How to “Focus Group” Your Website

How to "Focus Group" Your WebsiteLet your friends help you build a smarter website

Is your website helping you achieve your goals to the best of its ability? There are a number of metrics you can use to determine how well your content is performing: traffic stats in Google Analytics, the number of comments per blog post, the number of likes and shares in the social media realm, a boost in sales, etc.

And I recommend you take all those factors into consideration. But one of the most fun ways to test your website’s effectiveness is to host an informal focus group.

According to Wikipedia, a focus group is:

… a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging. Questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members.

If that sounds intimidating, look at this way — five of your friends bring their laptops over to your house for pizza and beer*; they sit around your living room and you ask them questions about their experience on your site. Feel, vibe, usability, value, etc. You take notes on the discussion and make changes to your site based on their valuable (and hopefully constructive) feedback.

* Don’t let them drink a whole keg or anything. Otherwise they’ll start using a bunch of expletives to convey their disappoint that your site doesn’t look as pro as the website for that multi-billion dollar corporation with the team of 100 on-staff designers.

5 questions to ask your friends about your website

1. “What do you think the #1 goal of my website is?”

This question presumes that you’ve decided upon the answer already. Do you want to boost signups to your email newsletter? Do you want to sell more of your latest product? Do you want to encourage more interaction on your blog? Yes, all of the above — but you’ve got to prioritize.

Whatever you want visitors to do FIRST and FOREMOST, it should be obvious. If it’s not, what changes should you make to entice more visitors into taking that desired action?

2. “What feeling do you get in the first 3 seconds of looking at my website?”

You can sometimes get lost in your own head when it comes to design. You lose perspective. Is the vibe you wanted to convey actually coming across?

Pose the question and then let your friends spit out a bunch of words. Professional. Lazy. Smart. Half-baked. Uneasy. Fun. Creepy. Minimal. Cluttered. Confused. Whatever….

Write ’em all down and then consider afterwards if you need to make adjustments.

3. “As people who know me, my personality, and my mission — do you feel like I’ve conveyed those things clearly on this website?”

Your friends might be able to make suggestions that will help you bring out more of your personality, or edit your materials down to the most essential bits.

4. “Can you easily locate everything you’d want to find on this website?”

Is your top navigation section clear? Do the arrangement of pages make sense? Is the search field visible? Can your friends quickly share your content on their preferred social media platforms? Etc.

Your friends might have input as to structural changes that will create a more logical and user-friendly experience.

5. “Does my website make you feel like I care about YOU?”

How do your friends want to interact with your content? Do they feel engaged? Do they feel invited into the discussion? Do they feel valued?

While your website is, of course, about YOU — to any new visitor, it’s really going to be all about what you can do for THEM. So make sure you’re finding a way to put THEM at the center of your website efforts.


I hope these questions help you consider the ways in which visitors will interact with your website. If you have hosted your own focus group party, let us know how went in the comments section below.

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[Focus group image from Shutterstock.]