Online Focus Groups - What your opinion?


Does anybody has experience with online focus groups?

Do you think that this is a method that could offer valuable feedback on short term in a lean UX process?
What kind of questions could be answered in online focus groups, which not?

For sure it depends also on the question you need to have answer and the way you want to include users.

As I didn´t see the method described in the method database,

I am currently thinking a lot about online tools to gather user feedback. I would love to hear another opinion about that.
My personal opinion is that it has a great value in a lean process but still I think in person focus groups offer a more natural
way of personal interaction and idea finding.
Sometimes working on a table, sketching and Post its trigger more creative ideas than online focus groups could.
I think in person you get deeper insights but unfortunally there isn´t alway time on short term
​(when you need to get answers fast due to lean product development processes)


Great question Georg. Sorry to report that I don’t have any experience with such a thing.

It’s an interesting idea, but in my experience from running webinars (like those that we have run here on UX Mastery) I could imagine that there is a risk of participants feeling apprehensive about contributing to the conversation. And would you require all participants to turn on their video/microphone at the same time? I don’t know about where you are, but it’s rare to find an internet connection in Australia that is fast enough to handle that kind of video data being streamed back and forth. @HAWK, @Lukcha and myself catch up on Skype once a week, and we often experience problems with the connection with only three of us.

So while I’m not ruling it out as something I’d try, I think that there are a number of reasons why it could be unsuccessful (how to put participants at ease, how to encourage participation, technical infrastructure, and the opportunities for collaborating with sketching/post-it notes, like you mentioned). If the participants that you want to interview are not in the same location, I’d personally schedule one-on-one video chat interviews with them instead. That way you can reassure them, and they won’t feel apprehensive about having their face visible by every other participant.

I also thought it was interesting that you said an online focus group would be quicker than an in-person one. What makes you think that’s the case? I agree that it means you can cast the net wider, to include people in other cities/countries. But in terms of the time it would take to organise and run, I would have thought it should be about the same (assuming attendees live in the city and all come to your office).

As an aside, I’m not a big fan of focus groups in general. I worry about “group think” and strong personalities dominating the conversation. I always find individual interviews to uncover more insights, as it’s a better environment to get to know someone and what makes them tick.

However, if you do decide to try it and have some success, I’d love to hear about it. In fact, I’d consider publishing an article and creating a whiteboard animation for the techniques bank about it.


Thx for the answer Matt,

actually I don´t have much experiences with those techniques but I could imagine that it can be quite quick it it´s set up upon an online user panel.
In general I think the effort for organisation and management of those focus groups could be less than doing it offline. People don´t have to travel
to your office to participate.

I agree in some points that technical issues yould be an issue as well as the loss of physical precence. (human contact).
For me one of the even more critical issues is that those kind of workshops/focus groups seem to be good for creative team work tasks,
kind of collective idea generation with post its, sketchens and so on …
Regarding the "dominating the conversation"issue you are absolutely right, but this could be even an argument for online focus groups.
People seem not to be so shy when they discuss in the secure enviroment of their home. At least that´s my experience …

Anyway and I agree also with you in that point, in-person qualitative interviews are great for uncovering insights. You get so much information
out of this personal one to one conversation. Here a question for you @mattymcg regarding those interviews. Do you think they work also done online?
(beside of the fact that it´s always better to be and interview in the context users perform their tasks …

When I get new inputs about online focus groups … I´ll tell you