While the best form of usability testing is often carried out one-to-one, this is not always the most efficient way or even possible. This is where focus groups come in.

In the moderated setting of focus groups, a small number of people are grouped together to answer and discuss some questions. As a form of qualitative research, focus groups enable observations that can impact user research revolving around products, services, and consumer decisions. They are a powerful tool that can provide more in-depth and natural critique and feedback than individual interviews.

Let’s look at how focus groups can be used effectively for usability testing.

Advantages of Using Focus Groups for Usability Testing

1. Benefit from Group Discussions

With the right moderator, focus groups lead to fantastic group discussions that will help shed some light on certain issues or concerns. After usability testing, focus groups come together and share their thoughts on the experience without feeling too singled out. In the focus group, more than one participant may mention the same thing or mention something new that the others hadn’t thought of.

2. Learn What Users Want

In a focus group discussion, you’ll learn more about what your participants want to see in your product instead of just how they benefited from it. Then, within a group context, participants will share their thoughts, which may lead to a larger discussion about how they feel your product could be improved and what they want to see added or removed from it.

3. Include Everyone

With focus groups, you can spend your attention on a smaller group and ensure that everyone is included and able to participate. This will allow you to further test your content and new features, get accurate and personalized feedback, and ensure the focus group discussions go smoothly.

4. Quick Results

One of the most significant benefits of focus groups is their ability to produce quick results after a usability test. In contrast to individual interviews, for example, you won’t need to spend many hours finding user feedback. Instead, focus groups allow you to gather a large amount of information in a few short hours.

How to Make Focus Groups Work Well

As you can see above, there are a number of reasons why focus groups work really well for usability testing. However, in order to really benefit from focus groups, there are a few things you can do to ensure that your focus group works optimally for your usability test and you get the information that you need from your participants.

1. Test Bits of Content

When you have a focus group, it’s tempting to have them test out all the different components of your product. However, this can quickly become overwhelming for the participants and take away from the value of a focus group.

Instead of having all of your focus groups test all of your content, pick out one or two components for each group to test. This way, you’ll get useful feedback about their preferences and thoughts about your website functionality or new features, but no one will feel overwhelmed or pressed for time.

2. Ensure Everyone Has a Device

When it comes to actually testing your product, make sure that everyone in your focus group has a device they can use during the process. You don’t want to have people waiting to use a device, as this can make the person who’s currently testing the product feel pressured by others.

The best way to help everyone feel comfortable is to ensure that everyone has a device. This may be their own phone, or you may have a set number of devices for participants to use, and limit your focus groups to that size. This is the best way to get feedback and results during a focus group session.

3. Record the Session

Now, you need to ensure you get consent from all of your participants, but recording your sessions is the best way to ensure that no data collected gets lost. Whether you use an audio recording, screenshots, or screen recordings, having a file on hand that recorded your focus group allows you to refer back to it in the future if you need to.

Another great way to record a session is to have someone on hand whose sole job is to take constant notes. This may include writing down what participants say, noting any questions they may ask, or just tracking participants’ facial expressions during the testing.

4. Stay Consistent

You’ll likely run numerous focus groups during your usability testing phase, but make sure that each group is run as similarly as possible. This will help keep your notes and observations more organized and easy to track throughout the testing phases.

Drawbacks of Using Focus Group Sessions

We can’t explore using focus groups for usability testing without also diving into inevitable drawbacks.

In general, focus groups are not the best method to assess interface usability. Instead, the better way to utilize focus groups is to focus more on ideas, concepts, or brand impression.

Also, keep in mind that with a focus group, it’s easy for group dynamics to be influenced by a few influential opinions. This can mean that certain participants may feel pressured not to go against the majority with their feedback.

This is where the process of participant selection can affect your findings. Be sure to identify and choose participants who tend to be more confident and comfortable in speaking their minds and interacting with others in a group setting. This will give you better chances of getting the insights that you want.

Focus Groups Can Be Used Effectively for Usability Tests

Focus groups can be extremely effective in inspiring spontaneous feedback among your participants. If the session is properly run, it can help you obtain useful ideas while enabling you to observe group dynamics that relate to your product or service. It’s also vital to help your users feel comfortable and that the session runs freely without feeling too structured or overly planned.

Ultimately, every usability testing method has its pros and cons. For the best and most balanced usability data, try not to rely solely on any specific method. It’s always good to combine various methods, although that’s not always practical. For more advice about usability tests for your custom PHP program, don’t hesitate to contact Ecodelogic, and we’ll be happy to help!