Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Focus Group


Quite a few years ago, shortly after having jumped through several hoops, I became authorized to sell and install software produced by a big software company located here in Western Washington.

Shortly after receiving the appropriate blessings from lower underlings, I got a phone call from some other underling, asking me if I would be willing to participate in a "Focus Group".

They were going to be introducing a new website for businesses like me to be able to access the latest info and so forth on their products.

"Why not?" I figured. On the appointed day I drove my beat up old Ford van, boat rack on the roof and fishing rods in rod racks stuck to the headliner, down to the meeting location. I parked it in their parking lot next to the beemers, volvos, saabs, and so forth.

Once inside, the receptionist sent me to a waiting room, much like a doctor's office except that nobody looked sick.

Shortly thereafter about a dozen of us were shown into a conference room to be seated around a long boardroom-like table. At the far end of the room was a huge one way mirror, and there were several microphones on stands sitting on the table.

Just about all of the other foocus group participants were wearing suits and ties, and I doubt if any of them had yet reached the age of forty. They all looked so much alike it was almost a parody of conformity. They also looked like none of them would ever consider hunting, shooting, fishing, or anything else even similar. I suspect an outdoor adventure would be something along the lines of driving your beemer on a wine-tasting tour of local vinyards!

A couple of presenters/facilitators/whatevers came in, and started babbling away about nearly nothing at all, but being sure to use every computer buzz word they could. The reminded me of a cross between the worst of used car salesmen and geeky/techno-yuppies. Not laughing was really hard! I was, of course, dressed in a pair of my somewhat worn blue jeans, a Norton Motorcycles t-shirt, and a black leather jacket. I fit right in....

The facilitators passed around several color pictures of their proposed web site pages. They were truly dreadful. They looked like they were designed by someone who also designs clothes for the Pope! Horribly busy design, impossible to find anything important quickly, small type, soft pastel colors, and worse. On top of that, there was no search engine, so if you couldn't find what you were looking for, there was no way to search for it either!

At first I thought they were going to start with the really bad designs and them show us better ones, so we would tell them how great the last ones were. Nope! Again, I had a hard time not laughing.

The rest of the "Focus Group Members" (read: Suck-up-ophants) were falling all over themselves taking turns praising these horrible pages. I just sat there in amazement! Maybe these people's businesses were in such bad shape financially that they figured if they sucked-up big time, maybe they could get a job when their own businesses failed? Who knows.

Finally one of the facilitators asked me my opinion, having noticed that I hadn't contributed to the suck-up-othon yet. I paused for a minute for the maximum dramatic effect. "It Sucks....." It got quiet. REALLY quiet. A long silence.

Taking a page from non-directional therapy procedure, he re-phrased my question. "You think, then, that it isn't very good?" "Yup", I replied.

"Would you share with us how you arrived at this conclusion?" he icily replied. I briefly explained the obvious problems that I saw with their proposed design. Again, a very long silence.

The facilitator then re-took control of the focus group, and directed a question to one of the major leage suck-ups for more positive reinforcement. I politely sat and listened until they had finally wound themselves down and ran out of things to rave about.

The facilitator thanked us all for our participation, and we were free to go. As were were walking out through the waiting room, the observers from behind the mirror were also coming out to take a break. They also looked just like the other members from the focus group. I wonder if they were all hired from a previous focus group?

There was one, however, who did not fit the mold. He was a big dude, bib overalls, and a full beard. He looked like he might have been a biker at one time. He caught my eye, smiled, and nodded his head. He too, knew the design sucked, and was thanking me for speaking up. That made my day, maybe his too, at least, I hope so!

It's funny, though, I've never been invited back................

3 Comments:

At Wednesday, April 12, 2006 11:23:00 AM, Blogger Fugger Nutter said...

That was great :)

 
At Wednesday, April 12, 2006 6:26:00 PM, Blogger Ted said...

cool

 
At Monday, April 17, 2006 9:18:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sounds like you aren't missing out on too much !

Merle

 

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