How to encourage people to participate in your study

Learn how to attract participants to your study, and how to encourage them to complete the entire study.

Updated over a week ago

This article gives you some tips for both attracting participants to your study, and encouraging participants to complete the whole study. We suggest you:

  • offer incentives to participants

  • use positive, action-focused language in your promotion

  • make it easy for participants to complete your study

  • hold their interest for the whole study

  • keep them honest (well, at least keep your results honest!).

Offer participants an incentive to complete the study

An incentive to entice people to give up their time. This incentive doesn't need to be large (or monetary) but it will need to be attractive to your desired audience. A voucher to a Star Trek convention is not going to appeal to everyone and those Trekkies are unlikely to accurately represent your website audience, which could bias your study results.

Sometimes simply appealing to people's good nature is enough, especially if you have an active community who values what you do and would benefit from you doing it better. Other times you'll want to offer good-as-cash-vouchers or a chance to win the latest device.

Use positive, action-focused language in your promotion

When you ask people to complete your study, be positive and give people a good reason to do so. Start by clearly explaining how participants will be helping, and include a clear call to action.

'Help make our website easier for you to use — participant in our study now!'

Make it easy for participants to complete your study

Once participants have clicked on your link, get straight into it. Get them started on your study while they are still interested. Most people will be put off by complicated instructions, so keep it simple. Let them know how much time you think the study will take, and how their contribution will help improve your website. If you want to ask demographic questions, asking them at the end will save people having to do it before starting the study.

We include simple and effective default messages and instructions in your studies. So if in doubt, keep the default text or model your text on them.

Hold participants' interest for the whole study

Respondents are smart, get bored easily, and are time poor. Keep the test short and sweet. Here's some tips for each kind of study.


Aim for a maximum of 8 to 10 tasks per participant which can be completed in 6 to 15 minutes. Write clear tasks that are easy to understand and act on.


Also aim for a maximum of 8 to 10 tasks per participant which can be completed in 6 to 15 minutes. Include simple, clean graphics, and write clear tasks that are easy to understand and act on.


Holding participant interest in a card sort is a little different — it matters more how long you can hold their attention than how many cards you give them to sort. Some cards are much easier to sort than others so you might get away with 80 or 90 of those (for example, a closed card sort for brand values into 3 groups: 'We are', 'We're not', 'We should be' is easy).

But if the concepts are more difficult to grasp or group then you might want to keep it down to around 40 cards.

Keep participants honest (well, your results at least)

We can't really keep people honest, but you can delete the responses of people who don't take your study seriously. There will always be respondents who have completed the study just to get a shot at the prize. When you analyze the results their answers are usually easy to spot. Often they've completed the study rapidly and their answers don't make sense, and are radically different from other responses. Delete their data and discount them from the prize pool.

Even the most dazzling study about the most exciting topic will have some respondents drop off before they've completed it, but if you’re seeing a drop off rate greater than half then you need to look into it. A high skip rate per task in a tree test could be telling of the test difficulty and a sign of confusing website architecture. Keep going you're doing the right thing by testing.

Recruit participants with Optimal Workshop

If you'd like to take the hassle out of finding those participants yourselves — we can help.

We've got a couple of options for end-to-end recruitment:

  • In-app recruitment

  • Custom recruitment packages tailored to your project and study.

We promise quality results and can, in most cases, recruit participants matching your exact requirements. Get in touch with our customer success team to learn more.

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