January 4, 2023

FOCUS GROUP: a love-hate research method among user researchers

Rushali Singh

What is a focus group?

A focus group is a conversation that is moderated and has between 5 and 10 participants. The moderator will ask the group a series of questions regarding a particular subject. They can be useful resources for discovering attitudes, convictions, needs, and responses to concepts or designs. Focus groups usually last between one and two hours.

Benefits of focus groups?

  • For a short duration of time, large amounts of qualitative data can be generated during focus groups, such as in-depth notes, translations, audio recordings, and video recordings.
  • Focus groups are a useful technique to gather views and facts that participants might not be able or willing to share in an interview or survey.
  • Many people feel more comfortable and willing to chat, especially about delicate or sensitive topics, when they are in a small group of peers.
  • Ideas previously not considered or just taken for granted can originate through group interaction.

Some researchers hate conducting focus groups:

  • Focus groups are less effective than one-to-one interviews at going in-depth on a specific topic. One of a focus group's main drawbacks is its potential for members to suppress their actual, individual ideas on the subject.
  • Focus group moderators significantly influence how the discussion turns out even with or without knowing. They could unintentionally or actively introduce their own cognitive biases into the participants' discussion on their viewpoints. 
  • Participants may not express their honest ideas out of fear of going against the moderator's opinion or even out of fear of disappointing the moderator.

Some of the tools for conducting focus groups:

  • Collabito- is mainly designed for online focus groups. Features include live chat, built-in card sorting, whiteboarding, and an onscreen moderator guide.
  • GrainPerfect Recall, and Otter.ai- are integrated tools that automatically create transcripts and make it easy to highlight clips to share with your team.
  • Dovetail, Aurelius, and Optimal Workshop- include tools for Research repository, transcribing, tagging, and organising insights. 
  • ATLAS.ti, QSR NVivo, and Maxqda- can make sense of huge datasets and turn them into data visualisations with the assistance of powerful qualitative analysis tools like

When can you make use of a focus group for user research?

Focus groups frequently fall short because researchers try to use them to get answers to the wrong questions or at the incorrect stage of product development. When to use focus groups:

  • Identify research hypotheses during the early stages of a research plan.
  • Gain actionable insight into how participants talk about a problem, product, or shared experience and feedback in a group setting.
  • Learn about participants’ opinions, attitudes, and behaviour after they have used the app or prototype.

Focus groups are used to reveal perceptions and behaviours rather than actions. Because talking can show things that a one-on-one interview might not be able to, group dynamics can be a fantastic approach to learning about perspectives. Lastly, for exceptional actionable insights on a design, don't let your cognitive biases affect the focus group.


Empower your teams to make informed decisions with real insights from real people.

Contact Us