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Focus Groups vs Usability Testing, in brief

I was at a General Assembly socializing event last evening, and some one asked me if I could explain UX to him. Part of our conversation involved the discussion of user testing - at which point he suggested that focus groups sounded like the same thing as user testing. I explained to him that they were different, essentially in that focus groups are usually marketing driven; and that usability testing is led by UX designers and one-on-one.

Below is a summary comparison, culled from Steve Krug's 'Don't Make Me Think', which sits on my coffee table.

Focus groups are best completed in the planning stages of designing a product or feature. It’s often 5 - 10 people talking about their feelings; how they might feel doing such and such; so they help define what a product might be. And, to some extent, if it should even be designed in the first place. Most often, marketing leads these research sessions.

Usability testing is best completed throughout the entire life cycle of the product - before, during and after things are built. It’s 1 person using - or attempting to use - the product. This form of testing helps us see where users get stuck when using our product.

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Ask Matthew Magain: What the #$%@ is a UX Designer?

Thru the use of a very succinct animation, UX Designer Matthew Magain has defined the role of the UX Designer. You have to watch his video, but the key takeaways for me are:

  • ux refers to what, when, why, how and who of using a product
  • ux must also help the business achieve its goals; must hit the sweet spot where user needs and business needs overlap
  • tools are used by UX Designers to take the user’s needs into account during every step of the product life cycle (including mobile apps, web and even physical products)
  • ux design applies the scientific method to humans and their behavior in order to optimize the product
  • ux is the design behind the visuals: you don’t have to be a great visual designer to be successful in a job as a UX DesignerHe also defines what is means to have a career as a UX Designer, and encourages people to pursue it.Here's a link to the video on YouTube:  What the #$%@ is a UX Designer

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UX is Not Simply All About the User

Wouldn’t it great if we could just forget about making money, and about cost? Then we could concentrate entirely on making products that users love and enjoy. But really, that’s not the world we live in. Business owners (also called “stakeholders”) expect User Experience Designers to meet the needs of the business.

Thus, an additional notation to our definition of what exactly is a UX Designer must include the following: a synthesis between the needs of the stakeholders and the users. They should both get what they need out of the domain (product).

A wonderful book that helps define the role of User Experience Design is: About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design, by Cooper, Reimann and Cronin.

Here's a link to that book on Amazon.