Help! I'm having trouble finding anyone (or the right people) to participate in my studies!

One of the most challenging and time-consuming parts of UX research is not necessarily the research itself, but the process of recruiting qualified and eager users to participate before the end of the next sprint. In the first two parts of the series, we discussed two challenges of successful research participant recruitment: obtaining the right number of survey responses to facilitate the research and incentive challenges. In this post, the third and final part of our series, we'll dive deeper into the challenges of participant pool fatigue and managing scheduling and communications.

Problem 3: You've been dipping into the same, tired user pool and you feel like you are running out of options.

Participants don't want to spend any more time participating in studies when they've already given you the requested feedback, even though this time you need something different.

Solution: Reach out at the right times, through the right channels.

According to Nielsen Norman Group, most companies recruit their own test participants. Only 36% of UX professionals claim that they use an outside recruiting agency, likely because it can be cost prohibitive. If your target audience includes existing users, are there existing panels or customer outreach teams that you can tap into? Another option is to place a recruiting opt-in banner on your customer portal, asking users if they are willing to participate in your research study. This provides access to warm leads that are interested in providing feedback and may also be available for future studies.

If your participants are not current customers, you may need help recruiting with the use of existing tools or recruiting services. There are several solid recruiting based services and panels that connect your studies with qualified participants quickly and inexpensively, including CINT. One of our surveys required over 1,000 responses so we utilized a recruiting service. The survey received 1,000+ completed responses in less than 48 hours - it doesn't get much faster than that!

There are also many unmoderated testing tools that have their own testing panels ready and waiting to complete your studies, including UserTesting.com, UserTest.io, and Validately. Keep in mind the less traditional recruitment options as well, like the volunteer section of Craigslist.

Problem 4: Scheduling and managing communications with participants is overwhelming and time-consuming.

Companies conducting their own recruiting spent an average of 1.15 hours of staff time for each participant recruited for research. In addition to the time needed to conduct the actual research and analysis of the study, the process of gathering contact information, reaching out to each participant via phone or email, and communicating test reminders, calendar invites, tech assistance, thank you's and distributing incentives is exhausting.

Solution: Expedite communications and scheduling using free or cheap tools

It does not seem like there will ever be one tool or one tried-and-true formula that can interact with participants without some headache, simply because people are unpredictable. But, there are some tools out there that can help expedite and simplify the process greatly:

  • For everything

Unmoderated testing tools tend to offer help in most, if not all, aspects of communicating with and scheduling participants; this includes Validately, UserTest.io, UsabilityHUB and more...

Gathering participant contact info

SurveyMonkey, Typeform or any decent survey tool either manually via recruiting panels or embedded in your existing web experiences.

Scheduling sessions

Available scheduling tools include Calendly, Doodle, Rallly, Timebridge and NeedToMeet. You can send the link out and ask folks to sign up for available time slots to test so you don't have to send emails and manually keep track of who is available and when.

Distributing incentives

Emailing Amazon gift cards is the go-to incentive primarily because many people use Amazon to purchase a range of things. It's easy and all it takes is an email. Any electronic gift card will do here.

Another easy way to relieve some of the pressure of scheduling is to get help from your team. Many times, product owners or project managers have the skillset and bandwidth to help you with the administrative side of recruiting, allowing researchers to devote their time to the actual research. Sit down with someone willing to assist and walk through your recruiting needs - chances are, they can take over one or more parts of the recruitment process to free up some time in your schedule.

Conclusion

Fortunately, for researchers, there are more efficient ways to handle the UX recruiting monster to effectively recruit the right participants through better preparation, educating your project team and senior leaders, and using tools to help with the admin portion of the process. Additionally, make sure to take the time to:

  • Choose your target audience and make sure the entire team is aligned on what is most important.
  • Increase incentives to something you would sign up for yourself and get buy-in ahead of time for budgeting.
  • Reach out to different groups at the right time, through the proper channels.
  • Use tools and your team members to aid in the administrative side of recruiting.

No matter what you're studying, who your participants are, what stage your project is in, or how much money you have, there are ways to recruit the right participants efficiently so that you can include UX research into design process without panic.

This is Part 3 of 3 in the series defining research recruiting challenges and ways to overcome them.

Part 1: Not Getting the Responses You Hoped For

Part 2: Incentives and Why They Matter