Focus Groups: Are They Right for You?
The short answer is: it depends on your goals. If you Google “focus group,” you will have a host of positive and negative feedback, but the truth is that it depends on what your needs are.
What Is a Focus Group?
Focus groups are an inexpensive way to identify people’s preferences, motivations, thoughts, feelings and attitude towards a product or service. In a typical focus group, approximately 6 to 10 people spend 60 to 90 minutes voicing their opinions about your website or application. They differ from usability studies in that they show participants’ attitudes towards a particular item, whereas usability studies reveal how things are used.
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When to Use
Conducting a focus group early in a project is a way to get a sample of opinions. It is also helpful to conduct a focus group towards the end of a project, when you want to check in about meeting your goals.
After Conducting Your Focus Group
Once you have completed your focus group, validate and explore results with users one-on-one by conducting user research interviews and usability studies. Focus groups are considered a good start to triangulation, which is the practice of combining different methods of research to develop a complete picture of your user and the challenges they have using your product.
If you have decided that conducting a focus group is a good idea for your project, the following resources will make you a focus group ninja:
- Focus Group Manual [PDF]: A step-by-step guide to conducting a focus group.
- Screener [PDF]: A template designed to aid you through the recruitment process.
- CheckList [PDF]: A printable Word document to use on the day of your focus group, to make sure you don’t forget anything.
- Quiz [PDF]: A fun way to test your knowledge.
Finally, in our Usability Starter Kit, you can find a script to use for your focus group and a presentation on focus groups.
Stacey Sarris is a UX consultant and adjunct professor at Pace University, doctoral candidate at University of Baltimore’s Information and Interaction Design program, and was a UX intern at GSA.