Foundational methods for practicing design research.



Offering usability test or user research participants gifts to encourage participation and to thank them for their time.


Incentives often result in a more diverse, representative set of participants. Without incentives, you often end up recruiting people with a strong intrinsic interest in your website. These people may not have the same needs and experiences as a less interested pool of users. With incentives, you can encourage less interested, more representative people to participate.

Time required


How to do it

  1. Figure out what’s legal and appropriate. Consult your agency’s Office of General Counsel on options for providing incentives or gifts to encourage participation in usability testing, consistent with your agency’s authorities. The options will depend upon your agency’s authorities and the specific facts.
  2. Consider contracting for a recruiting service to help you get an effective research pool.
  3. If incentives are determined to be permissible, clearly communicate when and how participants will receive incentives. In the emails, postings or other materials you use to recruit your participants, describe the incentive and how participants will receive it (via mail, pick up at an office, etc.). This is particularly important for “remote” research.

Considerations for use in government

No PRA implications. Even when users are present, the PRA explicitly exempts direct observation and non-standardized conversation, 5 CFR 1320.3(h)3.

If you are not working with government employees, you will need to observe standard precautions for archiving personally identifiable information.