Conversations with Web Site Users: Using Focus Groups to Open Discussion and Improve User Experience

User feedback on Web site design can be vital to understanding what issues library users may encounter when visiting a Web site. But obtaining this feedback can be time consuming, difficult to structure, and expensive. In past years, staff working on the Cal Poly Pomona University LibraryWeb site collected user feedback from surveys and usability testing. This team was interested in acquiring a more basic understanding of how users interact with the web in general, whether for research or other purposes, and how such experiences could inform design decisions. This article will discuss what focus groups are, why libraries should consider conducting focus groups for Web site testing and development, how focus groups can complement usability testing, and if focus groups are worth the time and effort. Results from focus group sessions will also be shared and discussed including information that fueled design decisions and benefits that participants gained from the experience.