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I just started at a small design firm that's branching out into doing some UX and one of the things I'd really like to do is start trying to work simple testing into our workflow (maybe starting with some card sorting), but there's currently no database of candidates to recruit for these tests.

I've never had to build a list (previous employers have used agencies, but I'd prefer not to if I can avoid it). How does one start that process? If I were an internal UX person at a site, I could promo our desire, but we're an agency and that wouldn't work.

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At the last company I worked at we had, essentially, three ways of recruiting candidates:

  1. Just ask friends & family, even other employees who didn't work in design & development
  2. Strangers: Sit in a cafe and offer to buy someone a coffee or dring, if you can do the test "in the wild"
  3. Various online blackboards – e.g. student job boards

All three work if you don't need a lot of testers and don't have too specific a profile they must fit. If you want to cover a certain spectrum of target groups, however, it all gets very, very cumbersome.

As for reliability, the ranking follows the numbers above:

  1. Friends & Family = very reliable
  2. Personally approached strangers = reliable (you'll get the yes/no right then and there)
  3. Online recruiting = reliability hell

Especially option #3 gave us lots of drop-outs, despite fair compensation.

If you really want to build a solid pool of candidates that is reliable you're looking at a lot of work. If you only want to do a couple small tests every other month it's actually quite easy.

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So, in your experience, are those three better than maybe compiling a list that you can go back to? – Bryan Robinson Sep 21 '12 at 21:33
I wouldn't say they're mutually exclusive. It really depends on what requirements you have for the list. If the friends & family work for your testing requirements, might as well ask to put them on a list. For our requirements, we didn't need a list, we just grabbed a couple of people as we needed them and that worked for us. – Christian Sep 21 '12 at 21:56

Use the channels that the client company has to its existing/new users.

If you're after new users for an existing product - go talk to your client's sales folk.

If you're after existing users for an existing product - go talk to your client's customer support folk.

If it's a new product/market then part of the plan for the new product/market should involve how to reach the new customers. Use that to find new users (and if you don't have that plan then you have something else that needs to be done first :-)

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