In March 2014 we run our first focus group to validate an idea we had for a startup. Some weeks before that in my meetup group I met a guy who seemed to know quite a lot about focus groups and who offered to give us an advice if we needed it. His name was Omar and his guidelines saved us a lot of time and money in our first focus group experience. I sent Omar some ideas on how I was planning to run the focus group, and even though he probably laughed (lightheartedly) at my five bullet points, he was cool enough to send me his suggestions. I want to publish his advice here as many startup founders may find it very useful and straight to the point (or without water as Russian people say).
Omar’s insights on the focus group for an education related startup (pre-prototype stage)
“A discussion guideline should have an index of topics and a timing associated to each part. This is a rough outline of what I would do (you definitely need to refine it yourself). I assign the first hour for general exploration and the second hour for testing/validating specific issues:
1. Intro (30 min)
Thanks everyone for coming.
Food & drinks. No phones, etc.
Expectations about this session.
Quick round of introduction (1 min per person, max!): What is your name? What do you do? What apps do you use on a regular basis? How do you go about learning things now that you are not a student anymore? What sort of things do you learn? How often do you do it?
Split in 2 groups by attitudes: pro-active (avid learners), re-active (passive learners)
2. More about learning attitudes and behavior (15 min)
How often do you learn things? Why do you learn them? How do you learn them? What do you learn?
3. Apps for learning (15 min)
What apps do you know about for learning? Which ones have you actually used? Why did you use them? What did you like about them? What bothered you about them? Were they effective? Did they have any scientific background? Did you pay for them? Would you consider paying for them?
4. Concept testing (20 min)
Introduce the value proposal of your product, first verbally and then visually and see if they get it.
What does this say to you? What is this for? Who is it addressed to? What is its benefit? Is it relevant to you? Is it useful? Would you use it? Why would you? Why wouldn’t you? How often? Where? When? Would you recommend it? Why would(n’t) you? Would you pay for it? Why? How much would you be willing to pay?
5. UX testing (20 min)
Show them some screen shots and architecture so they get an idea of the flow they will go through while using it.
Overall, how do you feel about it? Is it nice? Is it light or dense? Is it intuitive ? Is it confusing or clear? Would you feel comfortable using it? Would you get bored? Would you keep track of progress? Would you
6. Content validation (15 min)
What topics do you see yourself learning with this app? How customized would you expect it to be?
7. Wrap-up (5 min)
Thank for their time and ask if they have anything they would like to share with the group. If not, give them a brief, 1-page q’aire to fill out in which you assess:
a. Their takeaways from this product (ask the 4 questions: What is this about? Who is it for? How does it work? Where is its magic?)
b. Their suggestions for improvement: in terms of design, contents, marketing, communication, pricing, sociability, tech, etc.
c. Personal info if they don’t mind being contacted in the future for additional research on this product”
I want to say that the focus group we run following these guidelines proved to be a very good one and we got a lot of actionable points out of it. Thankful to Omar and I hope it will help others to run better focus groups.