spend much time responding. Keep questions and options for responses short.
Tip 6: Ask Sales, Support and Customer Success
Your Sales, Support and Customer Success teams are continuously in contact with users or potential users. These teams frequently field questions about certain features or workflows so they are already receiving feedback about usability. If you take this one step further, you can generate valuable usability studies.
For example, if an inquiry or complaint comes in about a certain dashboard feature, some simple questions could be included in the support ticket, such as:
- What about your experience with feature X do you consider positive?
- What about your experience with feature X do you consider negative?
Here it’s important to ask both questions separately. If not, you might only get negative feedback. The support ticket could also include questions about the person’s job title and other qualifying factors.
Finally, a simple email from Customer Success to recruit users can also be a quick way to get participants on board. Also, if they keep track of who’s making feature requests, you can circle back to this list to test usability. Again, offering an incentive is a must both to increase response rates and to build and maintain customer relations.
Keep in mind that users who have reached out to get support might have some negative baggage about usability, so be sure to include some screening questions in the process or leverage fixes of features they had issues with.
Tip 7: Use a panel agency or recruiting platform
Panels and recruiting platforms have thousands (and in some cases like recruiting panel, Respondent, millions) of candidates in their database ready to provide UX feedback for a fee. These options work well since you can recruit a large number of pre-qualified participants within days.
Some panel providers and recruiting platforms charge you based on research complexity, duration, target group and participant location. Other companies charge a fixed fee for each participant regardless of the study details. In many cases, you can apply participant screens and requirements, such as job title, years of experience, annual income, industry and location.
One of the challenges with using a panel or recruiting platform is participant validation. For example, even though you can use screens, the quality of each participant may still vary. Some “professional” survey takers may even use bots to answer questionnaires. Ways to deter bot activity are by asking open ended questions and using Captcha verification. Look for panel providers and research platforms that go one step further to validate candidates. For example Respondent validates candidates but requiring a valid business email. You should always pre-validate each participant on your own with a brief phone screening or, at the very least, verify participants by doing a social media check.
Tip 8: Social media campaign
This technique requires a bit of marketing savvy mixed with research capability. For example, you might set up a contest or offer a reward for completing usability testing online. Find a catchy way to describe what kind of users you are looking for and the incentive involved. This is a great way to test new functionalities or evaluate a current product before iterating forward.
Social media platforms enable you to choose your target audience which allows for some level of selectivity. From there, you can blast out the campaign on all the appropriate social media channels and to special interest groups within platforms..
If you use this technique, you will need to have a thorough vetting protocol in place beforehand to qualify participants. You don’t want to end up inundated with poorly qualified participants or survey bots contaminating your results.
Tip 9: Tap into online recruitment services
There are plenty of channels out there that let you tap into massive usability research participant pools, such as:
- Mechanical Turk (Amazon.com’s crowdsourced network)
- Freelance platforms (Upwork, Freelancer, Fivrr, etc.)
- Craig’s List
In general, these solutions make more sense for B2C research, but some B2B brands can also benefit. These solutions let you rapidly reach out to a large audience to test usability for products like apps and websites. More sophisticated software or longer research projects might not work here as the level of expertise will not be advanced.
You could try to aim higher with a Craigslist ad or Upwork job offer, but as with social media campaigns, make sure you have a well-established and thorough vetting plan in place since platforms like Craig’s List are totally open with no way to pre-qualify interested candidates.
Tip 10: Keep your own database and reuse participants
If you have the time and resources, build your own database of potential UX research candidates. You can tap into company resources such as Customer Success, Support, Sales, and your overall active user base.
The beauty of your own database is that it takes much less time to conduct follow up recruitment for further research. However, don’t overuse participants as you want to avoid both research fatigue and bias.
Again, providing some type of incentive is a must, for encouraging full participation, honest and thoughtful responses and for maintaining customer relationships.
User testing improves UX which improves product and business performance. It all starts with solid user testing recruitment. An engaged, qualified, reliable and fresh pool of users to test is critical for success.
Each company will decide which method works best for them, and some combinations might be better than a single solution alone. For example, you might start with a research recruitment platform while you build your own database. Whichever resources you use, having user testing is a must.