Participant recruitment is the second phase of a study after figuring out what you need to study. You need participants to learn from, to understand, to empathize with, and to double-check assumptions your stakeholders have. But trying to get enough of a specific group of people to participate can sometimes feel like playing the lottery: hoping for improbable, even impossible events to happen.
However, your research isn’t optional or recreational like the lottery; you need participants. You can’t conduct research without people to learn from. Without participants, there is no value generated for your stakeholders nor are there meaningful improvements or expansions of the product or its experience.
But at first glance, recruiting can seem easy. You just have to recruit “users”, right? You’ll find, however, that recruiting “users” for a study to be very challenging. Is a “user” someone who uses the product today or has used it in the last 30 days? Or is it someone who could use the product but chooses not to? Without being clear about who you need to learn from, your participant recruitment will be vague and frustrating. As you’ll read in this handbook (and throughout Collection 2: Recruit), recruitment needs your focus, attention, and strategy.
To start this handbook, let’s begin with a deceivingly simple question: who should you study?