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Recruit Users

How can we create relationships with users to better understand them?


Working with the user you are designing for is crucial in human-centered design. Testing with users challenges your assumptions about the issue you are solving and can affirm or refute ideas you develop. Users are people with their own lives and obligations, so set clear goals and expectations when recruiting them for interviews or testing. Communicate that you are here to learn from and work with the users to design solutions.

Effective ways to do this include:

  1. Identify 4-5 organizations and/or stakeholders to contact
    • Review your problem’s context to identify stakeholders, organizations, and places within your problem space. Check out the Problem Context one-pager to refresh about parts of a problem’s context.
    • Google them to search for contact information. Ask if anyone in your studio may have connections to those experiencing similar issues.
    • List people you know locally and back home who work on your issue or in related fields.
  2. Create a user recruitment message to send until you hear 'yes!' from 5+ people
    • The message can be delivered via email, user recruitment flyer, community listserv posting, user interest form etc.
    • Here are some elements you should include in your message:
      • Start with a welcoming intro and introduce yourself.
      • Describe what Design for America is and what your studio is trying to accomplish this term.
      • Make a clear ask for an interview call or a visit to learn more. Suggest a few specific time and dates in the next few weeks.
      • Ask them for suggestions. Is there anyone you can talk to or organizations you should check out?
      • Thank them in advance for their time.
    • Emails: Download this Sample User Outreach Email one-pager to check out email templates! Review this checklist to make sure you have the necessary components of an outreach email.
    • When sending emails, be sure to personalize the emails to each person you are recruiting.
  3. Set up 1-2 meetings with users and 1-2 meetings with other stakeholders
    • Finalize logistics: Date, Time, Location, Call link
    • If the correspondent doesn’t respond in 3-4 days, consider calling or sending a follow up referencing your first email. Strike a balance between being persistent and patient!
    • Ask if you can record or take photographs during your visit.
  4. Get ready to conduct interviews and observations!
    • Don’t forget to send thank you's!

Network Best Practices

Craft a clear, detailed user recruitment email like DFA UC Berkeley

At UC Berkeley, an education team focusing on supporting underserved students educational goals utilized a local parents listserv to reach of 30,000 potential users at once. The team crafted a short announcement asking to interview parents and students about their aspirations and goals. The team was able to get a few interviews set up in the following week based off of their post. Utilizing local listservs and forums is a great way to reach a large number of potential users or partners quickly!

Leverage your network like the DFA Leadership studio participants

Saki, a Leadership Studio participant from UCLA  reached out to her Facebook network to recruit users for feedback during Leadership Studio 2015. Many LS 15 participants reached out to their networks and got lots of participants who were interviewed during the weekend!