Intercept Recruiting for Web Site Usability Testing

I am really, really excited about intercept recruiting for web site usability testing.  I recently experienced this method of recruiting for some usability testing we did on a major auto manufacturer’s web site.  Basically, it works like this:

  1. Site visitors are randomly “intercepted” at a designated location within the site by a pop-up asking them if they’d like to participate in a usability test RIGHT NOW in exchange for a reward;
  2. Person who says “yes” answers a few questions (screener) to ensure that they match the target profile;
  3. Remote facilitator scans the answers and, if they qualify, contacts them immediately by phone to engage them in a remote usability test (using online conference tool). 

What I loved about this method of recruitment is the quality of the participants we encountered.  These were not just folks who were interested in earning a few market research bucks; these were people truly interested in shopping for a vehicle at that very moment.  In my opinion, the quality of the participants’ comments as they shopped the site were unusually insightful and helpful.

What made the testing even more interesting is that we allowed participants to proceed with shopping the site as they were planning to do anyway.  Rather than a rigid discussion guide, we focused more on observing the participants look for answers to THEIR questions, and made note of instances where they had difficulty.  By studying this natural shopping behavior, we gained some significant insights that we may not have encountered with a more scripted test.  (If time permitted, however, we did throw in a few specific, task-oriented questions.)

This was our first usability test using this method of recruitment.  While I still feel there are some projects better suited to traditional, face-to-face testing, our experience was so positive, I expect we’ll be doing much more of this, with continued analysis of natural shopping behavior.

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