Thursday, May 1, 2008

You can tell just by looking at him...

One of the issues people may have with the online forum is that because it all happens on screen, you’re missing the visual cues, the body language, etc that you get from a ‘live’ focus group.

I’m not going to argue with that.

But what about the problems with those visual cues and for that matter, the body language? Here’s an example:

Scenario One

Let’s invite Harry to a "traditional" focus group. And here he is:

Hello Harry! What’s he like? 

Already, just by looking at him, in that nanosecond, I’ve probably made at least 10 assumptions about him. And assumptions about what he’ll think and say about X, Y or Z…

Scenario Two

Rewind. Let’s pretend we’ve never met Harry in real life. And instead of asking him to our ‘live’ focus group, let’s ask him to participate in a bulletin board focus group (ie, run in a virtual room, online). 

We’ll give him a user name to log in with: R1 (Respondent One). As a moderator, that’s all I can see of Harry on my screen: 


That’s all the other group participants can see too: he looks like 24 point Georgia font, just as you see it on your screen right now.

What’s he like? I’ve no idea. I can’t make many assumptions based on how he looks, how he talks, how he smells (!). Or about what he’ll think and say about X,Y and Z…

The point is that visual cues can get in the way of the information we want – maybe in more ways than they help our understanding. 

Worth thinking about.

P.S Many thanks to Simon (aka Harry) for letting us use a really bad picture of him (he’s actually very handsome).

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