More often than not people equate user research with focus groups, but most user researchers I know have never run a focus group. Focus groups are more of a market research tool. A user researchers’ favorite tool is the one-on-one interview.
I invited Julie Francis, the principle of BellaVia Research, who started as a market researcher, but now does a mix of user and market research to demystify what a focus groups is and when to use one. Her slides and recording are well worth watching – they are packed with best practices.
Before beginning any research project, you need to ask yourself – what are you trying to learn? The method you use to collect data depends on the type of data you want to collect – so use this handy chart to figure out if a focus group is the right method to use in your next research study.
When You Should Use a Focus Group
- Explore needs, thoughts and feelings
- Explore brand perceptions
- Explore consumer language, issues that you saw from survey research
- Understand decision process, factors
- Explore use cases
- When you want to learn from the banter between people
When You Shouldn’t Use a Focus Group
- Usability on your product, website or mobile
- Advertising impact
- Design iteration
- Understanding what people really do (instead of what they say they do)
- Situations where you worry about people influencing each other
Below are some pictures of focus group facilities – some are more casual depending on the environment they are trying to create.
Thanks to Julie for teaching us the ins and outs of focus groups. We hope to have her back to talk again!