Suggestions needed for recruiting usability participants

16 Dec 2010 - 10:46am
3 years ago
7 replies
1019 reads
kishansalian
2010

Hello everyone,

Im a student pursuing my msc in interaction design in uk. I have got a evaluation project for my module and it falls exactly during christmas holidays. I cannot afford paying recruitment agency fees and  finding it hard to get some users for testing and evaluation. Please suggest me some tips how can i go about finding and recruiting users? 

Thanks in advance.

Kishan

Comments

16 Dec 2010 - 2:05pm
lanehalley
2010

What kind of users do you need to talk to?

On Thu, Dec 16, 2010 at 11:48 AM, kishansalian <kishan_vs@hotmail.com> wrote:

Hello everyone,

Im a student pursuing my msc in interaction design in uk. I have got a evaluation project for my module and it falls exactly during christmas holidays. I cannot afford paying recruitment agency fees and  finding it hard to get some users for testing and evaluation. Please suggest me some tips how can i go about finding and recruiting users? 

Thanks in advance.

Kishan

(((Pl
16 Dec 2010 - 4:05pm
mcaskey
2008

Look around for existing groups of people who fit your personas.

I sometimes simply attend meetup groups or clubs for people I'm looking to gain insights around, and take a moment of their time during the announcements to recruit (often free) participants.

-Mike C.

On Dec 16, 2010, at 12:27 PM, lanehalley wrote:

> What kind of users do you need to talk to? > > On Thu, Dec 16, 2010 at 11:48 AM, kishansalian wrote: > >> Hello everyone, >> >> Im a student pursuing my msc in interaction design in uk. I have got a evaluation project for my module and it falls exactly during christmas holidays. I cannot afford paying recruitment agency fees and finding it hard to get some users for testing and evaluation. Please suggest me some tips how can i go about finding and recruiting users? >> >> Thanks in advance. >> >> Kishan >> >> (((Pl >> >

16 Dec 2010 - 3:38pm
lrileygraham
2010

Writing a screener will help. Typically an agency will write their own screener based on what you are looking for, but in this case you can write your own. However, you can get some good metrics without users. I would never suggest not including users, but if you can't because you are pressed for time or low budget you can get some great qualitative data out of methods that do not involve users; cog walk through, heuristic eval, GOMS. Anyway, if you need good quanitiative data and you want to have users I'd say write a screener and determine the type of test you want done. A formative test usually involves assessing a large view of the device. Meaning if you are creating a product you'd want a formative test. However, if its a redsign or you are looking to subtle issues a summative test is good and will usually require a few more participants than a formative test.

By the way, when I was in school I used a monetary incentive to get kids at my university to participate in studies for me. So as far as how to get user for studies, incentive is always good. Usually in a company you will have stakeholders that want to be apart of the process but in school it can be more ticky. Tell them you will have a christmas present waiting for them when they finish. ha

-good luck!

17 Dec 2010 - 4:33am
Ali Naqvi
2008

Hello Kishan,

why don't youy ask friends or other students? if its a product that can be used by most (the users are the general public) then use people around.

Ali

17 Dec 2010 - 1:51pm
lkruger
2009

I'd agree with Ali to ask friends, other students or family members to help. in my experience, having some input is better than none, even if your participants aren't an exact fit with your user personae. also, once you've tested with 4-5 people, you start seeing trends emerge in the comments so you don't necessarily need many participants. hope that is helpful!

Lacey Kruger
Senior Information Architect
Convio, Inc.
lkruger@convio.com
512.652.7801

19 Dec 2010 - 10:20am
Dana Chisnell
2008

Hi there,

 Depending on who your users are, this could be a great time to find participants or a terrible time. I hope it is the former rather than the latter.

First, be clear about who the participants are. Focus on the behavior you want to observe (e.g., downloading movies; playing a game; tracking exercise), not demographics (age, education, income).

Focusing on behavior will make your recruit a lot easier.

As for incentives, explain that it's a school project. Make a batch of cookies, and offer a cookie and a hand-written thank-you note as your gift for the person doing you this favor.

Finding people

  1. Tell eveyone you know that you're looking for participants for a study.

  2. Use networks of all kinds: family, friends, Facebook, LinkedIn, church, school - even Craigslist.org.

  3. Think about intercepting people in a highly-trafficked place, like a shopping mall food court (get permission first).

Screening

Screening is part of the research. If you hired an agency to do it, they would earn things about your users that you never do. So, you should do it yourself. (We all should.)

  1. Don't worry about writing an elaborate screener.

  2. After you have identified the behavior you want to observe, think of some open-ended questions about it to ask candidates. For example, "Tell me about the last time you <downloaded a movie / played Go on your smartphone / uploaded your running route and time>. Write the questions down. 

  Asking open ended questions will a) give you bonus information about the target audience and your participants, specifically, and b) gets people interested and invested in taking part in your study.

  3. Set up a schedule of times you plan to do sessions and give candidates options. After you've screened a few people, pick the ones you think best match your target and who fit into the schedule.

  4. Do the screening interviews. Keep them short.

  5. Send each person an email that confirms they've been chosen and a very high-level description of what they'll be doing.

 

The effort can feel intense, but you'll learn a lot, and it should all be wrapped up in a few days if you dedicate a decent amount of time to it. One note: There can be a day or so when it feels like nothing is happening after you put the word out. Stay calm. Work on your session script and do a dry run during that time.

Good luck.

Dana

P.S. Besides being a user researcher, my company does recruiting. I'm happy to coach you on the secrets. Contact me off list if you get stuck. dana AT usabilityworks DOT net.

19 Dec 2010 - 9:05pm
Chauncey Wilson
2007

Some great advice here.  Some additional thoughts:   1.  While I agree that you want to focus on behaviors, you do need to collect some demographics to describe your sample, which is very likely a combination of three types of sampling - convenience sampling, purposive sampling, and snowball sampling (where you ask people to help you recruit and suggest additional participants).  If you get odd results, you might want to look at demographics, especially experience, computer savvy, interest in your test focus, age, etc to consider alternative explanations.

  2.  With the proliferation of privacy concerns, I think that you need to be very clear about how you will use the data and what you will do to protect the privacy of your participants.  In your recruiting story, you can provide a brief statement and then once you have some participants, you can provide more explanation.

  3.  There are two main types of rewards for studies, intrinsic rewards (e.g., the participant wil learn something from the study) and extrinsic rewards (cookies, gift certificates, software).  Your recruiting letter can use both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.  Helping you as a grad student might appeal and you might offer to send a short note about the results to your participants AND offer them cookies (though food allergies might be an issue.  I recently suggesed cookies and was told that nut allergies make cookies as snacks a little riskier than other foods - maybe dark chocolate with no nuts :-)).  Most appeals to people to help do involve multiple appeals and sometimes a single word in your recruiting letter might affect the probability that someone will help.

  4.  Tell your participants that you will send a reminder the day before the study (phone or email or text).    5.  Provide clear directions or an online map to your research location.  I've found that some people forget where to go.   6.  Recruit a few more people than you need, especially if you are working during the various holidays coming up.   7.  Keep in mind that if you recruit friends or students at your university, you might lose some generalizability of your data.  You will need to discuss the limitations and possible biases that result from your recruiting plan. 

  Good luck on your effort. Chauncey

On Sun, Dec 19, 2010 at 10:46 AM, Dana Chisnell <dana@usabilityworks.net> wrote:

Hi there,

 Depending on who your users are, this could be a great time to find participants or a terrible time. I hope it is the former rather than the latter.

First, be clear about who the participants are. Focus on the behavior you want to observe (e.g., downloading movies; playing a game; tracking exercise), not demographics (age, education, income).

Focusing on behavior will make your recruit a lot easier.

As for incentives, explain that it's a school project. Make a batch of cookies, and offer a cookie and a hand-written thank-you note as your gift for the person doing you this favor.

*Finding people*

  1. Tell eveyone you know that you're looking for participants for a study.

  2. Use networks of all kinds: family, friends, Facebook, LinkedIn, church, school - even Craigslist.org.

  3. Think about intercepting people in a highly-trafficked place, like a shopping mall food court (get permission first).

*Screening*

Screening is part of the research. If you hired an agency to do it, they would earn things about your users that you never do. So, you should do it yourself. (We all should.) *
*

  1. Don't worry about writing an elaborate screener.

  2. After you have identified the behavior you want to observe, think of some open-ended questions about it to ask candidates. For example, "Tell me about the last time you <downloaded a movie / played Go on your smartphone / uploaded your running route and time>. Write the questions down. 

  Asking open ended questions will a) give you bonus information about the target audience and your participants, specifically, and b) gets people interested and invested in taking part in your study.

  3. Set up a schedule of times you plan to do sessions and give candidates options. After you've screened a few people, pick the ones you think best match your target and who fit into the schedule.

  4. Do the screening interviews. Keep them short.

  5. Send each person an email that confirms they've been chosen and a very high-level description of what they'll be doing.

 

The effort can feel intense, but you'll learn a lot, and it should all be wrapped up in a few days if you dedicate a decent amount of time to it. One note: There can be a day or so when it feels like nothing is happening after you put the word out. Stay calm. Work on your session script and do a dry run during that time.

Good luck.

Dana

P.S. Besides being a user researcher, my company does recruiting. I'm happy to coach you on the secrets. Contact me off list if you get stuck. dana AT usabilityworks DOT net.

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