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Recruiting Non-Users for Usability Tests

[fa icon="calendar"] Mar 24, 2014 7:30:00 AM / by Molly Wolfberg

One of the most important aspects of conducting successful usability tests is having the best users possible. At HubSpot, we have a database of 300+ customers who are eager and willing to help us at the drop of a hat. However, there are plenty of situations where testing current users of our software would not be helpful, so we begin a search for non-customers.

Recruiting non-users for usability studies is much harder than the process of finding people who use your product. Some of the main issues I’ve encountered are:

  • They don’t owe you anything - you’re not helping them at the moment
  • If they don’t show for the test, it’s no loss to them
  • They are solely speaking with you for the gift at the end of the test

I’ve had my fair share of duds when recruiting for non-user testing, so I’ve adapted and created a process that works best for me here at HubSpot. I learned a lot from Google Venture’s Michael Margolis in his blog post on recruiting, and have created a flow that works best for me when finding participants for a non-user test.

Write a screener

Writing a screener eliminates a few steps of back and forth with potential users. Create a landing page and add a form on there with any information


you’d need about a user to decipher if they’d be great for your upcoming study. Some questions I’ve included on my screener are:

  • A LinkedIn URL (to ensure the user is a professional and not a bot)
  • If they’re a solo marketer or part of a larger team (helps us figure out if they’re one of our buyer personas)
  • If they’ve tried the HubSpot software before

Once people submit the form, they’re sent to my email and I go through and decide if they’ll be a great candidate for the study. If I’m already full for this particular one, I’ll email them and ask if they’d be willing to participate in the next one.

If you want help writing a screener, you can see mine here, as well as use this helpful worksheet that GV created. 

Buy a few Craigslist postings

For HubSpot, the Craigslist route has seen little success. I’ve had a lot of bots fill out my form and have rarely gotten a truly qualified person for my tests. For me, our focus tends to be people in the marketing industry and those are rarely scanning Craigslist with ways to make a quick $25. However, if you have a different audience that spends more time on websites like Craigslist, you very well might see success. It’s worth a shot.

Use your social media following

I’m lucky enough to have HubSpot’s giant social media following on my side when recruiting non-users. On Twitter alone, HubSpot has over 350K followers. When I am looking for users, I write up around 5 tweets and send them to our Social Media Manager. She then schedules them out over the week prior to the study. As I mentioned earlier, our main target is marketers and most consider HubSpot a great resource, so there are a lot of qualified non-users following us on Twitter.




Next steps

There are a few other tactics the sisters plan on exploring in upcoming test recruits. We want to try recruiting using:

What do you do to recruit non-users for usability studies? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Topics: Usability Testing, ux, Recruiting

Molly Wolfberg

Written by Molly Wolfberg

Molly mainly talks about dogs, donuts & UX research. She's currently running user research at Wistia, a video software company for businesses.