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User Research Recruiting – 7 Ways You Can Use [Free & Paid] in 2023

User Research Recruiting – 7 Ways You Can Use [Free & Paid] in 2023
Ekaterina Novikova
•  06.02.2023
Let's talk about user research recruiting. In this article, we would like to discuss everything you’ll need to know about recruiting, how to bring participants on board, and where to look for them.

At its core, UX research is all about people. If you want to know how people feel about your product, you’ll need to study how they use it. But since there is no automated service that can reliably score the usability of your website, you’ll need to test it using real people. But how do you find and motivate people to participate in your study? This is why we decided to give you a helping hand and become your guide in the world of user research recruiting.

Read through this article and find out everything you need to know about recruiting participants for your study! 

➡️ 7 ways to recruit participants ⬅️

Whom should you recruit?

There are two options that you’ll need to choose between. One is to research the general population as a whole, while the other is to find specific individuals who share certain skills or characteristics and represent your target audience. Let’s take a look at both of them to help you with your decision:

user research recruiting

User research recruiting of the general population

This option is as broad as it gets. Since anyone can take part in your research, you’ll need to make sure that the service or product you are providing meets the minimum of understanding for everyone. 

Here are a couple of examples:

You are a big company that runs a chain of supermarkets and you need to make some adjustments to your website. Therefore, you won’t need to invest your money and time searching for a specific sample of individuals, since anyone can shop at your supermarkets and your site will be visited by your customers. 

Or, you are a starting company that is introducing a new product to a new market. Researching through the general population will help you find a group of people that resonates the most with your product, and they will thus serve as the target audience for your product. Down the line, this will provide insights into groups of individuals that you can target your advertising to. 

User research recruiting based on the specific criteria

This option can serve as an add-on to your first general population study, but can also be used as a standalone study if you already know the specific audience you want to target. These criteria can range from specific demographics, gender, the area in which they live, their interests, or anything you believe is important to you or your product/service. 

Let’s look at an example: 

You are an IT professional starting your own IT consulting business, so you cater to other IT professionals who are willing to hire you. Therefore, you don’t need to test the website on the general population, because they most likely won’t have any use for you – you need to test the website on IT people since they are the ones who might be interested in IT consulting.

Specific group testing is used in many other scenarios as well, you just need to assess whether it would be beneficial in your case. 

User research recruiting a specific audience

How many participants do you need?


If you want a single number, the answer is simple: test 5 users in a usability study. Testing with 5 people lets you find almost as many usability problems as you'd find using many more test participants.

Jakob Nielsen
Jakob Nielsen

However, 5 testers are not the ultimate magic number for every study. Some studies can be smaller, some of them need to be bigger. This always depends on the UX research method you choose, as well as the type of insights you expect to gain from it. 

For example, quantitative studies require a much bigger number of respondents just for the results and statistics to be accurate. For most quantitative studies 20 participants is the minimum, 50-100 testers is ideal.

7 ways to recruit participants for your user research

There are many ways to recruit the right people for your UX research.

Let’s look at some of the most popular ones:

  1. Using your customers
  2. Social media
  3. User panels
  4. Friends and family
  5. Guerrilla testing
  6. Recruiting agencies
  7. Using analytics software

1. Use your customers

This strategy is comparably cheaper than using recruitment agencies, but can also be a tricky one to pull off, especially when you are just starting your business and still don’t have any customers to your name. There are a couple ways to recruit your customers:

  • through newsletters
  • onsite recruiting widgets

You an send a link to your newsletter to followers, asking them to participate in your study for some kind of reward. 

Another effective user research recruiting strategy is to turn your real website visitors into respondents. UXtweak Onsite Recruiting widget offers exactly that without all the hassle of email sending. All you need to do is install the snippet to your website (the setup process is super easy) and recruit participants from there, asking them to help you with your study for a small reward. It’s a great way of recruiting targeted users without having to pay tons of money for it.

Here’s how it looks from the user’s perspective:

recruiting widget

2. Posting on social media

Try to reach out to potential testers and find research participants through your social media outlets. This strategy is a cheap way of reaching a broad pool of users. If you are a company with active followers, this tactic may prove quite beneficial. 

Alternatively, you can join online communities on Slack or FB and let people know you are recruiting. Another option is to pay for advertising and build up your number of testers there. Ads on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter are notoriously on the cheaper end of the spectrum, and as a bonus, you can choose which people you want to target. If done correctly, this is a cost-effective way of recruiting participants. 

3. Recruiting from user panels

Another great way of getting respondents for your user research is recruiting from User Panels. Many online user research platforms and usability testing tools nowadays provide you with a built-in participant pool which can recruit from. The pricing usually depends on the study method you choose as well as the number of respondents you need. 

This is a safe and proven way of getting high-quality respondents for a reasonable price. If you won’t to recruit participants from a user panel, we recommend checking out UXtweak User Panel. We always guarantee the quality of responses and can help you with the most niche targeting. 

4. Recruit internally or add family and friends to the mix

Recruiting internally or asking family and friends to contribute to your study is a free way of getting more testers. In some cases, it could potentially work, but remember that the family bond is stronger than a UX study could ever be. It’s hard to avoid bias when testing with your mom. The same goes for coworkers as well.

5. Guerilla testing

Guerilla testing also called intercept testing is an impromptu user feedback method. It involves approaching random individuals in public spaces to ask them to take part in a usability study. You can observe people’s reactions and ask follow-up questions as needed. It’s a cost-effective and quick methods that provides quick insights. However, it’s not best method for complex testing and works best with only a 2-5 questions or tasks. Targeting a very specific audience is also quite hard with this method.

6. Recruitment agencies

Recruiting this way is naturally going to be costly, but these companies have a wide variety of participants at hand, so they can deliver the right people needed for your research. But for good measure, double-check how credible the company really is.

💡Pro Tip

Check out these research panel management tools.

7. Using analytics software

You can recruit a specific segment of your customers with the help of any analytics software you are using, like Pendo, Mixpanel or Google Analytics. If you have issues with for example people abandoning the purchase process in the last step, pull a list of customers who have done that in last month. This way way you can talk to your real users who have had a specific issue with your product and 

In-person vs. Remote User Research Recruiting

User research recruiting remote vs in-person

Another important aspect of user research recruiting is whether you’re going to conduct your study online or in person.

In-person studies

The main advantage of conducting your study in-person is that you’ll be able to observe participant’s interactions with the product, and follow their facial expressions and body movements. This type of study, however, also has a few drawbacks. 

First, in-person studies are quite expensive, especially when recruiting specific demographics. It’s also a rather time-consuming process both for you and the respondent as you’ll need to find a place where the study could take place and travel there.  

In-person studies are usually recommended to big corporations or just companies who have the budget and time to perform them.

Remote studies

Remote studies have become the first choice of many modern companies. They are fast, can be conducted from anywhere in the world, and don’t cost that much money. Additionally, remote studies give you access to a global demographic of participants as they don’t need to travel where you are to complete the study.

Remote user research is usually conducted with the help of remote testing tools such as UXtweak. The main advantage of such a platform is that all of the features you need for testing are available within one user-friendly tool.

Register for your free UXtweak account and start testing today!

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What are the costs of user research recruiting?

The cost of recruiting varies immensely. It depends on numerous factors, such as the strategy chosen, the number of people you want to interview, whether the study is conducted in-person or remotely, etc. Let’s give you some price comparisons so you can make an educated decision. 

Recruiting agencies

There is no definitive answer to knowing how much it costs because every company behaves and charges differently with no set pricing available on their websites. Vernon Research Group states that an online survey for a case study can cost you anywhere between $15,000- $50,000. This is, of course, just an estimation. Recruiting from such agencies can be beneficial for big companies that don’t have in-house researchers, however, this method is definitely not for everyone.

Recruiting through a user panel company or a tool

This option is less costly, but can still be pricey for small and starting companies. The price per participant can vary between $6 – $120 per tester, depending on the method, length of the study and targeting. The higher prices are for long moderated testing.

UXtweak also offersresearch participant recruiting tool with 155M+ testers worldwide. We try to make recruiting as affordable as possible and charge $6/per user, so this might be a great cost-effective option for your research. But you can also choose from the available user recruiting tools available on the market.

Recruiting for free

There are many participant recruitment methods that are free. This will, of course, require a bit more effort, but why not at least give it a try? You might also offer gift cards or other incentives to motivate testers.

💡Pro Tip

Learn more about motivating users to attend research!

How to recruit research participants for free?

Recruiting research participants can be overwhelming, especially for those on a tight budget. However, there are several free ways to recruit research participants that can help overcome this challenge. In the video from our YouTube channel, we share 4 different ways + bonus tips on how you can do it and not spend a fortune.

What else to keep in mind when recruiting research participants:

  • Informed consent is among the most crucial factors to take into account when recruiting respondents. Before deciding to participate, participants must have a thorough understanding of the research’s purpose, potential risks, etc.
  • It’s crucial to take ethical considerations like secrecy and privacy into account while recruiting participants.
  • Furthermore, with this way of recruiting participants, you should not forget to motivate them with bonuses or discounts.

💡Pro Tip

Learn more about recruiting participants for free!

When to use screening questions?

Many times, you’ll need to incorporate a screening question in your research, especially if you need a very specific tester audience. They should not concern you if you’re recruiting people from the general population and do not have a very specific target audience for your product. However, there are many cases when you’ll only need to recruit participants with certain characteristics and that’s where screeners come to the rescue.

A screening question serves as a filter for your study and doesn’t allow respondents who are not representative of your target audience to complete the study. For example, if you were to conduct a usability test for a website selling dog food, you’d obviously want your participants to be dog owners. Therefore, in this situation, it’s necessary to add a screening question at the beginning of the study. 

A good one, in this case, would be: 

Do you own at least one dog?

  • Yes
  • No

Those who answer negatively would be automatically redirected to the “Thank you” page and would not be able to proceed with the study.

user research recruiting screener question

How to motivate users to participate in your research?

Try to show users how important their participation in the study really is by explaining why you need their help and how it would benefit your product. Don’t forget to always motivate them through a coupon or a discount on their next purchase. Simply said – offer some kind of value for them too. This kind of motivation not only works effectively but at the same time, makes your study more shareable. 

💡Pro Tip

If you’ve noticed that people often begin the study, but don’t complete it all the way, try to make the number of tasks smaller. If people give up on a study halfway, in most cases it means that it’s either too complicated or too long. 

Feeling ready for recruiting?

We’ve told you everything you need to know about user research recruiting, however, your story doesn’t end there. Go ahead and conduct your first study while we make sure you are always provided with high-quality respondents. 

Don’t hesitate to try our Recruiting Widget or the cost-effective User Panel. They will come in handy when you need them the most. 

Happy recruiting!

Further reading recommendation: If you need to recruit participants for qualitative research, we recommend you check out this resource on qualitative research recruiting tips.

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People also ask (FAQ)

How to find participants for a research study?

There are many ways how to recruit participants for a study. Here are some of the most popular ones, some paid, some free:

  1. Using your customers
  2. Social media
  3. User panels
  4. Friends and family
  5. Guerilla testing
  6. Recruiting agencies
  7. Using analytics software
What are free ways to recruit participants for research?

There are several ways of recruiting participants for research for free or with a very small budget. Here are some:

  1. Post in relevant social media groups
  2. Find participants through the Newsletter
  3. Send direct emails to chosen users
  4. Approach people on the streets
  5. Ask people around you

Learn more about recruiting research participants online for free

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