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Recruiting Usability Testing Participants for Free

Recruiting Usability Testing Participants for Free
Petra Ižova
•  30.03.2023
So, you are ready to start with UX research, maybe you already have an idea of a study in mind, but what about the test participants? Whether you are just starting out with usability testing, or a limited budget is your obstacle, we will show you that money doesn’t have to be the issue when finding UX research participants.

Working with big UX research platforms and recruiting participants from various recruitment agencies, can get expensive quite fast. Luckily there are way around it. In this article, we will show you how to find participants for your user research and user testing for free.

Why recruiting the right participants is important (even on a low budget)

One of the first things you should do when preparing your research is to determine your target audience. You need to carefully examine what participants you are looking for, based on demographics, behavior, or any specific characteristics.

Let‘s say you want to test an application that will only be available in the iOS App Store. What group of people will you want to run the usability tests on? The answer will be iPhone owners as these are the target audience of your business.

If you would recruit people who don’t fit your parameters – Android users in this case, or older people who don’t use phones much – you would get very skewed results. These users would be confused by the basic layout of an Apple device and could not provide valuable insights into the usability of your app.

To help you with this check out our 5 tips on how to find the right respondents for your user testing.

5 Easy ways to find participants for user testing for free

So you’ve figured out what the ideal participants for your usability testing are. Great! Now where to find them? And most importantly, where to find them for free?

If you prefer video-based learning more, then we recommend you to watch a video from our YouTube channel in which we share 4 ways to recruit usability testing participants for free.

1. Post in relevant social media groups

Become a member of relevant groups on social media, but don‘t ask for help immediately. If possible, start providing value before you ask for something in return. Give members advice or post useful articles to gain their trust. Help them with their issues, share some of your interesting research findings or participate in discussions, and only afterward ask for help in return.  

Some of the relevant examples of platforms are

  • Facebook – find specific groups that relate closely to the topic you are researching and request to join them
  • Reddit – huge community network where people immerse themselves in their interests, hobbies, and passions
  • Quora – you can ask questions and connect with people who contribute unique insights and quality answers
  • Twitter – people are discussing all kinds of hot topics here, and you are free to join any discussion
Get UX research participants for free with social media

These platforms are just examples as they have a large number of users. Feel free to explore even more targeted groups and platforms if your product is focused on a niche market. Also, check out our guide where we analyze several usability testing examples of world-famous brands that we all love and follow.

2. Find participants through the Newsletter

Work with your existing users. If your website has already been launched, you can send out an email to all of your newsletter subscribers. You have to hook these subscribers with an eye-catching catchphrase such as: “Do you find our new feature useful?” or “Participate in our study and get a chance to win (something)!”. Explain shortly, what your study is about and provide a call to action button so they can sign up for it. Offer a small reward in return for help.

3. Send direct emails to chosen users

Another example of working with your already existing user base, but here you can choose people specifically based on their behavior on your website. The thing is, if you are using one of the email marketing platforms, it tends to track the users and group your subscribers into categories based on their behavior (those who left before checkout, those who unsubscribed, etc.). Depending on what you need to research or test, you can reach your users easily by the email they have provided.

4. Approach people on the streets

So-called guerilla testing occurs when you perform research and experiments with people you find on the streets. You will bring a prototype of your product outside and ask passers-by for feedback. For example, if you are looking to test your product on iPhone users, it is easy to determine and approach someone who is holding one in their hand. This is a low-cost, easy, quick, and valuable method for gathering answers from your target audience.

5. Ask people in your surroundings 

In some cases, you can do a quick usability test on your colleagues, friends, or family members. For basic insights – like if people understand your product and can complete tasks it makes sense to ask your friends and family as long as they have common characteristics with your target group. Run an idea by them, but don‘t fully rely on their opinions. If they find some error, continue testing on users that are not related to you. People in your surroundings can also be a good option for a pilot study to help you catch any mistakes or get a better understanding of the feasibility and duration of the study.

Bonus tool for recruiting UX research participants

If you still struggle to find the perfect way to find free participants for user testing, UXtweak has a solution for you.

Turn your website visitors into UX research participants! With a website recruiting widget, you simply specify the URL you want to recruit from, and what type of users you want to recruit, et voilà, done! Your website visitors that meet the specified parameters will see a popup window, asking them to participate in your user research.

The tool is a part of the UXtweak tool set. You can try the free plan to explore UXtweak and try it out.

UXtweak recruiting widget

Motivate and reward your participants

Even if your goal is to recruit research participants for free, don‘t forget to motivate your participants! What‘s in it for them to take part in your study? You want to keep it on budget, but they are there to help you, therefore they deserve a small gift for participation which can be in the form of a discount voucher, drink, snack, or even money.

Motivate people to find UX research participants for free

For example, user testing platform UXtweak has the option to show appreciation and include a coupon (i.e. Amazon gift card, discount code) for respondents in exchange for their.

Do you need help with recruiting?

Finding participants that are willing to participate in your research for free can sometimes be rather time-consuming. If you are not completely sure you want to go the extra mile, UXtweak is here to help you with recruiting. still struggle to find the perfect sample of users for your research, UXtweak has a solution for you.

UXtweak already provides thousands of clients with an onsite recruitment tool to recruit from your own website visitor and a user panel. Create your free account to join our community and start your journey of providing a better user experience with one of our UX research tools.

 If you need help, don‘t hesitate to contact us and our team will get back to you shortly. 

Recruit your website visitors with UXtweak for free!

Turn your website visitors to research participants in minutes, with our handy popup recruiting widget.

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Recruit your website visitors with UXtweak for free!

People also ask (FAQ)

How to recruit participants for user testing?

You can recruit participants by using different recruitment channels. Some of them are: 

What are the common mistakes in user testing recruitment?

While recruiting participants for user testing, avoid using biased language forms and recruiting a non-diverse target group. Also, make sure to give respondents clear study instructions and proper incentives for their participation.

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