• Thomas Sluiter

#4 Focus groups or interviews

Updated: Apr 19

An experienced researcher will use multiple factors to determine what is the most suitable research method (see Post #3 on choosing the right research method). When design teams do their own research, I often see a struggle to know what method to use. Looking at two of the most popular research methods, for instance, I see focus groups being held where interviews may have been more useful or vice versa.


Now, both focus groups and interviews can be suitable in some situations, but the results may differ. The following guidelines should help you in deciding which method is more appropriate.


Focus groups are great for:

  • Exploring views, ideas and general experiences

  • Harvesting the creative power of multiple individuals

  • Finding associations, commonalities and differences

  • Finding excitement, strong views and opinions.


Interviews are great for:

  • Exploring personal experiences

  • Understanding participants’ context

  • Retrieving unfiltered opinions and nuance

  • Exploring thoughts, considerations and feelings.


A use case perspective

Looking at it from a use case perspective, the following rules of thumb are a good starting point:

  • For creative exploration, think focus groups (inspiration and collective experience)

  • For behavioural exploration, think observations + interviews (seeing and understanding)

  • For testing prototypes, think interviews (observe and mimic the individual experience)

  • For testing communication, think interviews (observe and mimic the individual experience).


Please reach out if you wish to discuss how to optimise your research approach.


In the next post I will share my perspective on DIY vs outsourcing user research.




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