23 Nov 2022 Frank Spillers


User participant recruiting tips and tricks

User participant recruiting tips and tricks

Getting User Recruiting right is key to doing it often

Recruiting participants requires careful consideration of the users you want to involve in your study. While recruiting is commonly performed and is necessary for gaining fast access to your users, be careful of the quality of your recruits. Poor recruits mean poor insights. Aim for high-quality recruit targets to keep your data sparkling clean. The more you operationalize your user recruiting (yeah, it’s one of the goals of Research Ops), the more you will be able to quickly turn around user research studies.

In December’s Masterclass, we cover the topic of User Recruiting from a practical best practice perspective from 15 years of in-house recruiting on hundreds of projects at Experience Dynamics, Frank Spillers UX firm.

Why good quality user recruiting?

Data contamination is actually a big deal in UX research. Poor data captured from users can leave you empty-handed or not fully informed. It is important to understand why it is not often discussed so that you can avoid it in your efforts.

First, many UX people or groups do not do their own recruiting, so they don’t see the issue first-hand. Market research groups typically recruit for UX teams (that’s what we did for ten years), and the quality of the targets they bring you is trusted. Bottom line: You might want to scrutinize your recruits.

Next, user recruiting quality requires lots of experience and trial and error. At Experience Dynamics, we stopped using outside parties and took recruiting in-house. We were unsatisfied with mediocre user recruits. Today, we have conducted hundreds of recruits for our user research and continue to refine our recruit tactics for even better results: few to no “no-shows”; the “right” users; rich insights and quality data.

Why those 5 users need to be good really good

Finally, for years, gurus like Jakob Nielsen evangelized rapid user testing (the 5 user mantra) emphasizing low-cost and informality. As great as that was to popularize user testing, it left the quality of users issue to the sidelines.

Many start-ups and even enterprise teams (like Google) do riskily recruited “cafeteria testing” or “down the hall” testing with users. The idea is that a “user is a user is a user”. Worse, Lean UX, and authors of the book with that title– Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden–among others, repeat Nielsen’s advice, as does Jake Knapp (Sprint author) and Google Ventures in popularizing Design Sprints (day 5 is a test with 5 users!). Neither of these books discuss or emphasize recruiting users who are actually doing the thing you are studying.

If you only use 5 users, because you believe that’s the industry standard, you better make sure you have good users (the right targets with the right behavioral criteria). Good user recruiting practices can help you do this efficiently and quickly.

In addition, if you are making your recruiting align with Inclusive Design goals, you will need to consider intersectional or inclusive recruiting.

Read Why participant recruiting is non-trivial, and why nobody is talking about this

Attend the User Recruiting Masterclass with special guest Alison Gavine, Global User Research Director, Experience Dynamics

User Recruiting for UX research – Masterclass

About the Author

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Frank Spillers

Founder - UX Inner Circle

Frank Spillers, MS, founded the UX Inner Circle to share his knowledge and skills with his students from the Interaction Design Foundation where he has provided select trainings for the past 8 years. He leads UX and Service Design consulting at Experience Dynamics, an award-winning consultancy. He works with the world’s leading brands to deliver cutting-edge strategy for products, services, and experiences. Starting out in the mid-’90s in social VR, Frank has consulted on 600 UX projects including enterprise web applications, nonprofits, government and more. He’s an Inclusive Design evangelist, and expert in Accessibility, Emotion Design, VR/AR, Cross-cultural Design and UX Management. Frank brings 25 years of experience as a Sr. UX Director and Service Design leader. He has lifted conversion rates by 88% and enhanced revenue by 300% for firms like Nike, Intel, Microsoft, the City of New York, Global Disability Rights Now!, Four Seasons, Capital One, the World Bank, Women Enabled International, and many more.

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