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Focus Groups

A focus group is a group of potential users that are brought together to discuss how they currently use, or would use, your product. Though focus groups seem like a helpful source of information, they are most effective early in the research process when you are gathering requirements. They are not as helpful in the feature or process testing. The focus group is moderated by a researcher to dissuade off-topic tangents, but otherwise, the participants can talk about your product unhindered. Having multiple participants in the same room may prompt discussion of stories that might not have come up in an individual interview or test.

Choose a moderator that knows the product, has experience in facilitating groups, and will cooperate with you. Matching the moderator to the persona or user group may be helpful to earn the trust of the participants. Ensure that you film, audio record or take notes of the proceedings. That record will help convince stakeholders of the validity of the findings. Have a script ready for the moderator so that the discussion has a direction. Invite participants that will accurately represent the average set of users for your product. Consider using a group that is already familiar with one another to reduce the time it takes for participants to speak openly and give honest feedback. They will be more willing to point out when a group member is being inaccurate since they are comfortable with each other. In short, have a plan, as lacking one will result in both useless data and wasted time for you and your participants.

There are some other issues that could arise in focus groups. First, there is the possibility that one person in the group will dominate the discussion and skew the results. Setting expectations for group participation at the beginning of the meeting will help. Give everyone the option to share their opinion, and if all else fails, allow the moderator to step in. Second, ensure questions/topics are open ended. The goal is discussion, and closed questions can skew the results. Finally, allow enough time for the group to have a thorough discussion. Since there are multiple users involved in one session, there must be enough time given to accommodate everyone's feedback.


Affairs, Assistant Secretary for Public. “Focus Groups.”, Department of Health and Human Services, 30 June 2013,

“Section 6. Conducting Focus Groups.” Chapter 2. Other Models for Promoting Community Health and Development | Section 7. Ten Essential Public Health Services | Main Section | Community Tool Box, University of Kansas,