When selecting users for usability studies you should refer to them as participants not subjects. This is because we are not testing them we are testing the website.
Recruit your target audience?
The natural assumption to make when selecting test subjects is that they need to match a profile of your sites target audience. But this isn’t as important as some may say. There are some circumstances when users may need to have “Domain Knowledge” because some tasks may require specialist knowledge to complete. However, the majority of usability issues relate to navigation, page layout and visual hierarchy. These are issues most people would encounter.
Do try to recruit close to your target audience but don’t get to hung up on it. It’s better to test than not. But use your judgement – if you need your audience you need your audience.
How many participants do you need?
The general rule of thumb is that 5 participants can reveal 85% of issues. This infers that there are diminishing returns on more subjects. But for DIY tests 3 participants would be sufficient. The key point to make though is that you should be aiming to carry out multiple tests through out the project. This way you can fix the original issues found and then identify new issues to fix as the project progresses.
How do you recruit participants?
If you’ve got he money you can hire someone to do this for you. You can approach companies that have focus group facilities to do this. They will usually be experienced in recruiting or will be able to recommend someone to you.
However, if you don’t have the budget to pay someone, you could:
- look in the places that the type people you are looking for might congregate (user groups, places with an affinity to your audience)
- ifnyou need people who actually use your site, put a link on your present website or introduce a pop-up.
- if you need anyone, recruit friends, family and neighbours
- if you require a specific type of user consider remote testing as this automitcally increases your geographic search area.
Once you’ve found them you need to advertise to them. You need tell them:
- what you’re doing
- when you’ll be doing it
- where you’ll be doing it
- who your looking for
- contact email and name
now you just need to place the advertisement where you think your audience will be:
- put it on bulletin boards in community centres/li>
- post it on message boards
- use your social networks – both professional and personal
- put a pop on your website or ad on your homepage
when people reply you just need to screen them.
- are they available on the day
- do they match you target audience criteria
- tell them what to expect
- explain how they will be compensated for their time
- make an appointment
Finally, confirm everything to them. Where and when. Directions, maps, parking instructions. Contact number. No disclosure agreement.
There is a chance that users won’t turn up on the day. The thing to do is to try and have a back-up plan. Either someone on stand-by to come in or test remotely. Failing that, grab a stranger off the street.