Focus groups as a usability evaluation technique

A focus group brings together a group of users or other stakeholders to participate in a discussion of preprepared questions, led by a facilitator. A focus group could be used as an usability evaluation technique if the group is shown a demonstration of a product or prototype, and then the group’s impressions and opinions are discussed.

Focus groups might appear to be a convenient, time-saving way to get feedback from eight or ten people in a single session. In practice, however, the technique is not particularly reliable. Watching a demonstration is not the same as having the opportunity to interact with the product hands-on. And group dynamics can vary widely; different groups can come up with completely different conclusions.

Focus group discussions often tend to be dominated by one or two loud and opinionated participants, and the quieter participants often say little and go along with the group consensus. There is also the risk that the facilitator may consciously or unconsciously lead the discussion towards a particular outcome. If you choose to use focus groups, you should use them with caution and be aware of the limitations.

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