A focus group is a moderated discussion among eight to 12 users or potential users of your site. A typical focus group lasts about two hours and covers a range of topics that you decide on beforehand.
Focus groups are a traditional market research technique, so marketing departments are often more familiar with focus groups than withusability testing or contextual interviews. However, the techniques produce different kinds of information. In a typical focus group, participants talk; you hear them tell you about their work. In a typical usability test or contextual interview, users act; you watch (and listen to) them doing their work.
You will learn about user’s attitudes, beliefs, desires, and their reactions to ideas or to prototypes. What you do not learn is how users really work with Web sites and what problems users really have with those sites.
You will need to select representative participants who match the users you want to come to your Web site. You will need to decide what you want to learn and write a ‘script’ for the moderator to follow.
Hiring a skill moderator to facilitate the discussion will help insure that everyone participates and the group stays on track. The script gives the moderator questions to ask and topics to cover. Allowing the moderator flexibility will allow him to change the order of questions and topics to keep the discussion flowing smoothly.
Tape the sessions and have one or more note takers.