Participant Screening

Your constantly-updated definition of Participant Screening and collection of videos and articles

What is Participant Screening?

Participant screening filters participants for user research and market research. Finding the right participants is usually done with screener questionnaires.

Screener questions allow user researchers to avoid irrelevant data and get informed opinions. For the most accurate and useful insights, it's important to select participants carefully. Participants should represent potential users and have relevant knowledge and user experience.

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Choosing Criteria For Participants

The first step in crafting screeners is to decide who to screen out. Behaviors, experiences, and attitudes are the best criteria to define user groups. These are called psychographics. Other information like gender, age or location is called demographics.

In user research, psychographics are often preferred. Good criteria for participants might include: 

  • How familiar are they with a product

  • What they use a product for

  • How often they use a product

  • Where they use a product (also called "context of use")

How to Design Screener Questions

When writing screeners, ask non-leading questions. Participants often give answers they think a researcher wants to hear. People might want the reward for completing a survey or experiencing friendliness bias. In any case, the less a question suggests a particular answer, the better.

For example:

"Is Facebook a good way to find musical events?" 

Isn't as good as:

"How do you use social media?"

Not leading participants to particular answers results in more candid responses. This allows user researchers to better select their participants for further UX research methods.

Learn More about Participant Screening

Dive deeper into user research with our courses:
Data-Driven Design: Quantitative Research for UX
Conducting Usability Testing
User Research – Methods and Best Practices offers a handy Guide to Recruiting Usability Test Participants.

Michael Margolis, UX Research Partner at GV offers a primer on Finding Participants.

Learn about IDEO’s Extremes and Mainstreams Method for recruiting participants.

Here is a Screener Questionnaire Template.

Literature on Participant Screening

Here’s the entire UX literature on Participant Screening by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Participant Screening

Take a deep dive into Participant Screening with our course Conducting Usability Testing .

Do you know if your website or app is being used effectively? Are your users completely satisfied with the experience? What is the key feature that makes them come back? In this course, you will learn how to answer such questions—and with confidence too—as we teach you how to justify your answers with solid evidence.

Great usability is one of the key factors to keep your users engaged and satisfied with your website or app. It is crucial you continually undertake usability testing and perceive it as a core part of your development process if you want to prevent abandonment and dissatisfaction. This is especially important when 79% of users will abandon a website if the usability is poor, according to Google! As a designer, you also have another vital duty—you need to take the time to step back, place the user at the center of the development process and evaluate any underlying assumptions. It’s not the easiest thing to achieve, particularly when you’re in a product bubble, and that makes usability testing even more important. You need to ensure your users aren’t left behind!

As with most things in life, the best way to become good at usability testing is to practice! That’s why this course contains not only lessons built on evidence-based approaches, but also a practical project. This will give you the opportunity to apply what you’ve learned from internationally respected Senior Usability practitioner, Frank Spillers, and carry out your own usability tests.

By the end of the course, you’ll have hands-on experience with all stages of a usability test project—how to plan, run, analyze and report on usability tests. You can even use the work you create during the practical project to form a case study for your portfolio, to showcase your usability test skills and experience to future employers!

All open-source articles on Participant Screening

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