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March 26, 2020

  • Last Updated:
  • April 2, 2020

Ethnio vs. User Interviews: A Complete Comparison of Two Participant Recruitment Platforms

Compare User Interviews and Ethnio's participant quality and screener tools to learn which participant recruiting platform is best for you.

David Klose

In this article, we compare two participant recruitment platforms, Ethnio and User Interviews (that’s us!), addressing the difficulties of research recruiting in very different ways. We explore how each can help you handle three significant functions:

  1. Sourcing quality candidates for research studies quickly.
  2. Screening those candidates to make sure only the right participants end up in your study.
  3. Juggling the miscellaneous (but time-sucking) tasks around participant management, such as scheduling sessions and paying incentives. 

We’ll highlight what each platform offers and how they work to help you conduct user testing. If you’re not here for all the nitty-gritty details and just want our final assessment, go ahead and skip to our comparison at-a-glance section.

Finally, we know we may come across as a little biased in this comparison. After all, we’re talking about ourselves. However, the topic we’re addressing isn’t which platform is better overall but which platform is a better fit for your project’s specific needs. And we’ve tried to do that in a way that is as fair as possible to the capabilities of each platform. 

Note: Looking for a specific audience to participate in your user research? User Interviews offers a complete platform for finding and managing participants. Tell us who you want, and we’ll get them on your calendar. Find your first three participants for free.

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Sourcing Quality Participants for Your Research Studies

Before you can start sourcing participants, you need to know who you’re looking for. No matter what platform you choose, this prep work is critical to finding quality participants. 

To know who you need, start with figuring out what you’re trying to learn with your study. We’ve written before on the importance of holding stakeholder interviews, which can help you discern what exactly your current research study is trying to solve. 

Here are some other questions that can help you better define your participant needs:

  • What phase of product development are you in? Participants who would be great for generative research may or may not be who you want to talk to for usability testing
  • How many participants do you need?  The data shows — and we agree — that most studies don’t need many participants to get useful insights. For example, most usability studies only need around five quality participants. On the other hand, for generative research, you may want to talk to 10 or more participants per segment you seek to serve. Go for quality over quantity.
  • Does this study need existing users or potential users? If you’re updating an existing product, existing users may be your best audience. But if you’re building a brand new feature or product and need a fresh set of eyes, non-users who match your target user will be a good resource. 

Finding Study Participants with User Interviews

A view of the User Interviews dashboard showing participants and their information. User Interviews is an excellent alternative to Ethnio. Not only can you recruit your own users, but you can find participants who are similar to your target users, too.

With User Interviews, you can recruit participants from our audience of over 200,000 vetted participants, or you can upload your own participants into our platform and manage them through our dashboard. 

Let’s go over each option. 

Recruiting Participants Who Fit Your Target Audience

Our audience is full of diverse participants, many of whom sign up with User Interviews to participate in specific research studies. We collect extensive demographic information so that, in future studies, it’s easier to narrow down options to the best candidates. (Learn more about how we recruit participants here.)

Our median time to match you with a qualified participant is 2 hours — enabling you to start your next study sooner than later.

Many researchers have two fears when it comes to UX research recruiting:

  1. The participant is misrepresenting their knowledge and interests to get into studies (as a way to make extra cash from incentive payments).
  2. The participant either (A) won’t show up or (B) will show up, but will be, ultimately, unhelpful to the study.  

We know how frustrating those issues are and work hard to prevent them (as much as possible) for the researchers using our platform. Here’s what we do to ensure participant quality:

First, we verify our participants through multiple channels, including email verification and social media. If you choose to use our Advanced Screening option, you can actually talk to participants before deciding whether or not to include them in a study. (We’ll talk about screener surveys in the next section).

Second, our participants are rated by researchers after each study. This community-driven  vetting helps keep quality participants at the top of the list. 

Recruiting Your Own Audience Through User Interviews

If you want a way to organize and track your existing users, we have an option for that, too.

To find participants, you can:

  • Upload a CSV file onto our platform (if you know some good options already)
  • Invite participants via a shareable link
  • Build a branded opt-in form.

You still use our tools to schedule participants, pay out incentives (which we distribute for you if you’re paying by Amazon gift card), communicate with users, use filters and tags to organize participants, track who you’ve used for which studies, and so on, all in one place. 

It’s effectively a CRM for research participants. Whenever you’re ready to launch a study, click “invite to study” to invite them to participate via a custom message for your project.  

Finding Study Participants with Ethnio

Unlike User Interviews, Ethnio doesn’t have a participant pool to recruit from. Instead, Ethnio offers multiple options to capture your existing users.

Live Recruiting is Ethnio’s main offering. By using intercepts, Ethnio aims to recruit active users on your platform. So when a customer is on your website or app, a quick screener survey will pop up, like the one below.

An example of Ethnio's live recruiting pop-up.
(Image Source)

If the customer answers the survey, they’re considered a respondent. From there, you can decide whether or not you want to follow up and have a longer conversation with the potential participant or pass on them altogether. 

The web intercept approach requires a high number of page views to get respondents who are a good fit for your study. Here is how Ethnio outlines the numbers game: 

The Ethnio Viewing Funnel
(Image Source)

Businesses experiencing significant traffic to their website or mobile app can use Ethnio more effectively than smaller sites. Since you can adjust what percentage of website visitors see the survey, you can tinker with the numbers a bit. For businesses with low page views, or those who are still establishing product-market fit, this may not be the most effective approach.

It’s also worth noting that Ethnio web and app intercepts gather your current audience, not necessarily your potential audience. So depending on who you’re looking for, Ethnio could be a good fit.

When it comes to participant quality, that part is up to you. Since Ethnio can only find the active users on your current site or app, it doesn’t have a system in place to rate participants based on past performance. With some good screener questions (and perhaps additional screening, if needed) along with re-using participants you had a good experience with, you can build up a reliable pool of current users. 

Similar to User Interviews, you can also bring your own participants to Ethnio by uploading a CSV file. From there, you can schedule studies and manage incentive payouts.

Ethnio’s ‘Pool’ feature works like a CRM system, allowing you to organize your participants through multiple filters and add your own lists via spreadsheet upload.

Creating Screeners to Filter Potential Participants

Both Ethnio and User Interviews support screener surveys, but they function pretty differently. Ethnio’s screeners are aimed to capture active users on your site, while our screeners are designed to filter for qualified participants from a pre-existing pool of applicants. Let’s look at each.

User Interviews

You can use screener surveys to weed out participants who won’t work for your study and identify the ones who are potential fits.

Generally, you might ask questions that fall into these groups, but you can ask whatever you want:

  • Demographics (gender, age, etc.)
  • Geographics (location)
  • Behaviors (if, how, and why someone would use your product)
  • Psychographics (general activities, interests, opinions).

You can set your preferences for demographics and geographics before writing your custom screener questions (we’ll include that in screening automatically based on participants’ profiles). That means you can focus on behavior and psychographics specific to your needs. We recommend you start with broader questions first. A well-crafted screener survey is a funnel, and questions ought to get more nuanced as they go.

When you’re drafting your screener survey, remember not to ask leading questions. Your participant shouldn’t be able to tell what answer you’re looking for. 

How "findable" is the information you seek when you interact with this product?
An example from our screener survey creation tool.

There is no limit to how many questions you can have on your screener, though we can usually see a relationship between the length of the survey and how many candidates finish it. So we recommend somewhere between 5 and 15 questions. 

User Interviews’ Advanced Screening Option

This is an extra option (that comes at the cost of an additional $20 per completed session but which is included in our Consumer and All Access Packages) that allows researchers to pre-screen candidates before approving and inviting them into the study. It’s useful if your study has high visibility and you want to be extra certain you have identified reliable, articulate participants.


With Ethnio, you’re designing screener surveys that will act like pop-ups on your site (or app). Since they interrupt the user experience, you’ll want to keep them on the shorter side. 

A pretty big difference between Ethnio and almost any other participant recruitment platform is that you can make contact information (Name, Phone, or Email) required questions, but Ethnio does not currently allow other question types to be required. If a behavioral or psychographic question is absolutely essential to your study, you may need to follow up if respondents choose not to answer the question. Or you can simply reject anyone who doesn’t answer it.

By the way, if you’re worried about pop-up blockers, Ethnio has that covered. Their intercept uses a DHTML layer (dynamic HTML is code that is used to create interactive websites), so it won’t be blocked by pop-up killers.

Ethnio has three ways of collecting your customers:

  1. Through your website: You place JavaScript on your website, app, or single-page app. These intercepts are responsive and will be mobile-friendly.
  2. Through a URL you can share: You can send out a link via email or through a post on Facebook, Twitter, and so on. 
  3. Through your mobile app: Ethnio’s native app intercepts also work on iOS and Android. Per Ethnio, this will take a little more work from your development team, but it can be done without too much of a headache. 

Tips to Make Intercepts as Non-Disruptive as Possible

Intercepts disrupt the user experience of your service. So, Ethnio has a few tips for making your screeners as non-disruptive as possible:

  1. Keep your intercept off 99% of the time: You only need to activate intercepts when you're recruiting for a study. (Just so you know, page views count whether or not the intercept is on. More on this in the pricing section.)
  2. Basic and Advanced customer targeting: Available in Pro and above plans, basic and advanced customer targeting uses available data (device, location) to make sure you’re only showing intercepts to users who fit those criteria.
  3. Limiter and timer options: You can set it up so that (a) your intercept is turned off after you get enough responses, and (b) your intercept only appears on certain days and times (if, for example, you’re worried about your intercept decreasing conversions on a key sales day)
  4. Build your pool of participants: This is a long-term solution, available only to those on the Enterprise Plan. Using the same dashboard as usual, you can slowly build a pool of participants. You’re effectively starring your favorite participants and reaching out to them for future studies, instead of always running intercepts for new candidates.  

Optional Targeting with Ethnio 

With Ethnio, you can target your audience by location, device, browser, and operating system for your screener. For example, you could set it up so your screener only pops up to mobile users within a specific city.

While helpful, Ethnio does warn that this type of targeting is only about 85% accurate.

Ethnio recommends that, if something like location or device type is important to your study, put it in the screener as a question. For example, you can create a dropdown question that asks  "Where are you located?"

Scheduling Participants 

Both User Interviews and Ethnio help you schedule participants. Here’s how.

User Interviews

User Interviews: Provide Schedule/ Availability

As soon as qualified candidates come in (people who have taken your screener survey), they get added to your participant dashboard.

From there, you can approve or reject candidates (or set this process to move automatically if you only care about whether they chose the right answers on your screener). Approved candidates get an invitation to schedule themselves for a slot you’ve made available in your study, until it’s full.

We recommend you approve around 1.5 to 2x as many candidates as you actually need. This helps prepare for any no-shows or other schedule changes. If a candidate has to cancel or doesn’t show up, one of your back-ups is notified and invited to your study.


Ethnio offers two types of scheduling: automatic and manual.

Automatic scheduling works by letting Ethnio send out invitations to respondents who scored what Ethnio calls a “minimum score” on your screener survey. Based on what we could find, this isn’t a transparent score available to researchers but a fluid metric calculated by an algorithm.

Using the automatic option means participants are getting invited for a test with you even when you haven’t reviewed their answers yourself. We’d recommend avoiding automatic scheduling if you’re trying to hone in on really well-qualified candidates early in the recruitment process. 

To use automatic scheduling, you’ll need to add a drop-down availability question to the screener. 

When is good for you for a 60 minute interview in the Mitte area of Berlin?
(Image Source)

This lets the respondent select times they are available for the research session. 

Manual scheduling is exactly what it sounds like. Review your respondents, select the ones you want to talk to, and reach out through email or phone to schedule a time. From there, you can still use the Ethnio calendar functionality to send reminders.

With Ethnio, you can schedule back-ups in case your participant is a no-show, but only with manual scheduling. You’ll have to pay them an incentive to reserve them at that time in case they are needed. 

Managing Incentive Payouts

User Interviews

At User Interviews, we have two ways to handle incentive payouts.

If you want us to handle incentive distributions (funded by your team), we will issue Amazon gift cards to participants that you confirm showed up and completed your study.

Otherwise, you are responsible for managing participant payments. We recommend you pay participants within 10 business days.


Ethnio will pay out incentives via Amazon, PayPal, and some common gift card brands (think Uber and Starbucks). They can also send your incentive payout as a charitable donation, if that’s what your participants prefer.

In addition, Ethnio lets you set annual caps to incentive payouts per participant. In other words, you can tell Ethnio never to pay a single participant more than a certain amount per year.  

Pricing and Plans

User Interviews Pricing and Plans

In the screenshot below, you’ll see our Research Hub Unlimited pricing. These pricing plans were designed for teams who need ongoing access to unlimited participants. 

User Interviews Pricing: Bring your own $150/month, Consumer $300/month, All Access $600/month.

We also have a Pay as You Go option, which works like this:

  • $30 per completed participant session (consumer-level participant)
  • $70 per completed participant session (professional-level participant).

Optional Add Ons for the Pay as You Go Option:

  • +$10 for skip logic (allowing for more nuanced screener surveys)
  • +$20 advanced screening by phone or email.

Ethnio Pricing and Plans

Try for free 14 days: $79-$350/month.

With Ethnio, some researchers are confused about the page view limit. You’re charged by page views regardless of whether or not the intercept is running. This means if you’re getting 700k page views a month, you’re in the Big plan, even if you’re only going to run an intercept for a week. 

Here’s why, according to Ethnio: “Any page where you place Ethnio code tracks the number of views to that page, and counts as a page view every time someone loads that page. It still counts even if your Ethnio screener is turned off. This is because we get a hit to our server even if the screener is off, and it creates massive traffic for us cumulatively.”

Ethnio vs. User Interviews: A Quick Review

To recap: While there is some overlap between Ethnio and User Interviews, they really are two unique platforms. Ethnio provides ways to find, organize, and study your own users. User Interviews provides ways to find, organize, and study either your own users or people who act like your target users.

Ethnio vs. User Interviews Comparison Chart: Finding Participants, Participant Vetting, Incentive Payments, Pricing

Ethnio uses intercepts to capture live users on your current site or app. This makes Ethnio pretty unique in the participant recruitment world, but it also comes with trade-offs, such as uncertainty around the time it will take to recruit and potentially needing to further qualify participants. For example, the intercept could grab people who aren’t active users (when you’re looking for active users) or it could grab first-time customers (when you’re looking for your existing users).

We can see Ethnio working well for very large enterprise companies with dedicated user research teams and a focus on consistently improving their existing services. But the lack of precision in finding participants could be a problem for some types of research. Ethnio’s strategy is to cast a wide net, follow up with each respondent, and narrow it down to your ideal participants. If that doesn’t work for you, it’s best to look at Ethnio alternatives such as User Interviews.

At User Interviews, you can use our vetted participants or recruit your own users. We work on getting quality participants quickly by utilizing two tools: our large, diverse participant database and our extensive screener survey tooling. You can choose how involved you want to be in the process. You can also use our Bring Your Own platform to locate, communicate with, and organize your own users.

If you’re looking for a specific audience to participate in your UX research, we offer a complete platform for finding and managing participants. Tell us who you want, and we’ll get them on your calendar. And if you’re new to User Interviews, you can get your first three participants for free.