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How to recruit user test participants?

There are a number of new tools available to conduct automated, oftentimes remote user testing (Treejack, Chalkmark, etc.). However, if you are building a product from scratch how do you get targeted audience members (such as those that might only be interested in buying mommy / baby products, or outdoor aficianados) to participate in a user testing session? Do you actively recruit online, or add a 'Feedback' button on the site? Ask friends and family? What if you want to then segment by age group?

I am looking for some best practices for this specific use-case (in-person and focused on a specific demographic).

  • The same question: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/16409/… Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 15:37
  • I have modified the question so that it is more specific than the question mentioned above. I am not wondering about remote user testing, but in-person user testing. Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 22:11

2 Answers 2


I think this depends on many variables.

How early are you in the development process? Who is your intended audience? Do you have money? What kind of usability do you think you need?

Early Development If you're really early in the process with only a marginally working system then using friends and family seems ideal to me. It's also cheap!

Specific Audience If you have a very specific audience that should use your software and have the money, then you might need to be more specific in your recruiting (hiring some firm to find people for you?)

Specific Usability Question? If you have a particular area of concern this will also change how your recruit. If it's on the web you can put something on that page that allow users who reach that point to send you feedback then and there. OR you might realize that baking some cookies and having your friends and their friends do the very specific task would work fine.


The people at Google in Zurich use their own internal staff for weekly testing sessions every friday. They recruit their own engineers through itnernal messages. I know some organizations have a problem with this, as they feel that the fact a person works in the same organizations tends to taint the results. In my organization, we recruit through internal mailings, but only use people that do not work directly on software and internet development projects. For larger projects and final releases, it's best to use an outside company and have a budget set aside for gratifications.

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