Understanding, designing, testing, reviewing and improving  –  this is a very brief description of the content design process, and one that can be applied to purposes beyond creating amazing copy for a website or writing engaging micro-interactions for an app.

After attending a recent Ladies That UX meetup (LTUX) in Bristol, hosted by the Nationwide content team, we realised that the way we generate content at People for Research as part of the recruitment process is deeply connected to the “traditional” principles of content design. Keep reading to find out how we apply them and how relevant they are for the success of your recruitment and the suitability of your participants.

✍️ Clarity

We all know that users generally skim when reading webpages and even emails, so context is essential: it’s not just what you say, but how, when and where you say it (especially if you consider that 1.7 million adults in the UK have literacy levels lower than an 11-year-old child).

When emailing members of our online community who already know our branding and style, we find that consistency is key to give them context and more easily relay what we are trying to communicate. For example, when participants look at a familiar icon in one of our emails, they are immediately aware that a project will require for them to attend a face-to-face session.

✍️ Comprehension and resonance

The rules regarding comprehension are very straightforward, regardless of the platform you are writing for and the goals you have in mind. It’s all about empathy and making sure you are talking to people in their own language, but this requires knowing your audience or, in user recruitment, adapting your communication to each new audience you have to engage with.

During the LTUX meetup, the Nationwide content team shared the example of how Brexit could have been prevented through proper content research and design.

Whilst the ‘leave’ side picked a dynamic word with a reading age of 8–9 years old that urged people to take action and indicated change, ‘remain’ chose a static word that lacked emotional resonance, with a more advanced reading age of 12–13 years old. Looking at the facts, it’s easy to understand why ‘remain’ failed to engage a big part of the UK population.

“Our brains don’t process words or information that we don’t know in the same way it processes words it knows” is the lesson. When recruiting users, we make sure that we adapt the content to different audiences, keeping the copy simple when writing for the general public, but understanding when to add complexity if, for example, talking to professionals in senior roles about niche operations they may perform at work.

✍️ Readability

Start by determining your readability target (including page layout, grammar, sentence construction, etc.). The goal is to keep the content as simple and easy to understand as possible, regardless of who you are writing for. is a great tool to learn more about this content design principle and how to apply it in practical scenarios. It also helps you understand how good readability makes content more accessible: did you know, for example, that italic can be challenging for people with dyslexia? This is especially important when writing content for people with accessibility needs, which we do quite often when recruiting for some of our projects or managing our Accessibility Collective.

✍️ Matching intent

It’s not just about matching the language, it’s also about matching the intent and making your content findable. Users already know what they think, so they are waiting for content designers to match their intent and goals when opening a webpage, reading an email, using an app, etc.

Successful content tells the users what they want to hear, but great content tells users what they need to know, which is the real objective you want to achieve.

When designing email campaigns to engage with our online community, we try to put ourselves in the shoes of our participants. For example, if recruiting people to talk about household appliances, we are likely to lead with information about the incentive, but if trying to recruit for research with a charity like the Alzheimer’s Society  – with whom we collaborated on a case study  –  we would lead with information on how the participants can help this charity and people who are likely to go through a similar experience. It’s about their contribution instead of the reward, in this case. We are actively matching the intent by meeting the expectations of the participants we want to attract and, eventually, recruit.

✍️ Honesty and transparency

To engage people in the long-term, it’s essential to be honest, transparent and avoid dark patterns with your content.

We apply this at People for Research by making it clear what people can expect from paid research and each individual project. It not only paves the road for successful research and quality insights, but it also helps the participants feel at ease when going into a session.

✍️ Balance

When designing your content, it’s important to achieve the right balance between rational and emotional. Even if you are recruiting for research about a more personal topic, consider the emotional charge you are putting into your content, as it may alienate some people who do not identify with it.

It’s important to create a connection with your audience, especially if recruiting vulnerable participants, but make sure you revert back to a rational state when communicating what people can expect from the sessions and what their rights and duties are once they agree to take part. If you are looking for more practical tips on this, we have a blog and a guide on how to recruit for sensitive user research.



By Maria Santos, Head of Digital Ops & Data Protection

If you would like to find out more about our in-house participant recruitment service for user research or usability testing get in touch on 0117 921 0008 or

At People for Research, we recruit participants for UX and usability testing and market research. We work with award winning UX agencies across the UK and partner up with a number of end clients who are leading the way with in-house user experience and insight.