Basic considerations for Online Focusgroups

You might think it’s something new, and an online focus group ís a relatively new phenomenon in the research industry, but it is not as new a some might want you to believe. The fact that internet usage is now more widespread than five or ten years ago, combined with faster connections, makes that it is a lot easier to conduct good online research using a focus group, as it gets rid of some basic problems for all of us researchers. An Online Focus group has similarities to normal focus groups. As such it is more familiar to traditional reserachers than you might think, but as always and like in many online environments it has some unique characteristics.


A real time online focus group is ‘fast’

  • The moderator has to be able to keep up with the typing speed of the participants.
  • Slow participants tend to get less attention than fast typing participants. The moderator has to keep this in mind and has to make sure everyone has a chance to participate to get the best results. (The fastest typing person may not be the most knowledgeable, for example.)

An online focus group requires knowledge about online focus groups.

  • Preferably, the moderator does not only have the knowledge about the subject being discussed but also about basic “netiquette” and chat-conventions.
  • Users and moderators need to have an understanding of the system being used. For the moderator this may require a training, for the respondents this requires information to be given when introduced to the environment, either with a special page or in the invite.
  • Respondents need a basic knowledge about the topic being discussed. What is it going to be about, what is it’s purpose, what does the researcher want to know. Without creating a bias, this requires a basic introduction to the topic in the invite and/or an introduction by the moderator before the actual discussion starts.
In practice, groups will hold experienced and inexperienced users, it is helpful if the moderator understands what more experienced users mean when using special symbols and words.