SIGIA-L Mail Archives: [Sigia-l] Alternative Focus Group Methods
[Sigia-l] Alternative Focus Group Methods
> Does anyone have alternative methods to conducting focus groups, rather
> than having one moderator ask questions? I have heard of people
> creating collages from magazines based on how they feel about something,
I highly recommend "How Customers Think" by Gerald Zaltman
Zaltman has an MBA as well as a PhD in Sociology and teaches at Harvard. He
argues against the use of focus groups in many cases, and talks at length
about creating collages like you mentioned, and in fact has a patent on
something he calls the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (U.S. Patent #
5,436,830: "a technique for eliciting interconnected constructs that
influence thought and behavior").
The book is great; it's a highly engaging read that would be appreciated by
anyone concerned with The Customer Experience (not just the web experience),
and really highlights the connections between user-centered design and
You might also want to look at Mike Kuniavsky's "Observing the User
Experience: A Practitioner's Guide to User Research" as well as Alan
Cooper's "About Face 2.0" for descriptions of various user research
techniques. The late CarbonIQ had a great free PDF that explained different
research methods as well, along with strengths and weaknesses. (I have a
printout but can't seem to find the PDF online any more.)
Personally, I find that focus groups are often used inappropriately. It's
the one major consumer research technique taught to Marketing students, and
thus it's the hammer to anything resembling a nail.
Which user research technique you use depends on what your goals are. Focus
groups are useful in some instances, but in other cases techniques like
creating collages, using diaries, or answering surveys are more appropriate.
First figure out what questions you're looking to answer, and then determine
the best way to answer those questions.
Best of luck,
 In the interest of full disclosure: Mike's book is published Morgan
Kaufmann, which is owned by Elsevier, whom I work for. I don't have any
connection to MK nor this book.
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: Fri Jun 03 2005 - 03:48:42 EDT