The Basics of Recruiting Participants for User Research
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Participant screening filters participants for user research and market research. Finding the right participants is usually done with screener questionnaires.
Screener questions allow user researchers to avoid irrelevant data and get informed opinions. For the most accurate and useful insights, it's important to select participants carefully. Participants should represent potential users and have relevant knowledge and user experience.
The first step in crafting screeners is to decide who to screen out. Behaviors, experiences, and attitudes are the best criteria to define user groups. These are called psychographics. Other information like gender, age or location is called demographics.
In user research, psychographics are often preferred. Good criteria for participants might include:
How familiar are they with a product
What they use a product for
How often they use a product
Where they use a product (also called "context of use")
When writing screeners, ask non-leading questions. Participants often give answers they think a researcher wants to hear. People might want the reward for completing a survey or experiencing friendliness bias. In any case, the less a question suggests a particular answer, the better.
"Is Facebook a good way to find musical events?"
Isn't as good as:
"How do you use social media?"
Not leading participants to particular answers results in more candid responses. This allows user researchers to better select their participants for further UX research methods.
Usability.gov offers a handy Guide to Recruiting Usability Test Participants.
Michael Margolis, UX Research Partner at GV offers a primer on Finding Participants.
Learn about IDEO’s Extremes and Mainstreams Method for recruiting participants.
Here is a Screener Questionnaire Template.
Here’s the entire UX literature on Participant Screening by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:
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