Now when you know how to choose the right focus group for your software product's usability testing and what should be the perfect size of your test group, let's explore where to source UX researchers for your test team and how to hire them.

Specialized recruiting agencies

This is, in fact, a preferred channel for many UX researchers, as they don't have to make a lot of efforts themselves finding an appropriate usability test project. However, be apprehensive about the following issues that may arise if you choose to engage a specialized recruiting agency for hiring UX researchers:

  • Budget

No agency will work for free, so brace yourself to allot a certain budget for usability testing. Your budget will depend on the following factors:

  • Size of your focus group
  • Geography (local folks in North America or the EU will definitely cost you twice or 3 times as much as offshore / nearshore UX researchers)
  • Time to hire (the sooner you need your focus group hired and built, the higher the cost)

In the United States, the national average salary of UX researchers varies between $24 and $58 per hour (source: PayScale, 2016). Entry-level guys will cost you approximately 10% less, while experienced UX researchers skilled in end user requirements research, UI design, data analysis and market research will cost you up to 55% more! In countries like Ukraine, one UX researcher will cost you something between $11 and $18 per hour and there're fewer factors that affect usability testers' salary (unlike the Western world).

  • Bullshitters

Market research is a well-paying niche and there're many people with no relevant experience who consider focus group research an easy way to make money. As such, these people will lie to your external recruiting consultants about their experience and skills and will agree on the lowest bid to get a job on your test team! We've already explained in our previous post about the shortcomings of hiring totally inexperienced people for your UX research.

Internally, we call such guys "bullshitters" because they aren't truthful and committed to your test success, and, thus, their value is very, very low. Normally, bullshitters are those who participate in focus group research more than 4 times a year, but there're exceptions, too!

Since Intersog has had an issue with such "bullshitters" before, we've developed some best practices for you to eliminate poor quality hires.

1. Perform closed screening

Always coordinate with your external recruiting consultant all questions to be asked to your potential UX researchers. For instance, if you want to hire Facebook users for your research, don't ask questions like "Are you a Facebook user?"; instead, ask "What social networks do you use daily?"

2. Check and verify your recruiting agency

Due to a limited talent pool access, many staffing agencies in the United States (actually everywhere) have to outsource some projects to field or indie recruiters who, in their turn, work with the same or very similar databases and, thus, can deliver a high percentage of "bullshitters" for your consideration. So, we advise that you regularly check the Internet for your open project ads on paid survey / panel sites to investigate if your agency cooperates with any indie / field recruiters or deal with poor quality databases.

3. Verify your UX researchers' data

Verify data provided by your potential UX researchers PRIOR to making any hires! If someone claims to be using your software product, check if you have them registered as your product user and explore in what ways / to what extend they interact with your application (e.g. how long have they been using your product? how many support tickets did they open?). A good idea would be to check people's LinkedIn profiles, former employers and projects as well as perform at least a basic background search. But always have someone on your team do this verification or request a background check report from your agency!

4. Keep your own respondents' database

This will help you double-check your candidates more quickly and see whether your staffing agency isn't trying to sell you the same person for numerous test projects.

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Paid polls and panels

If you're going to usability-test your application through online survey, you can try to recruit directly through paid polls / panels sites. The advantage is that such sites have large pools of registered respondents who earn money from completing online surveys. Your goal is to generate a screening survey based on which you'll choose your UX researchers to hire. Key is to choose the right questions to ask, as many "habitual panelists" can be very sleeky. Feel free to ask false questions to better validate your usability testers.

Having shortlisted those who best match your project requirements and skills, make sure to validate them further to filter out the slouches. The following factors should alarm you:

  • A very high speed of assignment completion
  • No answers to the open questions (where respondent's comments are requires), etc.

DIY recruiting

You can also recruit UX researchers on your own without any 3rd party assistance. However, you should realize it's going to be a laborious job including searching, screening and vetting, validating, making personal calls and other arrangements, coordinating project tasks, explaining and clarifying, etc.

Here're the most commonly used DIY recruiting methods:

Referrals through friends and peers

Posting a usability test project announcement in social networks and asking friends to share won't hurt! Plus word of mouth can be very powerful!

Yet, we've already discussed disadvantages of testing your app's UX on friends and colleagues, so be very careful here! First, you can get researchers who're over-competent; and second, they may provide incomplete / untruthful feedback.

Project page or group in social media

Start building your test project's visibility in social networks at least 1 month before the actual project in order to develop a base of loyalists / interested researchers. Advantages are many, including:

  • You can save your focus group research budget by enticing people to complete your tests for free (you can use gamification and non-material rewards instead)
  • You can get truly professional UX researchers contribute to your project

But again, in most cases you'll be dealing with advanced users who will point to the lack of features and functions that they believe should be present in your solution (and which shouldn't really be, in fact!). On the other hand, this way you can bring in a lot of freaks or bullshitters who'll spoil your entire project.

Whether to recruit UX researchers this way or not depends largely on your project goals. For instance, if your objective is to test a game's UX, creating a relevant group and getting gamers to follow you there will be a no rocket science for you! But if you need to test usability of a robust enterprise application, don't even waste your time on social media, as they won't likely bring you any value at all!

Mail send-outs (aka spamming)

If you have an internal database of potential / active product UX testers, shooting a personalized email to invite them for your project would make a lot of sense. Using modern mass mail tools, you can scale your outreach, target your audience based on certain criteria, plan follow-ups, etc. However, it should be noted that the value of mass mailing is considered to be very low today, so don't expect your response rate to be higher than 1-2%! In addition, even if you receive any positive feedback, you should remember that every 100 signups always result in 50 or fewer actual showups. That being said, mass mail campaign doesn't give you any guarantee you'll have the right sample by the time you kick off your test project.

Paid promotions (banners, ads, calls to action)

We recommend you don't rely much on paid promotion of your focus group research project and use this method as an ancillary, not a major one! Each call to action should lead to an online survey where you collect and verify UX researchers' data.

Snowball

That's the most favorite method of field and indie recruiters. They're always looking for referrals from their past and current candidates. However, to use this method as your main one, you or your external recruiters should possess a really huge and quality database of candidates as well as very broad personal and professional networks in social media (aka social capital).

Field recruiting

This is a perfect method for quick usability tests that require 10-15 minutes to complete. For instance, if you want to test the first impression of your app's UX / UI, you can find a place that's normally crowded with your target audience (e.g. university campus, hipster cafe, gaming club) and ask random users to share their first impression of your software product. Yet, to increase your response rate, do use some kind of a stimulus, i.e. a cool thank you gift or lots of free beer (that'll work with students for sure!)

Things to remember when making arrangements for your UX research:

  • Always provide clear and concise task description. As a rule, many UX researchers hardly know what feature they'll have to test in a project or how the test itself will be run. If your usability test implies shooting video or taking pictures, notify your focus group beforehand. Also, make your researchers aware of the test time, special conditions (if any), use of any special gadgets such as eye trackers or body sensors, and NDA requirements. For instance, we've faced it few times when UX researchers left the test in progress because they weren't ready to sign NDA.
  • Be ready that someone will miss the test and come late without even letting you know. If you have this function outsourced to a 3rd party staffing agency, take it easy, as it's going to be your agency's pain in the neck. If you're doing recruitment on your own, call up all confirmed UX researchers on the eve to make sure everything is going according to your plan. Remember: if several researchers don't show up for your test, the chance is high that results won't be adequate and you'll have to cancel and postpone your project.
  • If your target group is children, make sure to get each respondent's parents consent for their participation!
  • If you want to test an eye tracking feature, don't forget to remind your UX researchers to have their glasses at the test. Many people wear their glasses only at work or when they read and don't wear them on a regular basis. During eye tracking feature test, you just won't be able to properly caliber the user who has to touch the screen with their nose to see anything on it!
  • If you want to test your hybrid mobile application, make sure to provide your researchers with all of the necessary devices (smartphones, tablets, wearables) and have stable wifi on premises.

Conclusion

How to recruit UX researchers for usability testing is always the key concern when it comes to focus group research. And this is exactly the stage of your usability test project that should be free of any malpractice and schlock. While it's totally OK for companies to offload their recruitment and administrative burden to 3rd party agencies, it's totally unacceptable for brands to ignore focus group research planning and respondents' validation. This is exactly what will allow you to generate and accumulate best practices for future UX research!

And what has been your experience with usability testing? How and where did you source UX researchers for your project?

Vik is our Brand Journalist and Head of Online Marketing / PR with 11+ years of international experience in IT B2B. He's also a guest blog contributor to Business2community, SitePoint, Journal of mHealth, Wearable Valley and other IT portals. You can contact him directly on LinkedIn.

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