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Jared Spool  

Putting Perfect Participants in Every Session

November 5th, 2005 by Jared Spool :: 11 Comments

_Jared M. Spool is the Founding Principal of the think-tank, [User Interface Engineering][1]. He recently co-wrote the report [Recruiting without Fear][2]_

When putting together a design study, whether it is usability testing, field research, or focus group activity, it turns out that the most critical activity is recruiting the right participants.

Over the past few years, we’ve interviewed several dozen user experience professionals, looking at the practices they use to conduct their research. As we dissected every activity involved in producing a successful study, we came to the conclusion that recruiting participants is the lynchpin that holds the study together.

If you recruit an inappropriate participant, there is very little you can do with task design, session facilitating, or data analysis that will turn the results into something useful. Yet, if you get an ideal participant, you can compensate for practically any amount of poor task design, facilitation, or analysis and still see valuable findings that will improve your design.

We were surprised by the importance of recruiting because we rarely see it discussed in any forum about conducting design studies. At most, you see people asking for names of recruiting agencies. We’ve never seen an in-depth discussion of the activities of recruiting and the best practices to follow.

Recruiting the wrong participant can have dramatic effects. It can slow down the research process, increase costs, and, in the worst-case scenario, create faulty results which waste valuable developer resources as they chase down the wrong issues. We recommend to our clients that they closely review their recruitment process to ensure they are executing best practices.

[1]: “User Interface Engineering”
[2]: “Recruiting without Fear”

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