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RE: [agile-usability] Field work vs Focus Groups

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  • Jon Meads
    Alain, The way you broaden the scope is to visit with more users. You want to see how they do their work and it s best to get a broad spectrum that covers
    Message 1 of 8 , Jul 13, 2006
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      Alain,
       
      The way you broaden the scope is to visit with more users. You want to see how they do their work and it's best to get a broad spectrum that covers different environments and user roles. If there are budget or time problems, then try to cut down on the amount of time you spend with each user and only stick with a few into any depth. I find that you can usually get plenty of information by spending just an hour or two with each user. Like anything else, you need to plan out the user study according to budget and time constraints but it's a good bet that a week of good user study could eliminate several weeks of refactoring time. It all goes back to risk and how comfortable you are with your understanding and knowledge of the various users, their characteristics, their usage roles, and their environments of use.
       
      Also, there's no law against going back out to visit users again if you come up with questions that come up that you don't have answers for from the initial studies. The main thing is to sufficiently understand the users and their needs so that you can create a product that will work for them.
       
      But I would not use focus groups to get usage information. Focus groups are good for understanding value. But if you want to understand how people do their work, you really need to go and observe them doing their work.
       
      Cheers,
      jon


      From: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com [mailto:agile-usability@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Desilets, Alain
      Sent: Thursday, July 13, 2006 6:45 AM
      To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [agile-usability] Field work vs Focus Groups

      Another tought on this.
       
      As much as I feel the value of field work, I am aware that it can only focus on one particular part of the problem at a time. You gain a lot of depth in understanding a particular user, or a particular department that will be using the system, but you don't have much breadth.
       
      I wonder if there is a way to get both the breadth and depth by running a collaborative focus group with a bunch of people who are in the field all the time (users, customer support, marketing, etc...) together and involve them in a collaborative fact finding exercise.
       
      I am quite aware of the dangers of focus groups. Often people will talk about stuff that they think they need as opposed to stuff they actually need. But I wonder if you couldn't avoid this kind of problem by forcing people to ground what they say in actual experience and to somehow quantify how significant or important the statement is.
       
      For example, for a focus group on intranet software, you might ask people to tell you about the problems they have with intranet software, and insist that they phrase it in precise terms like:
       
      - "Several times a month, I ask my sysadmin to setup a new private space for a group of us on the intranet. It always takes days before it's up and running. He tells me it takes him about 2 hours to set one up, and he's really busy."
       
      - "Most people in my entourage find that it takes too long to post stuff on the intranet (eventhough it only takes about 2 minutes to do). So they don't contribute to it much."
       
      You could then treat these statements as though they were notes taken from an actual field study, and do qualitative analysis on them.
       
      Have people had experience with this kind of approach? What are the pros and cons?
       
      Alain
       
       

    • Desilets, Alain
      But I would not use focus groups to get usage information. Focus groups are good for understanding value. But if you want to understand how people do their
      Message 2 of 8 , Jul 13, 2006
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        But I would not use focus groups to get usage information. Focus groups are good for understanding value. But if you want to understand how people do their work, you really need to go and observe them doing their work.
         
        Cheers,
        jon
         
        -- Alain:
        That's interesting. Can you elaborate on that? I guess "value" is sort of getting at the kind of broader thing that might be missed by just looking at a small number of people are doing.
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        .

      • Jon Meads
        Bottomline, value means how they prioritize features (which may or may not affect usability) and how much they would pay. Focus groups can also be very
        Message 3 of 8 , Jul 13, 2006
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          Bottomline, "value" means how they prioritize features (which may or may not affect usability) and how much they would pay.  Focus groups can also be very misleading unless facilitated by an expert who understands how to run them and what is possible to get from them - which is about 20% of the people who are in the business of conducting focus groups.
           
          Cheers,
          jon


          From: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com [mailto:agile-usability@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Desilets, Alain
          Sent: Thursday, July 13, 2006 10:04 AM
          To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: RE: [agile-usability] Field work vs Focus Groups

          But I would not use focus groups to get usage information. Focus groups are good for understanding value. But if you want to understand how people do their work, you really need to go and observe them doing their work.
           
          Cheers,
          jon
           
          -- Alain:
          That's interesting. Can you elaborate on that? I guess "value" is sort of getting at the kind of broader thing that might be missed by just looking at a small number of people are doing.
          ----
           


           
          .

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