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What are focus groups in UX research?

Sheza Naveed

A focus group is an informal session conducted with 6-10 users to discuss the features of an interface. It is run by a moderator and usually lasts for about 2 hours.

Source: UBC LEAP

Focus groups lead to user’s spontaneous reactions. However, what users say they do and what they actually do differs, so direct observation of each user, one at a time, must supplement focus groups. Focus groups help discover what do users want from the system and not to observe interaction styles.

Conducting a focus group

Conducting a focus group does not require any extensive technology or equipment. We should keep, however few important things in mind:

  • the moderator should begin by explaining the purpose of the focus group, what data will be collected, and how it will be used.

  • an ice-breaking session can help people engage with each other.

  • the moderator must follow a pre-planned script and plan of action and not let the conversation divert too much from the main point.

  • the session should feel informal and not very structured to the participants.

  • there should be observers who do note-taking during the focus group.

  • The moderator must ensure that all participants contribute to the discussion.

At the end of a focus group, the moderator should present a summarized analysis of the observations from the focus group.

Researchers should run more than one focus group to get more in depth and representative results.

Notetaking

Observers should actively take notes of important data, such as:

  • interesting quotes
  • follow up questions
  • ideas and suggestions
  • key themes emerging

Analysis

The analysis of notes and summary should be done rigorously. Here are some of the important things that need to be considered:

  • keywords used
  • context of response
  • consistency in participant behavior (if behavior changed due to influence by other participants)

Advantages

  • A way to get more data in a short amount of time.

  • An opportunity to see the research happening in action.

Disadvantages

  • Inaccurate data as users have a mismatch between what they think they want and what they actually want.

  • Users might get influenced by what other focus group members are saying and not present their views.

Focus groups can help reveal important data, however these should not be the only means to collect data as important information is revealed in one-to-one discussions.

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Sheza Naveed
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