As a new UX designer, I'm curious about these "focus groups" I hear about. Who are these people, how are they gathered?

Do people have jobs to act as focus group attendees or are there agents in charge of going out and finding completely random people of specific or distributed demographic groups?

  • 2
    You're asking a question that would need an answer in the form of a book. That isn't the idea behind this site. If you have a question about a specific part of focus groups, I encourage you to ask about that area specifically. – JohnGB Feb 26 '15 at 9:14
  • @CuriousProgrammer, you appear to be asking three separate questions: {1} who are these people? {2} how are they gathered? {3} do people have jobs to act as focus group attendees? The answer to #1 is too broad to answer because it will depend on your target users. Question #2 could be answerable if made more specific. Question #3 is just yes/no, and will likely be answered as part of #2, so it can be omitted. If you want to edit your post, it can be reopened. – Graham Herrli Feb 26 '15 at 20:20
  • Your second question (how to recruit) could be scoped narrowly enough to be answerable if you ask about a specific method vs another in a specific context (timeline, budget, specificity of user type). For example, having a high budget to recruit a group of any adult women to participate one time very soon could use a very different recruitment method from a low-budget project gathering a group of people afflicted with a specific disease for multiple sessions over several months. – Graham Herrli Feb 26 '15 at 20:21

There are companies that run focus groups. I've been selected to attend a few of them, as has my spouse. Usually an ad is placed somewhere and people are vetted in a phone interview or online survey. The vetting process chooses people in the target demographic for the group. (such as "people caring for a family member with cancer" or "women who have remodeled their kitchen in the past 3 years" or "men between the ages of 30-45 who are thinking about purchasing a van in the next 12-18 months"). Sometimes the groups are rather broad, sometimes extremely specific. They are usually paid for their time, and the payment is quite generous.

The group is brought together and shown various things and is asked questions about them. Products, options and features, advertising, etc.

A focus group is generally geared toward product/feature development or marketing and advertising (I once sat in on a focus group for Celebrex ads, for example).

That is different from a user test, where people fitting the different user personas are brought in to try different interfaces or tasks. User testing is ideally done in a lab of some sort, with sophisticated eye tracking and/or video recording (and screen capture) equipment. Of course, user testing can also take place under much more modest circumstances, and often does since many companies don't want to spend the resources to conduct expensive and detailed user testing.

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