How to get users

My hack to get users in for usability and interview sessions

An admission of guilt

I hate guerilla testing… There I said it and inside you probably hate it too.

We’ve developed all sorts of strategies to cope and be better at it, I have a great white paper from Nielsen Norman Group about recruiting for participation studies that I would suggest anyone who does a decent amount of testing should read.

There was this saying I was told in a bid to help me find users for testing.

Go where the fishes swim
It means go to places where your target users are likely to be found in order to test with them. If I was to pass this nugget of advice on I would add
Go where the fishes get caught in the net
The idea here is to create an opportunity by helping the user get unstuck rather than just relying on their goodwill and lust to talk about themselves.

How it works

Find users in places they might be stuck. A favourite place of mine is St Pancreas Station in London. It’s the home of the EuroStar terminal to Paris and beyond. There you’ll find people waiting for their loved one’s arrival, with plenty of time to spare and most importantly they are starring at confusing arrivals boards.

I swoop in with, ‘which train are you waiting for, can I help you find it?’ People are usually pretty open about it and inadvertently they let me know if they have time for a chat. Not only that but I will earn a little credit with them because I’m well versed in helping people find their train.

Once the ice is cracked I lay it on them; the user testing I’m doing, how they can help while their waiting and I’ll even pay for coffee and lunch in the full cafe I have a table at. Oh yeah, that bit is the deal clincher, do they want to stand for 45 minutes waiting or sit down with a coffee.

Try it yourself. Think of places where people are forced to wait, where at some point in that period of waiting they are likely to have a need to solve a problem and be there to provide that solution in order to gain that foot in the door.

The morality
I know I know, it’s not exactly moral, preying on the weak. Simon Sinek will tell you to do things not for any reward but of that from the self. Buuut that doesn’t help me get any users for my job, so at least here I feel like I’m offering a pretty good exchange.

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