Focus groups – the view from the other side of the glass

I’m spending most of this week watching focus groups. It’s one of my favorite parts of my job. It’s a chance to see how real people react to the products that we create. I get to hear from people who don’t have Treos, couldn’t care less about how many megabits per second their broadband connection offers and have never heard of flickr, or digg. The people who represent about 95% of my users.

There’s the predictable – within 5 minutes of the first group being seated, one of my colleagues pointed at a participant and said “He’s going be to the dogpile user.” Sure enough, he was.

There’s the unpredictable. One of the respondents, who was exactly the target demographic for the product being tested, clearly understood the concept and the benefits surprised me when she said she wouldn’t use it.

And then there’s the dichotomy between what people say and what they do. Nearly every respondent complained about how the sponsored links on search engines were irrelevant and cluttered the experience. Yet Google generated more than $9.3 billion in revenue last quarter.


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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