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Chapter Eight. Usability Testing > How to Get Test Subjects

How to Get Test Subjects

It's not always easy to identify test subjects, but here are some effective ways to find the right people. One way is for the tester to ask the client for a random set of potential users. This is useful when the intended user population is highly specialized and it would be difficult (if not impossible) to get the right subjects any other way. So, if we were testing an application for airline flight attendants, we could simply ask the airline about the demographics of the flight attendant population, and then select a sample from it.

Another way to get subjects is to use a professional recruiter. Usually these people recruit for focus groups, but they can be asked to recruit for what would be considered one-on-one interviews. The advantage of using good recruiters is that they can screen the general population by almost any criteria. That is, you could ask for something as crazy and specific as “15 people, 5 who are women, 10 who are men, and all of whom owned a Porsche 911 before 1995 and a Ferrari before 1988. They must all be able to fly small planes, and at least two of them must own and regularly use roller skates. Oh yeah, and the age range should be evenly distributed between 46 and 87.” Believe it or not, good recruiters can find these people. And when it's time for the test, good recruiters will call the subjects three times beforehand to confirm each appointment.


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