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October 20, 2022
NDAs aren’t the most exciting part of a UXR’s job. But when you need them, you need them to be as efficient and legally sound as possible.
Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are legal documents that establish a confidential relationship between a company and the person signing the NDA.
They can be used in many different situations, like:
In the context of UX research, NDAs are typically used to make sure research participants don’t share sensitive or confidential information they learn during a research session. If your participant is sharing their own company’s sensitive information, they may require you to sign an NDA as well.
In order to understand what an NDA is, you also need to understand what an NDA is not.
Although you might hear them used interchangeably, here’s a quick distinction between NDAs, confidentiality agreements, and consent forms.
Ok, I lied—there isn’t actually much of a distinction here.
NDAs and confidentiality agreements are virtually the same thing (they both deal with information security) and the terms are often used interchangeably.
It’s less common for folks to confuse NDAs with consent forms, but it still happens from time to time.
Here’s the difference:
In the context of UX research, NDAs protect you and your company, while consent forms are primarily designed to protect the participants.
Although NDAs aren’t always necessary, consent forms are often required by law. Even when they aren’t required by law, many researchers consider them a non-negotiable component of ethical research.
💡 For more information about consent forms, check out “Consent Forms for UX Research: A Starter Template.”
To keep sensitive information secret.
That’s basically it… But you don’t always need them.
It depends, since every NDA is unique. Each party will need to agree on the term, and it will vary depending on the circumstances.
There are two main types of NDAs:
You’ll need to decide what kind of NDA will best suit your needs—and whether or not you even need an NDA in the first place. Be sure to consult your legal team on this to avoid any costly mistakes or oversights.
An NDA should cover all of the essential information, including:
You can start with an NDA template (scroll down to the templates section for a few examples) as a quickstart outline, but make sure your legal team gets the chance to review it.
Just as you wait ’til you open your umbrella before running into the rain, you’ll ideally collect participant signatures before the research session. This way, you don’t have extra tasks to complete during the session or worry about a participant not signing the documents and pulling out of your research at the last minute.
See #4 for signature collection tools to help you make this process as painless as possible—but if you prefer to collect signatures on your own, you can also send your forms to participants beforehand and ask them to bring a signed copy to the session.
If your company requires NDAs for more than just research sessions, it’s possible you already have access to a document signing service, so be sure to ask around!
If you don't, here are some tools you can use to get your NDAs and other documents signed.
User Interviews is integrated with HelloSign to enable simple document signing for NDAs and other agreements, all built into your recruitment workflow. We’ll send you a copy of the signed document before their session, so you can spend less time working about the logistics, and more time focusing on the research itself.
DocuSign is a popular online document signing service with robust enterprise features. It has a variety of pricing plans for different use cases and team sizes, and offers support for over 43 languages.
SignEasy is another popular online document signing service. It offers signing links that you can send to participants or even embed in your webpage to gather signatures quickly, but you’ll need to upgrade to their highest plan for enterprise features.
DocHub allows users to not only sign documents, but also to edit and fill PDF documents. DocHub offers a free plan and is integrated with Google, so for some users it may be easy to use directly from their Google Drive.
Once you’ve gathered your signed NDAs, you’ll need to store them in a secure and organized way that makes it possible to access them later. Your legal team might already have an archive in place for legal documents like NDAs, so check with them to make sure you’re following the correct procedure.
(If you needed a kick in the pants to get your research more organized, consider this your sign. Creating a standardized insights repository to organize all your research data, not just documents, is key to maintaining your both sanity and compliance.)
💡 Learn more: How to organize, automate, and tidy up your UX research.
You’ll want to consult with your legal team on the details, but here are a couple of NDA templates to get you started:
Look no further—User Interviews simplifies the NDA process with our powerful panel management and recruitment automation tools. We not only manage document signing for you, but also automate many other tedious aspects of research recruitment such as scheduling, distributing incentives, and messaging participants with important reminders and follow-up.
Research Hub is the best panel management solution for research teams that value customer conversations. Customizable enough to support the enterprise, yet simple enough for small teams to use out of the box, Research Hub powers recruitment for many of the world’s most customer-centric organizations like Wayfair, Spotify, and Figma.
Visit our pricing page to learn more about our Document Signing Add-On for NDAs and other features to streamline participant recruitment and management.
Product Education Manager
Marketer, writer, poet. Lizzy likes hiking, people-watching, thrift shopping, learning and sharing ideas. Her happiest memory is sitting on the shore of Lake Champlain in the summer of 2020, eating a clementine.