What Is a Focus Group?

At a Glance

Focus groups allow contributors to engage and brainstorm with each other and it is one of the many effective ways of gathering insights.

What is a focus group?

Why are focus groups helpful?

When should a focus group be conducted?

How do focus groups typically work with UserTesting?

Learn More


What is a focus group?

A focus group is a live activity with one moderator and multiple contributors.* During the session, the moderator asks the people making up this group about their behaviors, preferences, attitudes, and experiences on a topic or item of interest (also known as the "stimulus"). Focus groups can be conducted in person or online.

*Focus groups usually involve 4–8 contributors during one session and multiple sessions. For instance, you might hold Focus group sessions across four cities each with 4–8 contributors for a total of 16–24 total contributors in your study sample. It's important not to rely on one session with a pool of contributors in a focus group but to have a diversity of contributors.

Why are focus groups helpful?

Focus groups are useful in a number of ways. A focus group...

  • Allows contributors to interact and converse with others while discussing a topic.
  • Reveals insights into a group’s actions, thoughts, and feelings.
  • Leads to people building on each other’s ideas, which allows a group to brainstorm an idea or challenge they are facing.
  • Lets you collect ideas from a large group of people quickly.
  • Gives researchers the opportunity to gauge contributor attitudes across a span of people within a single test or among multiple sessions.

The feedback is less in depth than what you can collect during one-on-one interviews—but that's not the point of a focus group. A focus group by its structure is going to emphasize breadth over depth, but this emphasis allows researchers to take the pulse on contributor attitudes across a broader range of topics that can be covered in a one-on-one interview.

When should a focus group be conducted?

Focus groups are often associated with the discovery (or early ideation) phase—before design and development has begun—as a way to identify requirements based on attitudes. But focus groups can present an even greater value a bit later in the research process, during the middle concept stage, when you share a stimulus such as a product, service, brand logo, or phrase being developed and ask people for their thoughts and attitudes.

How do focus groups typically work with UserTesting?

You will need to purchase Professional Services to run a focus group with UserTesting. Because of this, focus groups are only available on certain subscription plans with Professional Services bundles.

Based on your required demographics, we'll typically recruit up to three groups of five contributors for a webcam or voice-based focus group. We'll coordinate with contributors to schedule them at a specific time and date.

Then we'll host an online meeting via Zoom where a UserTesting researcher will explain* your website, prototype, or mock-ups and share it with the contributors while also asking a series of questions based on an agreed-upon script for moderating.

During these small video-based sessions, all contributors will share their webcams and participate via Live Conversation. The final result includes both a video of the session and the transcript of the contributors’ conversations, all of which will be available in the Platform.

*Note that, unlike with usability tests, contributors are not to navigate to or explore a site or app during a focus group test. Instead, the researcher is to clearly explain up front the idea or prototype so that people understand what they are to give their opinions about.

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