Recruit Interview Participants for Usability Study

As you start to think about conducting interviews for UX research, you might be wondering: How can I find and recruit people who want to be interviewed? Well, that’s what we are going to cover in this article.

Determine interview goals

Determining interview goals or objectives will make your interview worthwhile both for you and for the participants. As a UX designer, what do you want to learn from the interviews? Are there certain user problems or pain points that you need to empathize with?

Below are some examples of common research goals when it comes to empathizing with users:

  • I want to understand the processes and emotions that people experience around the problem my product is trying to solve.
  • I want to identify common user behaviors and experiences with tasks that my product is trying to address.
  • I want to understand user needs and frustrations as they relate to the product I’m designing.

Use a screener to select a representative sample of study participants

The participant selection will tie to the research goals and the target users of the product you’re designing. The best way to check if potential participants meet the study’s desired characteristics and represent a diverse set of backgrounds is by sending a screener survey. A screener survey is a detailed list of questions that help researcher determine if potential participants meet the requirements of the research study.

Screening participants often requires collecting demographics, which are the characteristics of a group or individual. Demographics that you might ask about in a screener survey include: age, geographic location, job title or industry and gender.

Asking demographic questions can be a sensitive and challenging space to navigate. Be conscious and mindful of the questions you ask in screener surveys and how you ask them. Frame questions in a way that is respectful and inclusive, and make questions optional if they ask about demographic data. You might want to preface demographic questions with a short explanation of why the question is being asked.

To ensure that your designs are accessible and equitable, you need to include a diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and abilities is extremely important to ensure that your designs are accessible and equitable. This leads to the aim to form a representative sample in the recruiting process. A representative sample is a subset of the target population that seeks to accurately reflect the characteristics of the larger group. Ultimately, the research you conduct should help you create great experiences for all users.

Find research participants

How and where you find research study participants depends on the company you work for, the type of product you’re designing, time constraints for the research, the project’s budget, and the accessibility of target users. Based on these project details, you can choose from a variety of ways to find research participants.

  • Personal network. Your personal network is a great way to find people to interview such as your family, friends, or colleagues who fit the demographics of the target users you’re designing for, espcially when you’re still in the training.
  • Existing user base. If you’re conducting research and creating designs for an organization with an existing user base, you’ll likely be able to recruit participants from that group of estabilished connections.
  • Online. This can be online groups that might fit into your target group. The alternative solution is websites like UserTesting or User Interviews help you connect with participants.
  • Hallway testing. This is when you recruit or ask whoever pass by the “hallway” to try the product you’re designing. The good side of hallway testing is when the number of participants needed is small, time constraint, and if you are conducting rsearch for free. The down side of it is that you might end up missing out the representative sample or participants that might not have all characteristics of your product’s potential users.
  • Third-party recruiting agencies. Some organizations have a budge to hire third-party research recruiting agencies. Recruiting agencies are useful because they save you time and can often reach diverse users.

Reaching out to participants

Once you’ve identified potential research participants, send an email that introduces the project and yourself as the researcher. If you have the budget to provide an incentive to motivate or encourage people to participate in a research study, like a gift card, include that in the email, too.

What you can include in the email for potential research participants.

Hello [Participant Name],

I am currently working on a project for a certificate program where I need to conduct interviews about [explain the project].

Your participation in the research study would be very valuable to help us [summary of proect goals]. Details of the study are shared below.

  • Location: [Address and link to map]
  • Study dates: [Date range]
  • Time: [Time range]
  • Session length: [Estimated length of time for each interview]

With your permission, we will record each interview to help us decide how to improve our product. Reording will only be shared with project team members for the scope of this project. A consent form is attached to this email that you need to sign and send back.

If you have any questions, please contact me through email at [your email address].

If you are interested in being interviewed, please let me know when you are available between [date range of study] and the hours of [time range of study].


[Your name]

Prior written consent is required to record an interview, so be sure to attach a consent form to the email. Written consent is required from the participant’s parent or guardian, if the participant is minor or unable to consent under applicable law.

Write interview questions

Keep the interview goals in mind when preparing interview questions. The more aligned the interview questions are with your goals, the more useful the data you obtain will be.

Best practices to keep in mind when writing interview questions:

  • Ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions allow the person being interviewed to answer freely, instead of with a simple “yes” or “no”. Remember that questions you ask during interviews should not lead or pressure participants towards a desired response; instead, asking open-ended questions lets participants share their true thoughts and perspectives.
  • Keep questions short and simple. It should be easy for interview participants to understand what you’re asking.
  • Ask follow-up questions. During the empathize phase of the design process, interviews should be conversational, so encouraging participants to elaborate is a best practice. You can ask them “Why?” or “Tell me more about that” to keep the conversation flowing.

Research is an essential part of the UX design process and empathizing with users. Taking time to outline the goals for your research and recruit a representative sample of participants will help ensure the feedback you obtain is valuable.

Good luck!

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