Participant recruitment is one of the more challenging aspects of conducting user research studies.
After all, who likes “Take our survey? Please? Pretty please?” And then after randomly deciding to be a good Samaritan that day, you’re faced with a 20-page survey asking personal questions. Living in modern societies, where it seems everyone is trying to get our attention, we’ve become rather protective of our time, effort, and data.
This reality makes recruiting participants rather difficult, if you don’t take the obvious road. Traditional agencies often use college campuses, community centers, public events, and high foot-traffic areas to recruit participants, as well as their equivalents on the internet.
But we have a gift as makers of apps and sites. We have users. We love them; sometimes they frustrate us, confuse us, and every now and again, our users surprise us. And they’re really the ones we should be asking to participate.
There’s many reasons:
- Your own users are much more likely to participate than people who aren’t already involved. You’ll get more responses in a shorter time. Your study will produce more valid and reliable data.
- Recruiting your own users is almost free. Several tools are available to assist as well rather inexpensively, such as Ethnio.
- You don’t have to worry about representation as much. Your users are your users, after all.
- You’ll get more information than you ever would using people who are either regular testers or randomly off Mechanical Turk. (Side note: usertesting.com has become very popular, but even if you use a remote testing tool, you should really recruit your own users instead.)
- Most importantly, your users are never pretending to have goals related to your app or site. They already have the goals in mind!
- You have the option of live recruiting, that is, asking users to participate while they are already in the midst of completing their goal. This enables your research to be time-aware.
Of course, all of this is prerequisite of having users. If you haven’t launched yet, setup a launch page asking users for their email to notify them of your launch. You can then promote this page on social media to collect email addresses of interested parties. As you are developing your app, you can then ask these very people to participate in studies. Alternatively, you can go to social sites and same-industry sites and ask people to participate from there.
If all else fails, Amazon Mechanical Turk is a very cheap and quick way to get participants. After all, getting some research data is far more valuable than getting ideal research data, especially at the start.
Thoughts, questions? Let us know!