Usability Test 1200

Finding the right participants for UX research

George Silk

George Silk


Account Executive at Liveminds. When I’m not in the office keeping our clients happy, I’m usually travelling to an exotic country or watching my beloved Tottenham Hotspur F.C. I also have a passion for music, including 90's hip hop, Lil Tjay and Harry Styles!

In today’s competitive market, customer experience has not only become a hot topic, but is becoming the top priority for most businesses. More and more companies are developing strategies to differentiate their brand and drive business growth through improved CX.

User experience is just one component of CX but it plays an important role in a customer’s overall experience. Strong advertising campaigns and phenomenal customer service go a long way, but if customers can’t use your mobile app or website, it will ruin their entire experience.

User testing is an essential part of any product review process. It allows UX researchers to determine if their users can easily and intuitively use their product or website and to address any issues ahead of launch.

But if you want to craft the best user experience possible and draw the most reliable and insightful data, you need to run UX research with the right people. Your test audience should closely match the audience that will use your product or website.

As such, recruiting test participants is a crucial step in the CX and UX research process, but it’s also one of the most challenging.

The challenge UX researchers face

A recent survey by User Zoom revealed that sourcing the right participants for UX research is the second biggest challenge facing UX professionals, with 43% saying that participant recruitment is the most challenging phase of their UX team’s research process.

Quirk’s reported the same trend in their annual client-side survey -- finding quality sample continues to be a common pain point for researchers this year.

Poor UX recruitment can often be the fall out from a wider issue. According to Deborah Simmons, Strategic Insight Consultant and Director of Camino Insight: “The most pressing issue is the need to better educate clients and UX Designers on the purpose and benefits of UX testing - as well as the potential pitfalls of not testing - or testing, but doing it without any real understanding of the principles and processes. This often leads to projects that are poorly planned, badly recruited and under-funded. As researchers, we truly understand the difficulties that can arise from testing a digital product with the wrong audience. It seems that the problem is really down to the misperception that investment in UX research does not offer any real value, so that’s something that I am trying to address.”

However, studies show that fixing a problem in development costs 10 times more than fixing it during design, and 100 times more for products that have already been released. Design and development is expensive, which is why user testing is important - it means that time spent is not time wasted.

Meanwhile, there’s an increasing number of UX professionals who are foregoing user testing altogether or not allocating sufficient budgets to decent recruitment, with 63% of companies reporting that they do their own recruiting (up from 58% in 2018). This might explain why sourcing quality participants is such a big hurdle for UX teams. Sure internal recruitment is fast and free, but friends, family members and colleagues are inherently more biased than customers and may not fit your user’s profile. And while doing your own external recruitment can save money in the short-term, it involves finding participants, screening them, over-recruiting for potential no-shows and paying incentives, which is time-consuming and made all the more difficult when it comes to finding truly representative users. What initially appeared to be a money-saving strategy will likely end up being the least cost-effective option in the long-run.

Should we talk to the same people again and again?

Recently, there’s been a surge in usability testing tools that offer recruitment services, using panels of repeat respondents.

Not only are repeat respondents likely to answer in a habitual way, putting in little thought, but they’re also likely to implicitly learn patterns in the types of questions researchers ask and how to answer them. Furthermore, repeat respondents typically represent a niche part of society that isn’t always generalisable to the population at large and therefore doesn’t represent your target audience.

I got 99 problems but participant recruitment ain’t one

High-quality recruitment is vital if you want to get valuable results. At Liveminds, we don’t use databases - we search 3 billion profiles worldwide to recruit truly representative participants for any kind of research. Our unique Behavioural Recruitment service connects to social networks enabling us to target, screen and qualify the participants needed for each individual research project.

We take the pain out of recruiting for UX research by finding participants who are representative of your users based on real, not claimed behaviour. We can find people with varied experiences in your specific sector, such as those who:

  • Don’t use your product but do use your competitors
  • Possess the traits found in your preferred users
  • Are early adopters of tech (who are more likely to detect issues)

A user test is only as good as its users

The fine folk at UX planet said it best: “Doing usability testing the right way, at the right time with the right set of people reduces the risk of building the wrong product; thereby saving time, money and other precious resources.”

Our experiences over the last four years have shown us that to solve the industry-wide challenge of finding high-quality participants, we need to use big data from real user behaviour. Fresh, representative, highly-engaged participants recruited using Behavioural Recruitment provide better quality data, helping researchers to draw better quality insight.

A lot of planning goes into UX testing, and many things can go wrong along the way. Don’t let participant recruitment be one of them.

Download Behavioural Recruitment case studies to explore the advantages of the method, discover how it works step-by-step and learn how top agencies are using the method.

Download Behavioural Recruitment case studies

See how top agencies are using Behavioural Recruitment in practical qual and quant case studies and learn how it works step-by-step.

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