Ask DN: Where do you get participants for UX/Usability Research?

over 8 years ago from , Storyteller. Game Maker. Dreamer.

For anyone in the user research field, I'm curious of how you recruit participants. Where are they sourced from? What are the ways you advertise for these testing sessions?

When I worked in academia, we recruited participants through school classifieds or we posted posters on bulletin boards around campus. In turn, most of our our participants were college students.

At my current agency, we're looking to dive into UX research and one of the questions we are trying to figure out is where to find people.

Do you simply post on Craigslist and screen for the target participant? Did you already have a participant pool (we also had this in academia but I'm not sure if there is one for our industry)?

Any advice or tips for participant recruitment would be awesome to hear.


  • Nate BoltNate Bolt, over 8 years ago

    Totally agree with what Aaron said, and kinda have to mention we built a whole little app for recruiting for UX research, so no matter where you post (an ad, CL, twitter, etc) you can use a link to an ethnio screener and we manage scheduling, incentives, etc. http://ethn.io/

    2 points
    • Nicole P., over 8 years ago

      I've never heard of ethn.io before, that's a great app. I'll let my team know about it, thanks!

      0 points
  • Aaron SagrayAaron Sagray, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    There's a lot of information out there on sourcing participants. It depends on the type of research you want to do, and the required quality/reporting of research outcomes.

    A few methods:

    • Adwords that drop people on a screening survey, which you use to qualify potential participants

    • Facebook / Twitter etc.

    • Casual word of mouth / Friends and family

    • Sourcing firm or tool like ethn.io

    • Traditional advertising like you did at your university

    The art of finding people hasn't changed much over the years. Here's a few more that I recalled reading:


    2 points
  • Braden HammBraden Hamm, over 8 years ago

    Depending on the type of testing and research, we use a combination of current customers, employees from other departments (or just unfamiliar with what we're working on), friends and family, or usertesting.com.

    For in person, we use Amazon gift cards for the incentive and thanks, and UserTesting.com takes care of it on their end.

    1 point
  • Sarah Arnegard, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    I work for a lean startup and we can't afford to spend a lot to find participants. Depending on what we are trying to learn, we usually do one of the following:

    • Contact existing customers for meetings or web conferencing

    • Approach random people at starbucks/cafe of your choice

    • Usertesting.com

    I think the participants you need will depend a lot on:

    1) the kind of product you have (if you have a more niche product you may need to be more picky)

    2) what you are trying to learn. For example are you trying to figure out what is usable or use research for broad product development or validate specific ideas?

    1 point
  • Dan CortesDan Cortes, over 8 years ago

    We've had a lot of success with Craigslist.

    1 point