There I was … sitting in a room full of decision makers for a web site review meeting. The review meeting was the culmination of months of work. On one side of the table was our development team and on the other side of the table the client’s team. The review was conducted one page at a time in order to be meticulous and not miss anything. After a few minutes of reviewing the site there was a distinct change in atmosphere. The senior representative of the client’s team started making a series of comments and suggestions regarding the web site. His subordinates acknowledged almost every single remark he made with a nod of agreement or vocalized their support. He could have said anything and the client’s team would have accepted the suggestion without question or comment. I sat there in disbelief as one bad suggestion followed another. Most of the client’s suggestions were the complete opposite of good web design. The suggestions that were implemented diluted the quality of the web site. It was my first experience with a dominate user focus group.
Using Focus Groups
There are a number of people in the Internet development industry who make use of focus groups. One specific use of focus groups is for web usability testing. The above scenario is a perfect example of a dominate user focus group. It involves user testing of a web site, not idea generation. In the scenario one person’s opinion influences or overshadows everyone else in the group. Dominate users can have a negative impact on collecting good data and thus diminish the impact of the testing group.
One on One Testing
Focus groups for usability testing can be highly effective if you abide by one simple suggestion, break up the group. When testing a web site make use of individual testing sessions. Sit down with your test user and go through a web site one on one. It is more time consuming, but the data you collect is significantly better. Users are much more likely to voice their opinion in an individual scenario as opposed to a group.
How many times have you been reluctant to ask a “silly” question in a group or make a suggestion? That reluctance changes when you get people one on one. It takes a little additional time to get test users to open up. For all the usability tests I’ve conducted, I have yet to come across someone who has been reluctant to open up. When users do open up you usually can’t take notes fast enough. The feedback collected will be significantly better.
If you are considering doing a small usability test on your web site stay away from focus groups in the traditional sense. Use individual sessions to collect your data. It is more time consuming, but the quality of data collected increases significantly.
Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:
- What is Web Usability? And Why You Should Care . . .
- Web Usability: The Importance of Balancing Content and Graphic Design
- Hitting a HOME RUN with Your Web Site
- Don’t Pollute Your Web Site
- Do You Make These Usability Mistakes?
- Objectivity Paves the Way to Online Success
- LCU (Least Competent User) Usability Testing
- Web Usability - ALERT! Dominant Users and Focus Groups
- The Event Promotion System
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