// recruiting users for inspiration & validation //

A key principle of the human-centered design process that we teach and believe in so strongly is the importance of putting your product in front of real users at every stage of the process — from conception to sketch to wireframe to prototype (paper, PDF or tappable) to the result of each development cycle, user feedback can quickly and cheaply test our assumptions and keep us from investing a lot of time, money, and energy into a product no one wants.

Whether you want to talk to users for the purposes of inspiration (before brainstorming and prototyping) or validation (after prototyping), here are some tips for reaching people in your market.

Identify your audience

You will need to identify key segments of your audience and then work to recruit them. Who will you look to as sources of inspiration? College students? Young professionals? Working mothers? Young couples without children? Parents with young children?

Recruiting users

We have a few strategies for recruiting users, including:

  • We use Facebook’s ad tools to target users by age, ZIP, gender, likes and interests, employment status, and more.
  • We contact schools and community groups and ask them to refer us to individuals. We try not to be too on-the-nose about this: For example, if we had access to a journalism class, we’d ask them to refer us to a friend.
  • We partner with or sponsor an event that targets the audience we want to reach.

We point our ad clicks and other referrals to a survey where users can apply to participate, but are not guaranteed to be accepted. (We use SurveyMonkey or Google Forms.) From there, we can hand-pick the best candidates and contact them directly.

We usually incentivize participation with a gift card for $50-$100 presented at the end of the session. (We have participants sign an acknowledgment of receipt for accounting purposes.)