Focus Groups vs Questionnaires

On my last post I discussed the importance of focus groups and explained why and how they can be used to get insight on your users before embarking on your web design. If you think about it though many of the information garnered from focus groups can actually be collected via questionnaires. So why should you spend time on putting together a focus group instead of simply disseminating questionnaires and conducting a survey?

There are several reasons why conducting a focus group is better than doing a survey, especially when it comes to web design. One important advantage of focus groups over surveys is that focus groups allow for more in depth answers. People that answer questionnaires rarely give very detailed answers. Aside from this focus groups allow participants to hear each other’s answers/ideas thus aiding in everyone’s creativity process. This lead to more ideas and more refined answers and suggestions.

Another very important advantage of focus groups is that since there is a moderator present the moderator can steer the group in the direction he/she wants. In case the moderator wishes to dig deeper about a certain aspect regarding web design ideas he/she can give follow up questions to get the needed information. This is not possible with questionnaires since the questions are canned. Even if you add a “Other suggestions/ideas” field at the end of the questionnaire it is completely different that being able to ask specific/pointed questions.

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