Quality User Research Hinges on Finding the Right People

June 9, 2017

It can be bewildering how long organizations will go with obvious user experience barriers on their websites and web applications – even if the issues are really easy to resolve.

You can’t help but wonder, why don’t they just fix it?

We’ve conducted dozens of usability studies over the years, and the reason is almost always the same. The individuals who create and manage these digital products are not able to see them. They spend their days immersed in their jobs, surrounded by people with the same jargon, background, and context. It’s simply not possible to set aside all their prior knowledge to be able to think like their users.

This is why we conduct usability studies. The fundamental value is in observing how actual users interact with your website or application. But how can you make sure you’ve got the right users on board?

The recruiting process is the most important phase of a user research study. Without participants who accurately represent the core audience, the results of the study can miss the mark entirely. One of the first things we do when kicking off a study is to identify the target audience with the client.

What happens next can seem a bit mysterious to our clients. How does it all magically come together? In this article, we’ll answer some of the most common questions and demystify our recruiting process – and how we end up with the right people.

Where do you find people?

We appreciate the value of working with experts and make use of trusted recruiting partners to ensure we can find the right audience for your business. Our recruiting partners have databases of people who are interested in participating in user research. These databases include extensive demographic information to hone in on the right participants as quickly as possible.

During the recruiting process, we collaborate with our recruiting partner to monitor the progress of recruiting and validate that the proposed participants are appropriate for the study and have agreed to the amount they’ll be compensated. The recruiting partners are also on duty in the days leading up to the study and follow up with the participants they’ve scheduled to ensure participants have everything they need to attend their session.

Can we provide our own list of pre-screened participants?

Absolutely! We are happy to work with a list of potential participants who already match what you’re looking for. We will have our recruiting partner contact, screen, and schedule participants to make sure the participants meet the needs of the study. The recruiter will handle all necessary communication and follow-up needs.

How long will it take?

In this modern age of people screening their calls and having busy schedules, it can take some time to get fully recruited. We’ve found that two weeks is a good window for scheduling. However, that can vary depending on the complexity of recruiting requirements. If you have a highly specialized target audience with demanding occupations, such as doctors or lawyers, recruiting may require more time.

What happens if participants don’t show up for their session?

No-shows or last minute cancelations are rare, but sometimes life happens and kids get sick or transportation arrangements fall through. In some instances we plan for a potential no-show or last minute cancelation by scheduling an “alternate” session at the end of the day. These participants agree to hold the time for us, but are optional sessions that we can cancel if all earlier sessions go smoothly. Alternate participants are still compensated for their time since they were kind enough to keep their schedule clear for us. We’ve found this to be a worthwhile safety net to make sure we get the most out of the study.

Even if employees in your organization are very good at their jobs and understand your industry to a T, there is no amount of internal discussion that will provide the same kind of insights you get from watching actual users. Finding the right users is the key to getting the most from your user research study.

Do you have questions about screening and recruiting participants, or are you wondering if your site/application is overdue for a user research study? We’d love to hear from you and see how we can help. Contact us to learn more.

By Katherine Block
User Experience Consultant

Katherine is a jack of all trades with nearly every aspect of the UX process. Her broad approach enables her to fill gaps between the different phases of interactive design including Information Architecture, Development, and Project Management.

View Katherine's Bio


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