How To Find The Right Users For User Testing How To Find The Right Users For User Testing

How To Find The Right Users For User Testing

  • date-ic 28 Sep 2022
  • time-ic 5 minutes read

The aim of user testing websites and apps is to uncover how customers really feel about their experience with your product, and to use the information gleaned to inform the ongoing UX design, rather than falling on preconceived notions of what a customer’s experience might be.

An essential component of successful usability testing is having a clear idea of your target audience. Without knowing who your existing customers are, and who you want your potential customers to be, it’s difficult to design a purposeful user test and to recruit the right test subjects.

In this post, we’ll have a look at how to identify your target audience and screen potential users so they fit the bill for your user test. This way, you’ll gain usability test results that are actually useful.

Why testing on your target audience matters

The baseline aim for UX design of a digital product is to make it user-friendly enough to service all potential users, no matter their demographic. Certain design principles apply across all website and app creations. These include easy and logical navigation, aesthetics (good use of white space, consistent use of fonts), acceptable page-load speeds, mobile compatibility, and accessibility for users of varying abilities (following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). In this regard, you could test a website/app on anybody, and obtain useful information about how the site serves the average user.

Where it’s important to test on your target audience, however, is when you need to know how the website serves a particular type of user (your customer). Is your website enabling your customers to complete their user journey?

For example, you may have a large number of customers who fit into a demographic that is less tech-savvy. It’s crucial you test your digital product on them, to ensure they’re able to understand and use the tools you’re making available to them, and complete their customer journey. (They may get stuck in places another demographic may not.) You might also have made assumptions about their demographic, which may be proven wrong upon testing.

In terms of product too, testing with the right target audience matters. For example, if you are designing a home loan application app or website, it’s helpful to test users who are either seeking a home loan in the near future, or have recently obtained one. They’ll be better able to communicate what they need from your product than a person with no interest in or knowledge of home loans would be able to.

It goes without saying that if you are creating a digital product for an internal team of people, for instance HR staff in a workplace, then you need to test it on those HR staff.

Identifying your target audience

Targeting the right audience for your product is crucial. If you cast the net too wide, you’re wasting energy and budget on things your customers may not be concerned with. Identifying who your existing and potential customers are helps you pinpoint what services will be useful to them, rather than wasting resources on providing services they won’t use, or that get in the way.

There’s a lot of research involved when it comes to identifying target audiences. Part of this will come down to reviewing any data you’ve collected that tells you who is actually buying your products (if your product or service exists in the market at this point). For products yet to be launched, you’ll need to do some market research on your competitors’ customers.

Creating Personas
Interviewing potential target customers can help you narrow down your target into specific personas. 3-4 personas is a useful amount to work with when it comes to designing a user test. When creating those personas, you’re asking Who? What? and Why? questions.

Who is your user? What are the overarching details that separate them from other users? What’s their location, behavioural profile, and what demographic(s) do they fit within?

What does this customer need? What are they trying to achieve? What are their challenges or pain points? How will your product solve problems for them?

Why are they currently using your product, or why would they want to use it if they haven’t already? If they are using a competitor’s product, why might they consider switching to your product instead?

The questions that get answered in these initial interview sessions can reveal things you didn’t think to include in initial persona designs.

Once you have your personas, you can begin to design the user test. When doing so, you’ll be asking if certain questions are relevant to your personas. If they’re not, ditch them. Afterall, there are only so many questions you can include in a test before your user will get bored or impatient. Each question must be well-considered and purposeful. Doing this with your personas first helps eliminate less important matters.

Finding users to match your target audience

There are a number of ways to find user testers. If you’re taking a DIY approach, you may try asking friends, family, existing customers to test, or advertise for testers. This can take some time. Also, once you find folk to test, you have the added challenge of educating them on how to participate in a user test, and ensuring they can use the testing tools required (screen recording software, etc.)

Whilst the DIY approach is possible, it’s a lot of work, which is why many businesses outsource the task to a user testing agency. A reputable user testing agency will have all the resources at their fingertips for user testing, including UX researchers who can design, conduct and report on user tests, and a large pool of testers trained in how to test properly and communicate clearly. They’ll also ensure you are really clear on who your target audience is, and they’ll be able to use screener questions on their recruits, to ensure they have the right user testers for the task.

Screening questions and why they are important
Screener questions are well-considered multiple choice questions that help you refine who the appropriate users are for your test.

Generally, user testing participants are paid for their time and effort. There’s usually a limited budget for this, and given follow-up tests may be required throughout the development of the product, you don’t want to waste budget testing the wrong people.

Screener questions, when done correctly, can help rule out the wrong testers, and keep you on track.

How many screener questions do you need?

It depends. In some cases, just one screener question suffices. For instance, if you only need to screen for a certain age group, one screener question determining the user’s age is enough.

If you need to know their age, location, occupation, and whether they have bought or plan to buy a certain product within the year, you’ll need more screener questions.

The general recommendation is that 5 screener questions is the sweet spot (too many, and your testers may choose not to participate.)

Tips on writing screener questions

Follow these guidelines for writing screener questions:

  1. Questions should be multiple choice.
  2. Include distinct answers that don’t overlap each other. For instance, if including age ranges, ensure you separate the ranges so users fit one category only. Refer to these ‘good’ and ‘poor’ examples✔️ Select your age: 30-39, 40-49, 50-59.❌ Select your age 30-40, 40-50, 50-60.
  3. At the end of each screener answer list, include the option of “Other”, “Not sure”, or “None of the above” (as applicable).Having this kind of ‘exception’ answer ensures users still have a way of answering the question if they don’t see an answer that fits. If you don’t include this option, your test subject may choose an option that doesn’t apply to them—skewing results and leading to the wrong users entering the final user test.
  4. Avoid double-barrelled questions (questions that ask more than one thing at once).
  5. Avoid including yes/no answers. If a user’s answer doesn’t fit, they’ve got nowhere to go from there. Also, they are more likely to try to guess what they think is the ‘right’ answer. Instead, it’s best to include a few options, plus the exception answer at the end (“other”, “not sure” etc.).
  6. Avoid asking leading questions that make it obvious to users what you want to hear. Instead, keep questions neutral by asking users to select an answer that most closely applies to them.✔️ What are your thoughts on health insurance?
    I think health insurance is worth the cost
    I don’t think health insurance is worth the cost
    I’m not sure if health insurance is worth having
    I don’t have health insurance.
    None of the above

    ❌ Would you consider health insurance?
    I may consider it one day.
    I won’t consider it.

Back up your screener question
To double check you’re capturing the right users for a test, it’s worth including a screener question at the start of the user test, to ensure the user is right for the rest of the test.

For example:

“In our screener questions, you indicated that you were considering buying health insurance. What health insurance products are you interested in?

  • Hospital cover
  • Hospital and extras
  • Family cover
  • Pregnancy & birth
  • None of the above

For more information on asking screener questions, we recommend this UserTesting University article: Screener Questions – Best Practices

You may have to edit your user test as you go

It’s difficult to design the perfect test at the outset. You may find users interpret a question differently to how you intended them to. You may also find they return with information you didn’t expect, raising further questions, and requiring further testing.

Therefore, if your testing is iterative, you may need to employ the same testers for the test more than once, and/or change recruits along the way.

Should you use the same users for iterative testing?

If your product design is likely to change based on feedback received from early tests, it’s a good idea to get fresh insights on the product changes from new testers, rather than using the ones you used for initial tests.

However, if you are designing a product for a group of people with specific needs, (for example, you’re usability testing an app designed to be used by employees of a company’s IT department only), then it will be useful to test those same people numerous times, so that you can be sure the features they need are being developed and work for them.

Testing the testers

Whilst it’s easy enough to recruit user testers, it can be challenging to find those good at completing tests and communicating what they encounter. In some cases, recruits struggle with the technology used during testing (as opposed to struggling with the app or website being tested), and fail to return a usable test.

Whilst a user testing agency won’t blacklist testers that return poorly completed tests, they may make a special note of testers who perform the tests well, and these recruits will be at the top of the list if they fit in the target audience. Afterall, a test that is incomplete or inaudible will likely need to be discarded, and it’s a waste of everyone’s time.


If you want to find testers who will make the effort to complete screener questions, load screen recording software to their mobile or desktop device, read test instructions, complete the test and the test survey, then it’s fair they are paid appropriately for their time. It’s worth having a minimum payment amount, so that even if the test itself takes five minutes, you’re factoring in the time taken for all the other steps.

Most recruits will understand if you have rules regarding non-payment for incomplete tests etc., as long as this is made clear to the user tester at the outset. The payment amount should also be made clear, so they know what to expect.

In conclusion…

Finding the right people to test your product for usability will help ensure you get valuable results. Through defining your target audience, using effective screener questions and vetting potential testers based on their testing performance, you can be sure to have the best user testers possible for your testing endeavour.


TestMate User Testing Agency in Melbourne has thousands of keen Australian user testers on our database, from a wide range of demographics, who are able to test on mobile and desktop. We can easily select particular user types according to target personas, and can screen further, in order to connect with the most apt users for your test. We also filter out the users whose insights won’t provide as much value for your test.

We have honed our testing process to make it as clear and simple as possible for our user testers. The result of outsourcing user testing to TestMate is a job that’s done quickly and efficiently, with rapid results.


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