Live Recruiting for Remote Research

by Ethnio. Average Reading Time: about 2 minutes.

In an article for Boxes and Arrows, Paul Nuschke lists five phases of a usability study:

Step 1: Sales & Kickoff
Step 2: Recruitment
Step 3: Preparation
Step 4: Testing
Step 5: Analysis & Reporting

This post is about that second step, where you’re recruiting users to participate in your study. Traditionally this has been done one of two ways: either hire a third-party recruiting agency to find users according to specific criteria, or do it with your company’s contacts, typically customer / member email lists. Thing is, recruiting agencies are quite expensive, typically running around $200 or more per recruit (not including participant incentives), and even though they’re usually quite professional in their screening practices, who knows where they’re getting their users from? On the other hand, using your own company’s contacts bears another set of issues: what if you don’t have a very big list? What if you want to do several studies–do you bombard everybody with emails repeatedly? And so on.

Now, one of the best parts about remote research is that there’s no reason you have to schedule users in advance; since you test your users while they’re at their computers anyway, you can begin a study right when they agree to participate. Here’s where live recruiting comes in: by intercepting visitors with pop-ups or forms, you can intercept them, screen them, and call them within minutes of their arrival. This is a big advantage for lots of reasons: you can bypass much of the sometimes-lengthy recruiting step, you can have greater control and transparency over the source of your users, and most importantly, you can talk to real users who came to your site because they wanted to, not because they’re getting paid to.

So now the question is, how do you recruit users live? Well, you could hack together a form that users could use to opt-in to your study, but that requires you to hand-code the form and mess with your page content. Some remote research tools and web services like UserZoom and WebEffective offer Javascript-based intercept forms as part of their service, but they require you to sign up for the whole enchilada.

What does that leave? I am so glad you asked.

Ethnio is a free web-based service we made for the express purpose of recruiting users for remote research. All you do is stick one line of Javascript near the bottom of whichever page you want to recruit from, and users who visit that page will be greeted with a DHTML pop-up screener, which they can fill out in under a minute (here’s an example). You have complete control over the questions in the screener, so you can screen users however you want. When they finish, you see their responses come up immediately in a nice little recruiting table, and you can call whomever looks like a good fit for the research.

To illustrate, we have made a stop motion movie using felt. Please enjoy it with all your heart.

(Photo credit: bryanwright5 on flickr)