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A focus group is a moderated discussion. It typically involves 5 to 10 participants. Researchers usually select participants based on specific traits or characteristics, including:
By using a focus group, you will learn about users’:
- Reactions to ideas or to prototypes
However, you do not learn how users really work with websites and what problems users have with those sites.
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; you hear them tell you about their work. In a typical usability test or contextual interview, users act; you watch (and listen to) them doing their work.
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 taker to ensure everything is captured