back to article Focus groups are for mugs

Journalists can be a contrary lot and IT journalists are no exception. Whatever we get asked to test and review, we’re never really happy with it. But that’s OK because the manufacturers and their PR companies, and often the readers too, are never happy with what we write either. While the risks that IT journalists run tend to …


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  1. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Ask and ye shall receive

    It's not just focus groups, sending documents out for review is just as bad.

    Possibly the worst aspect of "processes" in business is the number of people who wish to review, approve or be FYI'd on documents that are, essentially, none of their dam' business. Mostly it's just to pad out their days (shades of: "why don't estate agents look out the window in the morning? Then they'd have nothing to do in the afternoon") with the illusion of activity.

    However, once these people get a copy of a document, they feel the need to suggest changes - whether they know anything about the subject or not. One boss I had made it his policy to require at least one change to every circuit diagram he reviewed - just to show that he'd examined it. This was a long, long time before Dilbert and PHBs. After all these induhviduals have suggested their changes (none of which are returned until the deadline), there then follows a period of argumentation regarding why you chose to ignore their "input" and the inevitable politicking if you happened to point out an error in one of their documents - expect the favour to be returned in spades.

    I now adopt a policy of NOT circulating proposals, papers or designs whenever possible and everyone seems happier for it (though not as busy as they'd like to appear). I reckon focus groups act the same way - if they always said "yup, that's fine" there would be a feeling that their time had been wasted - that they hadn't exercised their "right" to an opinion. Maybe the secret is in the questions they are asked. If instead of open-ended critiques, focus groups or approvers were asked specific, if diversionary, questions about particular aspects: do you prefer X or Y? then it would be easier to obsfucate the responses and come up with exactly what you intended to in the first place.

    After all: you can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself.

  2. xenny

    Port covers cost money. There are complaints regardless of if the company has a more expensive product with them, and more expensive products tend to have lower sales. -> cheaper product with no port covers.

  3. Denarius Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    is the bloody thing solving a users problem ?

    fully concur with basic user testing comment. Done a bit of testing in my time and always found the best feedback came from barely trained but willing users. (yes, they can exist) Run across gear like tablets designed to be heavy, slippery and impossible to hold without leaving finger gouges in the screen. Why not rubber gripping sides instead of hard smooth plastic? It does not matter if it resembles the black slab of 2001 and is hard to use. Bloody boutique shops are a waste of $$. Give me kit done by an engineer focussed on making something that just works.

    1. Cpt Blue Bear

      Re: is the bloody thing solving a users problem ?

      You make the classic mistake of assuming that most of this kit is designed to be used. It's not. It's designed to be sold.

  4. Alan Denman

    Leak dissing is the fashionable new marketing tool for mugs.

    Apple keep leaking their anti Google map plans so that their pale offering will have far less outrage.

    Focus goups are just a side line when pre-emptively training one's followers just works.

  5. M Gale

    Strangely enough... TF201 has no problems picking up a GPS signal.

    Wifi on the other hand, is utter pants, with a router in the next room being barely in range. A bit silly for a wifi-only tablet. I could have done with a wifi dongle a lot more than a GPS dongle, Asus!

  6. Andy Hards

    I think the cover on the Lumia 800

    is pretty good and can't see what ll the fuss is about. I've only opened and closed it maybe 6 or seven times, so it's hardly going to wear out and when it is open I just take care not to break it. When it is closed it keeps the crap out and covers what it is supposed to cover. I hate he rubber bungs that some devices have and thought that Nokia had come up with a good design.

    Their crowd source design experiment a couple of years back was a bit silly though as it just gave 3 designs that they used anyway and obviously people picked the newest one. As others have said, as long as it does what it says on the tin, I'm happy.

    1. chris 143

      Re: I think the cover on the Lumia 800

      I've got an N9 and I can't see what the problem is either.

      on the othe hand 6 or 7 times? how do charge your phone then?

      1. chr0m4t1c

        Re: I think the cover on the Lumia 800

        >on the othe hand 6 or 7 times? how do charge your phone then?

        He's only had it one day, give him a chance. That's a pretty good battery life for a smartphone.

    2. GeorgeTuk

      Re: I think the cover on the Lumia 800

      Wait what?

      Classic comment.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why I attended focus groups...

    1. Free food and drink

    2. Payment

    3. To figure out who the client was and to mess with the results.

    1. Cpt Blue Bear

      Re: Why I attended focus groups...

      +1 on reasons one and two.

      I gave up on reason 3 years ago 'cause my experience with market research operators is that they try to return the result that the customer wants so that they get more work.

      Also I once picked up at a focus group (on electricity prices and smart meters of all things). Optimism bias (plus cash and free food) keeps me going back :-)

  8. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Apple warranty

    Apple product warranty is void if a product is exposed to water, more or less, which is awkward since most of their customers are 70 per cent made of the stuff, and it leaks out in several different ways. Still, it means that when the thing breaks, it isn't Apple out of pocket, but the waterbag who bought the stupid thing.

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