Find user research participants

There are several ways to find research participants. We’ll take you through some of the steps you can use to find and recruit real users.  

To understand and improve your service, you need to know what current and future users need.

While it can be useful to speak with subject experts and people who understand how your service functions, these discussions shouldn't replace or be prioritised before user research.  

Include the right people

Remember to include all user groups in your research. Including people who:  

  • come from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds 
  • have different needs or who require assistive technology  
  • have a disability or chronic illness  
  • have different levels of digital skills  
  • need help to use your service 
  • will use your service in future.  

Finding participants 

Recruitment can be a lot of work. It’s good idea to consider resourcing and budget for this process. Recruitment agencies are experienced and are generally able to recruit participants at a reasonable rate. This can be good value for money.  

To find participants:

  • use a research recruitment agency 
  • work with a professional body, specialist charity or community group 
  • work with specialist sections of other agencies, for example Multicultural Services in Services Australia 
  • invite existing users of your service to take part.  

You can consider small pay incentives and reimbursements to encourage users to participate.

Remember that payments must be ethical and appropriate to the time and costs to the participant. They must not create real or perceived bias or influence feedback in any way.  

It’s a good idea to create a panel of participants you can reach out to for future research.  

How to write a recruitment brief 

A recruitment brief is a set of instructions sent to an agency to recruit user research participants.

You should send an agency a written brief, even if they’re happy to take instructions over the phone. This will act as a record to look back on if there's problems with the recruitment. 

Include in the brief: 

  • research dates and locations
  • time and length of each session 
  • amount sessions you wish to do on each date 
  • recruitment criteria describing who you will include
  • the number of participants you want to recruit 
  • accessibility and inclusivity guidelines 
  • ethical guidelines, policies and procedures 
  • cash incentives to be handled by the agency.

When you create your brief, make it clear that you welcome participants with diverse needs and all levels of digital literacy.  

Create or review the participant screener 

A recruitment screener is used to interview potential participants and include the correct mix of people in your research. If you're working with a recruitment agency, you need to decide who is responsible for creating the screener.  

If the screener is created by the agency make sure it captures what you need. It’s common for there to be misunderstandings.

Make your research inclusive 

To make your research inclusive, anticipate barriers for your users and find ways to overcome them. You can overcome barriers by hosting sessions across different times, days or locations. You can also provide multiple research activities and options. 

Barriers to your research can include:  

  • the type of activity or the tools used to complete it  
  • the time or day you schedule sessions 
  • the location of the user research 
  • the method you use to recruit your users.  
If you’re using an agency, make sure they include a range of participants.