Incentive Calculator

Incentives for UX research can be anything under the sun, which arguably includes nothing. Context is incredibly important here – your study type, audience, organization, brand, and timeline all determine the incentive, to name just a few variables. So, what is this thing?

This calculator is a starting point for thinking about incentives based on data from 40,000+ participants Ethnio has paid in 140 countries, and lots more math that you can read about here.

Think we're missing something? Please do share your thoughts. We'd love to hear from you.

One note: if you do a prize, giveaway, or company swag, the current math in our calculator won't help much. No matter how you distribute compensation, please make sure to make a great PIE. Now on to the elements of our Incentive Calculator and how they work:


The big toggle 

Your study

This tells the calculator which basic type of study you'll be paying research participants to complete.  

  • Moderated - humans talking to humans in some capacity. Could be 1:1 or in a group, remotely or in-person. The base rate is ~ $3/min USD but changes in value are non-linear, meaning some time ranges change values depending on common session lengths.
  • Unmoderated - computers watching people use computers, broadly speaking. This is anything from a survey to a full self-moderated session with video and screen recording. The base rate is ~ $.20/min USD but it's not linear, meaning some time ranges change values depending on common session lengths.

The basic settings


Type of moderated activity

Common broad types of moderated research studies. Think we're missing something? Let us know.

  • Remote - no change to base rate
  • In-Person - roughly +25% increase to the base rate, but keep in mind it's non-linear. More on math here.
  • Site Visit - roughly +35% increase to the base rate


Type of unmoderated activity 

These represent the most common broad categories of unmoderated UX research, but of course is by no means exhaustive. Think we're missing something? Let us know.

  • Self-Moderated Session -  a participant records their own screen and/or face and follows a script for task completion. Typically, tools that offer this type of testing calculate their own incentives, which you can cross-reference for a sanity check. 
  • Survey - roughly -10% less than the base pay rate of a survey. anything that involves collecting data via form input with tools like Survey Monkey or Qualtrics. If there is compensation, it very rarely involves paying each respondent, but for certain study types it does happen. 
  • Online Exercise - this can be a card sort or any online exercise that's fundamentally more interactive than a survey. Somewhat of a blurry line, especially since many surveys can have incredibly complex question types.
  • Diary Study - please keep in mind the "time to complete" means the total investment of your diary study participant's time. In other words, 1hr per week for 3 weeks = 3 hours total time to completeThis also means a diary study that takes 2 weeks total time to complete in this calculator would be a massive study, because it means 2 weeks of the participant's time. That might be over a full year, as another example. 

Time to complete session or activity

This is the most basic building block for compensation - how much time will this take for your participant? We calculate this based on the ranges of per-minute compensation listed below and this is the base rate building block of the math/formula behind this calculator. Think we're missing something? Let us know.

  • Keep in mind, this is total time requiredIf you have a study that takes 2 days to complete, but it only requires 1hr per day of your participant's time, than you would select 2 hours on this scale.
  • Lowest Value is 5min - starts at ~$1 USD. This could be more depending on variables below, or if you use some kind of point system for surveys, it could even be less than $1.
  • Highest Value is an Entire Day / 3 weeks - ~$600 USD. Yes this is super high, but the idea of a full day or 3 week study that involves *all* of your participant's time and focus is fairly intense. Special note on diary study compensation: that only requires one hour per week for three weeks, your total time should be closer to 3 hours, not 3 weeks. 


How tricky is this audience to find?

We calculate this based on whether your participants are working professionals with varying income levels or they are just very hard to schedule for whatever reason. Think we're missing something? Let us know.

  • -15% Literally anyone - around a 15% reduction in cost because it's a broad audience
  • +100% Pretty Tricky  1M% additional (might be a joke)
  • Doctors - 500% additional. Have you ever tried to recruit a doctor? We know it feels impossible.
  • Colleagues - recruiting internally will give you a 5% reduction 


How fast do you need to complete your study?

If you need to complete the study fast, you might need to offer a higher incentive to get participants engaged quickly. Think we're missing something? Let us know.

  • OFG today - 15% additional 
  • Tomorrow - 10% additional 
  • 1-2 weeks - most common default selection
  • Whenever - around a 5% reduction

Optional Organizational Details


Your organization type 

Different organizations will typically offer different amounts depending on how the organization is setup and  the industry. For example,  a charity won't be expected to offer as much as a for-profit company. Think we're missing something? Let us know.

  • For-profit Company -  most common default selection
  • Nonprofit - around a 15% reduction


Your organization size 

The general idea here is that larger organizations tend to pay more. But as that's not always true, you can play with the variables to see what feels right. Think we're missing something? Let us know.

  • Over 100,000 - 30% additional 
  • 501-1,000 employees - most common default selection
  • Self-employed - around a 15% reduction

International Currency & Country Options


Where are you?

Enter the country you are based in or where you will be issuing the incentives from. Keep in mind this will inevitably be tied to the currency of that country.

For example, if you are based in Germany and try to pay participants in the UK, you will see "your incentive" in Euros and the "recommended inecentintive" in GBP. 


Where are your participants?

Enter the country your participants are based in or where you will be issuing the incentives to. Keep in mind this will inevitably be tied to the currency of that country. 

For example, if your participants are based in the UK you will see the "recommended inecentintive" in GBP.


How many participants?

Here you can type in the number of participants that will be taking part in the study. This will generate a "study total" at the top which can be helpful to give you an idea of overall cost and budget for the study.


Currency rounding

Set currency rounding to even out the recommended incentive in the currency your participants will receive. This helps generate a nice even number to the nearest multiple of 5 or 10 (depending how strong you set it) and will round up or down to the nearest amount. 


Cost of living offset by country

If you are issuing incentives to participants in other countries, this shows the percentage difference in what the amount would be for their relative cost of living to you. It's based on rent, groceries, taxes, and healthcare from the World Population Review – see the entire index here.

This would be the progression of how cost of living might change a $75 USD incentive for a participant in the UK.


Sharing & Saving

You can save your exact calculation with the Save button. Tell us a little about you and we'll email a special link to you 

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