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What is the effectiveness of focus groups?

What is the effectiveness of focus groups?

Focus groups are frequently related with user studies. In particular, it is a way for researching experiences via a mediated discussion. Popularity is attributable, in part, to its quick and inexpensive organising, which translates into important information on user thought processes.


It is considered that organising such a meeting is straightforward.

  1. We organise a group of five to ten persons – diversity is apparent in this range – while maintaining the comfort of the participants and the ability to keep control over the discussion. Power Users who operate in a given product’s environment on a daily basis and make extensive use of its functionalities might provide the most insightful description of their experiences in a focus group.
  2. We present the topic of the research.
  3. We ask questions that challenge the product’s assumptions. This should spark a group discussion.

If the participants have been carefully selected, each will have relevant experiences and be able to share them. Emerging perspectives are followed by a conversation.
In turn, the researcher moderates but primarily watches such a group. Changing the discussion’s dynamics, emotions, reactions, attitudes, and direction. From these observations, research material is produced.

If we need to examine the interface, the focus group talks can yield insights that indicate the project’s strengths and flaws in the analysis.

What should the target group be aware of?

Using this research strategy in the context of UI has the potential to produce inaccurate results. Occasionally, users are inventive. Instead of debating the issue, they move on to ideas for interface development. Although well-intentioned, these proposals have no practical benefit.

Even worse, when the researcher himself asks about personal preference, he would inquire about colours, layout, precise element usage, and logos. Users have a highly subjective perspective, yet they are not designers and lack the expertise to provide advise.

The only thing that can be used for this type of remark – which goes beyond the scope of the focus group – is a hypothetical indicator of interface elements that attract greater user attention.

Due to the risk of collecting opinions rather than observations, user testing is suggested above focus groups for interface improvement. There, participants concentrate on interaction. They are given scenarios and tasks to complete while they are calmly observed. Only natural and living interactions have scientific significance and can be analysed. Thus, the interface’s strengths and flaws are highlighted.

So how can you properly utilise focus groups?

If we continually disregard the opinions of participants and concentrate on monitoring their attitudes, we can learn:

  1. Individual stories, events, and experiences relating to the operation of a certain interface over an extended period of time, which would not be sufficient to witness during a usability test.
  2. Emotions relating to the provided subjects that develop as a result of the dialogue.
  3. User expectations regarding the UX, with no advice on how to fulfil them.
  4. Later analysis will focus on interface areas.
  5. Motivating factors for future study.

The final point is particularly significant. Focus groups should never be used as an independent source of data for the optimization of a digital product if they are to deliver results. Rather, they should be a component of wider research.

To obtain the most helpful data that reveal the underlying strengths and shortcomings of the interface, additional research is required. Ideally, diverse. Depending on the data we wish to collect, it may be worthwhile to augment the results of a focus group with information from usability tests or in-depth interviews if the focus group is used initially.

With information from multiple surveys, it is easier to identify common themes. Observing the interactions of other users throughout the usability test can be used to verify, for instance, the challenges that participants discuss in the group.

In conclusion, to maximise the effectiveness of a focus group, you should:

  • Choose the correct participants – people with real-world knowledge, not simply theories about the product’s operation
  • Create situations and questions that will unearth the truth about users.
  • Keep an eye on your own perspective and focus on the proper parts during observation so as not to skew the test results. To analyse users from a new standpoint,
  • Add additional sorts of tests to your research, to analyse users from a new standpoint

It is not a simple endeavour. It involves expertise, understanding in the field of research methodologies, intuition and empathy during the construction of the scenario and questions, as well as the capacity to observe responders, monitor the discussion, and record valuable information.

All of this affects the quality of the applications that will be utilised to generate product-optimizing recommendations. Therefore, while forming a focus group, it is advisable to speak with seasoned researchers, who will select the appropriate equipment and advise optimal working procedures.

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