Several commenters have expressed some concern about recruiting participants for user research and usability studies.
This is the most important step to get right in user research. If you don’t have the right users, you don’t have the right data.
So, that sounds hard and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.
When you’re just starting out with a design, you can use people close to you. People in your company, people in your family, or friends—but they still must be like your real users. And they shouldn’t know anything about what you’re trying to do. That is, they should not be people on your project. Make sense?
Usually, you can just say, “Can you give me a few minutes to try something out?” And they almost always will. Buy a cup of coffee or soda for them and thank them profusely. Not costly at all.
As the prototypes become more real and you want to do more formalized testing, you can keep costs lower by going to the participants rather than setting up a formal test in a lab (unless your company has a lab and doesn’t charge you back for using it). Visit them in their offices or wherever they would normally use the design.
This is a less expensive option than asking participants to come to you because you’re using less of their time. When you ask them to come to you, though it isn’t obvious, you’re also compensating them for travel time and the hassle of getting to you. If you visit them, you also get the benefit of bonus data because you’ll learn things by being in their environment that you won’t pick up from their being in your space.
I’ve got a lot of articles on my blog about recruiting. You might want to check those out. This link will get you to all the posts tagged with “recruiting”: http://usabilitytestinghowto.blogspot.com/search/label/recruiting
You might also want to read my article on Boxes and Arrows about how to treat study participants: http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/why-we-call-them