Focus groups can help marketing teams figure out what consumers want so they can build the right products for them. But this methodology has been co-opted by user experience teams, who incorporate traditional UX exercises into focus group sessions. The argument against focus groups involves the inability to predict future behavior, the great divide between what users say and what they do. The argument for them is that with preparation and a skilled moderator, they provide actionable results. Can we UX researchers rely on focus groups to drive design and strategy? Or are they the wrong tool for the job?
Bob Thomas believes that focus groups belong in the UX toolkit. They can provide high-level results that enable companies to make strategic decisions around product direction, early in the development cycle. Their success depends on preparation and good moderator skills.
Bob Thomas is Manager of User Experience at Liberty Mutual, where he has worked to expand usability best practices and build a UX team. He has presented at local and national UXPA conferences. He holds an MS in Human Factors in Information Design from Bentley University, and an MBA from Suffolk University. He is on the Board of Directors of New Hampshire UXPA.