Finding the right people for user research


Dear Community

I am in kind of a tricky situation and I am sure, I am not the only one on earth :slight_smile:

How do you find the right people for user research (first discoveries) doing surveys and online interviews while not having much ressources? Nobody likes to get on others nerves and spam people (at least I don’t) And how do you persuade them to participate for free? Where do you make your call for action to participate for free?

I am really curious to hear about your experience and learn from your advice.


Where do you find testers

Hi @julianne,
Picking the participant demographic starts with an educated guess.
Usually the research participants should represent the end user population.
For example: If you’re working on a product meant for people who drive, you could start with participants who own cars. This would also be a part of the survey/questionnaire to eliminate accidental outliers.

If you cannot compensate the participants, try to keep the sessions short. 5 - 10 minute sessions would be useful. Identify the most key questions you’re seeking answers to. In your call to action, mention it’d take just 4-5 minutes of their time, and would you out a great deal. The possibility of helping someone out in need really motivates people.

But if it takes longer than 10 minutes, its a good idea to compensate for their time in some way. Lots of researchers have a “gift card draw” into which the participant is entered. Others give gift cards to every participant. I’ve given out chocolates, beer, and gift cards in the past year for sessions lasting more than 15 minutes.

Hope you find this helpful.


Yep, that’s a common tricky situation for UXers!

If you’re focussed on a commercial product and wanting people to participate for free, are you able to recruit them directly on any of your existing systems, like the product itself, a list of past customers, or the company website? For example, services like and SurveyGizmo let you add a popup to existing sites to ask visitors if they’d like to participate in research. Like @enlightened_06 said, if you’re not incentivising/compensating participants, it’ll need to be super short.

Other services like, and will help you find participants matching your requirements, and are cheaper than using a specialist recruiter (which might be upwards of $100 per participant + incentives). I’ve known people to use Mechanical Turk and CraigList too (with mixed results).

Heading out in person to where your target users might be is also a solid option (and probably my strongest recommendation, if it is possible for you). It’s hard work, but the face-to-face interaction will yield great results. Is that an option for the kind of stuff you’re researching? If your target is broad, you might still use family, friends, co-workers and people at the local cafe to get some general opinions and input (but rarely much that is specific).

Some other tools that might be helpful: