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Recruiting Customers for Usability Testing

[fa icon="calendar"] Mar 5, 2014 10:44:41 AM / by Rachel Decker

One of the biggest (and best) parts of my job is talking to and gathering feedback from HubSpot customers. Luckily for me, many of our customers are passionate users of the software and they genuinely care about what our product team working on. Between working on the HubSpot Support and UX teams in the last 2.5 years, I’ve talked to thousands of customers. But when I’m looking to run usability testing with customers, I have to be choosey.

How do I know which customers to talk to about new pieces of software? And how do I continue to grow my customer usability testing database?

At HubSpot, we have a few different avenues we use to grow our database:

  • Promoting our landing pages

  • Internal referrals

  • Previous feedback

Let's dive in...


Promoted Landing Pages

Shameless self-promotion: you know it and you love it. When trying to grow your usability testing customer database, it never hurts to promote the heck out of your sign-up form. We have set up some calls to action (CTAs) that link to a usability sign-up landing page so that we can distribute it whenever necessary. For instance, customers learning about the software through the HubSpot Academy can be directed to this page that has a CTA instructing them to learn more and sign up for our database through our general sign-up form.

You could also tweet this form, show it in a notifications app within your software, email it to a subset of customers, add it to an onboarding flow with new customers. Just put it anywhere you want to find a particular type of person.

I’m always prepared with this form whenever someone asks me “what is usability testing?” or “I have a customer who has some good feedback...”. I whip out this form and, BAM, I’ve got myself a new lead. It helps spread the word throughout the company and lets co-workers know that there is another avenue that their customers can use for feedback. Which leads me to...


Internal Referrals

One of the best ways to find great customer usability testers is to ask your coworkers for referrals. I’m sure there are people in your company who spend all day every day speaking to customers, like the support, account management, sales, consulting or other magical teams. They’re the ones who spend significant time with the customer and really know the customer’s personality, habits and software usage. You can use them to refer people that they think would make a good usability tester, or as a screener to see if a particular customer that opted in would be a good fit for a certain type of testing.

The criteria we use at HubSpot changes depending on what piece of the software we’re testing, but we typically want people who fit a specific user persona and are either somewhat familiar or completely new to a specific piece of our software platform. Thankfully, our consultants and support team can typically speak to the validity of those criteria.


Finding the feedback-givers

There’s another method I like to use, which I could call “creeping around,” or I could go with the somewhat less controversial “trying to find people who would be a good fit for testing based on the feedback they’ve already given.” Since these customers already care enough to write to give us feedback, we can use that data to our advantage when searching for the perfect usability testing participant.

At HubSpot, there are a few avenues for feedback that I use to scour for potential usability testers: HubSpot Ideas, forums, Feedbackify (or another similar tool), Net Promoter Score survey data, support tickets and beta program feedback.

For instance, I was recently looking for a customer to test a brand new call-to-action (CTA) dashboard that has never existed before in HubSpot. I wanted that customer to be a heavy user of CTAs and to have already been vocal and passionate about wanting a new way to see their CTA data. I hadn’t been collecting that type of data on my usability sign-up form in my existing database, so at first, I wasn’t quite sure where to turn.

Then, I did a search on for “CTA Dashboard”. That lead me to this idea, a customer-generated idea for CTA sorting, which I used to find a great participant for my usability study. (Bonus points if you also screen that person with their consultant, sales rep or support rep who has spoken with them in the past and knows if they would be a good fit for the study.)

You can do this with any internal feedback you have at your company. Scour your support tickets, previous emails from beta participants and people who have just generally given feedback to your company and ask them if they’d like to participate. When I have done that, I have found overwhelming success.

All in all, there is no magical answer to finding the perfect usability tester and growing your database, but these are three tried-and-true methods I've used that have worked well.


How else do you grow your database of existing customer usability testers? Is there something I’ve missed that you’ve used successfully?

Topics: Usability Testing, Recruiting

Rachel Decker

Written by Rachel Decker

Rachel is the UX Researcher at ezCater. Previously she spent 3 years as a Researcher at HubSpot with her UX Sister Molly. She loves making ice cream, riding her bike, and thinking about adopting a cat.