A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Focus Groups

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Basics of Conducting Focus Groups

Focus groups are a powerful means to evaluate services or test new ideas. Basically, focus groups are interviews, but of 6-10 people at the same time in the same group. One can get a great deal of information during a focus group session.

McNamara, Carter. Free Management Library. Articles>User Centered Design>Methods>Focus Groups


Beyond the Focus Group

Focus groups are popular amongst marketing professionals for good reason. They are relatively quick to organise and the feedback is instantaneous. A wide range of views can be assembled from people from a wide range of backgrounds. When focus groups go well, the data can be extremely useful in identifying profitable design routes. Plus any technique that gets companies closer to their customers can't be all bad.

System Concepts (2005). Articles>Usability>Methods>Focus Groups


Do’s and Don’ts for Focus Groups

Focus groups have gotten a bad rap over the years as UX research has shifted away from this very traditional method of market research. But focus groups can be quite useful for UX research if we approach them properly. This month, we’ll talk about ways you can get the most out of focus groups and apply the method properly to avoid the pitfalls that many people commonly encounter.

Madrigal, Demetrius and Bryan McClain. UXmatters (2011). Articles>Usability>User Experience>Focus Groups


Focus Group

A focus group is a focused discussion where a moderator leads a group of participants through a set of questions on a particular topic. Focus groups are often used in the early stages of product planning and requirements gathering to obtain feedback about users, products, concepts, prototypes, tasks, strategies, and environments. Focus groups can also be used to obtain consensus about specific issues.

Usability Body of Knowledge. Resources>Usability>Methods>Focus Groups


Focus Group Usability Testing

In today’s financial climate, organisations are trying to cut costs. This has led to lots of new and innovative cost-cutting usability techniques springing up. Some of them are ingenious, but not every cost saving measure is a good idea. One technique that is becoming popular with some is focus group usability testing. I recommend that you avoid this technique completely. I’ll try to explain why.

Hamill, David. Good Usability (2008). Articles>Usability>Testing>Focus Groups


Focus Groups - Advantages and Limitations

Focus groups are a great way to collect information from several people very quickly and cost effectively. They are mainly used to gauge people’s reactions and feelings to items, however when used appropriately they can also be used as part of user requirements gathering.

Frontend Infocentre (2009). Articles>Usability>Methods>Focus Groups


Focus Groups in Usability: From Face-to-Face to Screen-to-Screen Dialogue   (PDF)

Electronic focus groups became a popular alternative to face-to-face groups in user research in recent years. They are largely known for the benefits of anonymity, accurate discussion tacking, and low cost. At the same time, the quality of results generated by on-line focus groups remains uncertain. The paper explains five fundamentals of the focus group technique, such as content, context, representation, facilitation and interaction. It reviews different stages of focus group development and provides recommendations for facilitating each stage. The paper discusses the potentials and limitations of electronic focus groups, provides practical tips for facilitators, and compares them with face-to-face groups.

Gorlenko, Lada. STC Proceedings (2005). Articles>Usability>Online>Focus Groups


Focus Groups to Study Work Practice

My definition of focus groups is very broad. I consider focus groups to occur whenever a group of people are invited to participate in a moderated discussion on a specific topic. I usually use focus groups very early in the design, to better understand potential users of a product or service. This differentiates usability focus groups from marketing focus groups, which often seek to learn reactions to a finished product. Focus groups differ from usability studies in that the participants are not asked to use a product. They differ from participatory design sessions because the participants are not asked to contribute or comment on design ideas. In a focus group, all I want participants to do is talk.

Ede, Meghan R. Usability Interface (1998). Articles>Usability>Methods>Focus Groups


Focus Groups to Study Work Practice

Focus groups are a good way to learn how people approach tasks and to get an overview of work that spans hours or days or longer periods. Focus groups can be a great way to learn about the work that occurs 'between' or 'around' the tools we build.

Ede, Meghan R. Useit (2002). Articles>Usability>Methods>Focus Groups


Focus Groups vs. Usability Testing: What, When and Why?

Focus groups and usability testing are two very useful but very different user research disciplines. This article will look at the difference between focus groups and usability testing, the pros and cons of each and when in the development process you should use them.

Gray, Alistair. Webcredible (2009). Articles>Usability>Testing>Focus Groups


Guide Lines to Become Better than the Rest

The acronym GD stands for Group Discussion and has now become as interview in professional and academic circles. The basic aim of the Group Discussion is to evaluate the effectiveness of the candidate in a group activity. This effectiveness is judged through the leadership qualities and the communication skills displayed.

Kerala Education. Articles>Usability>Interviewing>Focus Groups


How to Get Beneath the Surface in Focus Groups

It should come as no surprise that you can't always believe what you hear in focus groups, or anywhere else. Some people still believe that any moderator who can put participants at ease will get them to talk 'openly,' creating the 'right atmosphere' where the truth will come pouring out. This attitude has all too often led to findings which are clear-cut, simple, unambiguous and wrong. Are the things people are saying when pressed in focus groups really what moves them? How do you sort out the ambiguity, vagueness, omissions, contradictions, biases and irrelevancies of groups? Surely some of the most important motivators cannot easily be put into words: they are feelings, attitudes, values and beliefs that people may not be consciously aware of. How do you get beneath the surface to these hidden motivators? How do you eventually come out with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? I have agonized over these issues for 26 years in thousands of groups. I still agonize over them in each and every project I undertake.

Silverman, George. MNav.com (2000). Articles>Usability>Methods>Focus Groups


Is Consumer Research Losing its Focus?

Focus groups continually fail to tell us what customers want. The fundamental problem is that, in spite of what conventional wisdom tells us, it is not the voice of the consumer that matters. What matters is the mind of the consumer. The big mistake is in believing that what the mind thinks, the voice speaks. It is time to start embracing methods that can deliver stronger predictive value.

Hodgson, Philip. UserFocus (2004). Articles>Research>User Centered Design>Focus Groups


Lessons on Focus Group Methodology from a Science Television News Project   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

While many bemoan the fact that television is a central source of science information for much of the United States, professionals charged with informal science education tasks have welcomed opportunities afforded by the medium. Creating TV programming that meets both institutional goals and audience preferences, though, is a challenge fraught with difficulties. To develop such programming, one tempting formative research option is to conduct focus groups with potential audience members. In this article, we present guidelines for focus group implementation as well as crucial caveats to which we should adhere in interpreting data from such efforts. To illustrate the guidelines, we discuss a formative evaluation undertaken for the Discoveries and breakthroughs inside science television news project to understand how some people respond to science news stories.

Southwell, Brian G., Stephanie H. Blake and Alicia Torres. Technical Communication Online (2005). Articles>Scientific Communication>Methods>Focus Groups


A Primer on Using Focus Groups in Technical Communication   (PDF)

In technical communication, focus groups are a relatively new method for analyzing audience needs and for evaluating technical documents. As an outgrowth of usability testing, focus groups have been used primarily as a means of revising texts. Their application to technical communication projects is much broader, however, as they can be used at any stage of a project and for a multitude of purposes. As technical communicators place more emphasis on satisfying their clients, we can expect focus groups to become increasingly popular. This primer explains what they are, when and why to use them, and how to plan them.

Abbott, Christine and Philip Eubanks. STC Proceedings (2002). Articles>Usability>Methods>Focus Groups


The Use and Misuse of Focus Groups

Focus groups often bring out users' spontaneous reactions and ideas and let you observe some group dynamics and organizational issues. You can also ask people to discuss how they perform activities that span many days or weeks: something that is expensive to observe directly. However, they can only assess what customers say they do and not the way customers actually operate the product. Since there are often major differences between what people say and what they do, direct observation of one user at a time always needs to be done to supplement focus groups.

Nielsen, Jakob. Useit (1997). Articles>Usability>Methods>Focus Groups


Want Free Beer?

Whether you are testing the User Interface for a new technology or just re-branding your service, chances are that you could benefit from some sound market feedback. The good news is that you don't have to spend weeks on research or thousands of dollars to get it. Café testing - quick, low-cost, informal market testing at a café - can help you get the feedback you need fast. This article tells you everything you need to know to get started.

Burns, Erik. GotoMedia (2004). Articles>Usability>Methods>Focus Groups

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