Recruiting participants for user research

Date adopted: 
September 9, 2022
Last update: 
October 4, 2022

This page has guidance for teams looking to recruit participants for user research.

Participants must be:

  • able to give their consent; and
  • capable of making their own decisions.

Check with your department privacy lead if your study will include:

  • people under 18 years of age; or
  • people who are not Yukon residents.

How many people to recruit

The number of participants will vary based on:

  • the size and complexity of your project; and
  • the user research techniques you use.

If you are conducting usability testing, we recommend at least 2 rounds of testing on 3 to 5 people. Take what you learn from the first round and iterate the service. Then test it with new participants to make sure you have addressed the usability issues.

Guidelines for recruiting participants

Apply these guidelines to your recruitment planning.

Recruit citizens and not coworkers

During service maturity assessments, we ask about user research. The team will often report that they have tested it on their colleagues. What we are looking for, is that they have tested it with citizens. It is important to test your service with people who are not familiar with the project.

Recruit people who represent your main user groups

Try to find participants that are likely to use your service in the future. For example you might recruit:

  • students or prospective students if your service is to apply for a post-secondary grant;
  • business owners if you are building a business directory; or
  • parents or guardians if you have a service to register for a school bus.

Recruit people with a variety of abilities

Make your research inclusive. Within your user groups, try to test your service people with a variety of abilities. For example, recruit people who:

  • can't make it into a government office to access a service;
  • are not comfortable with, or new to using digital services;
  • might not have access to a mobile device or computer;
  • might understand information better at different reading grade levels; or
  • represent diverse cultures and languages.

Including a variety of user will help the project team:

  • understand the barriers people with different abilities might encounter;
  • refine the service design and content based on how different users experience them; and
  • meet the government’s accessibility requirements.

Recruit people who help others use a service

Not all users will access a service themselves. There are instances where another person will help them use a service. For example:

  • legal professionals;
  • parents or guardians;
  • caseworkers; or
  • children or advocates for elders or seniors.

Where to find user research participants

These are examples of where project teams have looked to recruit participants.

  • Contact existing clients or people from committees or working groups. For example, a team working on a website for early learning professionals, contacted people working in that field.
  • Get referrals from other recruits or project team members.
  • Advertise through:
    • the government’s social media channels;
    • online advertising;
    • the government intranet and discussion boards;
    • blog posts; or
    • newspaper ads.
  • Trade shows or industry events.
    Teams have set up booths and displayed their website to watch and interact with people trying them out.
  • Public spaces.
    Teams have set up a table and displays at locations like:
    • Yukon University;
    • Canada Games Centre;
    • visitor reception centres;
    • public libraries;
    • farmers markets; or
    • campgrounds or parks.
  • First Nations or municipal governments.
    Teams have contacted colleagues in other governments so see of they, or their staff want to take part. They have offered to return the favour if or when these governments undertake similar research.
  • Not-for-profit organizations.
    Teams have worked with not-for-profit organizations to test a service with a particular set up users.