Diverse group sat together on a sofa taking part in user research on devices to represent how to recruit users for user research

How to engage your participants to achieve incredible user research insights

It’s one thing to know how to recruit users for user research...  

 …but keeping them engaged before and during the study is quite another! 

At Angelfish Fieldwork, we’ve been helping businesses and brands learn how to recruit users for user research with our 40+ years of collective experience and expertise.  

This is the first step in ensuring engagement – after all, if you don’t recruit the right participants for your study, they’ll either end up dropping out, or provide you with unrepresentative insights that you won’t be able to use in your brand and product development. 

However, there are a few other steps you’ll need to take in order to keep your recruits engaged once the process has started!  

Read on for our expert tips and advice for maintaining participants engagement throughout the entire user research process... 

Participants not appearing fully engaged in user research, representing how to recruit users for user research

6 top tips for engaging your user research participants: 

1. Communication, communication, communication!

We’ve said it multiple times, but communication really is key to keeping your participants engaged in user research.  

The way you communicate with your participants will give them a strong first impression of what they can expect during the research, and will ultimately set the tone for the study.  

You should keep in touch with your participants as regularly as is needed to ensure they have a full understanding of what to expect from the research and what is needed from them, but not so often that you take up too much of their time.  

You should also aim to retain a single point of contact for the participant to keep communications consistent, and be sure that you remain personal and human throughout.  

Essentially, the more comfortable and informed your participants feel through your communications with them, the more likely they’ll want to do a good job during the study!  

2. Offer an appropriate incentive  

Your choice of incentive plays a large role in how to recruit users for user research, and can also make or break their engagement levels, so it’s important that you get this right from the start.  

Your chosen incentive should reflect both the length of time participants are giving up to take part in the research, as well as how demanding or sensitive the nature of the research may be, in order to keep participants motivated and engaged (you can read more about this in MRS’s Use of Incentives guide). 

For example, a study that spans over several sessions, or requires your participants to use complex technology should be rewarded with an incentive of a perceived higher value than a study that takes place for a couple of hours and is relatively straightforward. 

If your planned study is likely to take several days, a great way to use incentives to retain participant engagement is to pay it in instalments – for example, £10 worth of vouchers for one day, £20 for two days, £30 for three days and so on. 

3. Prepare your participants fully 

An informed participant is a comfortable one, and a comfortable participant is far more likely to remain engaged (and far less likely to drop out) than one who isn’t sure of what is expected of them. 

Therefore, be sure to brief your participants thoroughly, including information on what the user research is about, why it is being conducted, and what they’ll be required to do as part of the research.  

This is particularly important in user research, as participants will be getting hands-on with your products. Even if it’s not the point of the study, they’ll likely want to make sure they’re using these correctly to avoid feeling embarrassed, so be sure to give them as much information as you possibly can to help them feel more comfortable.  

4. Build a strong rapport 

As mentioned above, being human in your communications can really help to boost participant engagement – and the same can be said for building a rapport with them. 

To get the best from your user research participants, make sure you take the time to build a relationship with them. This will help them to feel valued and integral to the success of the study, and as a result, they will be motivated to not only participate in the research, but get truly stuck in.  

Market researcher talking to participants on the phone to represent how to recruit users for user research

5. Make the process easy to understand 

From the moment you make first contact right up until the user research project ends, you should ensure that everything is clear and easy to understand for your respondents. This includes any verbal communications you have, as well as any written instructions or tasks you create as part of the study. 

As such, you should try to avoid using complex terminology and jargon. While these words and phrases might come naturally to you, it could be potentially off-putting for participants. Also, consider and provide for any potential accessibility needs, such by supplying larger text or different coloured backgrounds to read from.  

Additionally, take the time to let your participants know that you/their point of contact is on hand to help them if there’s something they don’t quite understand. The wider you keep the lines of communication open, the more likely your respondents will be to remain a part of the research process until the very end. 

6. Create exciting tasks

Depending on your choice of methodology, you will likely have a range of tasks set up for respondents to complete as part of your research. A boring task is a sure-fire way to quickly lose participant interest, so the more relevant and exciting you can make these, the better! 

If you’re asking participants to test out a physical or digital product, for example, ensure you set initial tasks that ease them into the process, then give them the opportunity to get really hands-on with it. The more engrossed in your products participants can get, the greater the insights you will achieve! 

Additional tip:  

Ensure that you take your participants’ demographics into account when implementing all the above advice. If you’re conducting user research with children, for example, you’ll need to communicate with them in a very different style to how you would with, say, a 50+ audience, and provide different kinds of incentives to suit.  

In short... keeping participants engaged in your user research is no easy feat.

By implementing the above top tips, however, you’ll maximise your chances of participants not only remaining engaged throughout your user research study, but also of them having an enjoyable experience – which is a fantastic bonus for your brand rep!  

If you’re wondering how to recruit users for user research or keep them engaged with your study and would like additional support, contact our team today and we’ll be glad to discuss how we can help you. 

We also have a handy guide to writing effective user research recruitment screeners, which you can download below: 

CTA Banner: Your guide to writing an effective user research recruitment screener