Focus group illustration

Lead paragraph

Focus group is a guided small-group discussion tool in which a designer invites a similar type of people and asks them questions on specific issues related to services. The goal for a designer is to understand the perceptions, opinions, beliefs, ideas and attitudes toward a given topic in a specific service context to guide future action.

PREPARATION: 2-4 hours
DURATION: 60 minutes per focus group
TEMPLATE OR GUIDELINES: Create your own  focus group interview plan
FACILITATORS: 1 -3, design team members
RESOURCES: Notebook, voice recorder, video camera, photo camera
PARTICIPANTS: 5-8, Customers, employees, or other stakeholders
EXPECTED OUTCOME: Field data such as notes, texts, photos, videos, audio recordings

By using the focus group tool, designers get closer to what people are really thinking and feeling. Designers conduct focus groups with users, employees, or any other relevant stakeholders to the design challenge. Responses in a focus group have more depth, nuance, and variety.


Define the focus of what you are interested in and consider what you want to do with the findings (build personas, journey maps, system maps, etc.).

Based on the selected focus area, define the criteria for selecting suitable groups of participants. Aim for homogeneity among participants to maximize disclosure.

Think about how you will recruit your participants, what expectations will be set up-front, how you will start and end, and how much time the participants are expected to dedicate to this activity. Write up the focus group interview plan and a guide explaining what you want to find out, and then formulate concrete questions based on that. Test the interview plan with one or two persons. Find a comfortable venue and decide how you’ll record the focus group.

If you conduct the focus group in teams, agree on the roles within your interviewer team. After deciding the best times, length and place for the focus group, start by asking open and non-leading questions. Then move to questions that give you the information you are looking for and which makes it easy for participants to answer.

Write up key learnings right afterwards. Transcribe discussions and then review all your data whilst highlighting important issues. Make a short summary that includes your key findings (similarities and differences) and examples from the data that exemplify these.


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