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Run Focus Groups

Focus groups are commonly used by market researchers to find out about customers and their opinions. In a focus group, a handful of people (6–12) who are representative of target customers are brought into a meeting as a group. They may or may not know each other beforehand. As in the interviewing process already described, people are asked questions about competitors' Web sites and about the proposed Web site. If you are revising your Web site, you might ask the focus group what they like and dislike about the site. If you are creating a new Web site, ask them the same questions about your competitors' Web sites. Get their feedback on the proposed Web site by showing them sketches or pictures of how it will work. It is also common to present scenarios of future use to see how these ideas resonate with the group.

Just like the Boy Scouts, focus groups have the motto “Be prepared!” Do not go in blindly and hope you will find useful information. Identify what you want to find out. Have an idea of what you're looking for, and make sure that all of the questions you ask will help you learn whether you're going in the right direction. Also be ready for criticism. Although it may sting a little in the short run, it will result in higher-quality designs in the end. Other members of the development team or management can sit in on these meetings. Hearing comments directly from customers is much more convincing than reading reports. Be sure to keep the number of these insiders low so that you don't overwhelm the focus group.


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