A focus group is a moderated discussion that typically involves 5 to 10 participants. Through a focus group, you can learn about users’ attitudes, beliefs, desires, and reactions to concepts.
How a Focus Group Differs from a Usability Test or Contextual Interview
Focus groups are a traditional market research technique. Marketing departments are often more familiar with focus groups than with usability testing or contextual interviews. However, the techniques produce different kinds of information.
- In a typical focus group, participants talk. During the focus group users tell you about their experiences or expectations but you don’t get to verify or observe these experiences.
- In a typical usability test or contextual interview, users act. As a result, you are able to watch (and listen to) them and draw conclusions from that.
An important aspect of focus groups is getting the feedback from your target audiences/ demographics.
When recruiting, researchers usually select participants based on specific traits or characteristics, including:
Conducting Focus Groups
When conducting a focus group:
- Decide on the range of topics you would like to cover before the session
- Pretest questions to ensure they are clear and logical
- Develop open-ended questions to encourage discussion
- Arrange questions in a way that flows naturally
- Hire a skilled moderator to facilitate the discussion
- Create a script so the moderator knows what to ask and which topics to cover
- Allow the moderator to change the order of questions and topics to keep the discussion flowing smoothly
- Plan to spend about two hours with the group
- Tape the sessions
- Have one or more note takers to ensure everything is captured