Inside the focus group
I held the “current IUP student” focus group with highly-educated, 20-something-year-olds. It began with them obligatorily humoring the exercise, but as we continued, the shift was palpable as they saw the purpose, and excitedly and conscientiously began discussing and debating until satisfied that I wholly understood IUP.
I asked many open-ended questions about why they chose IUP, how they found out about it, and asked them to recall specific points of contact with IUP before they applied.
I then asked the students to visualize and draw their journey when applying, asking them to make note of specific content they visited and to point out pain points and positives. We then discussed these journeys and finished this section with them listing what they wished they had known.
Even though IUP had not spent significant time on branding, the brand had been developed simply through years of existing. I wanted to discover the internal feeling the focus group had about the brand, both in look and feel. We did a round of quick “this or that” ie. square or round, loud or quiet, etc. to discover some of the more abstract perceptions. The focus group concluded with the participants draw a personification of IUP, giving it personality, look and clothing, and behaviors.
Though it would have been better if the budget and timeline allowed for further replication and expanded research participants, but even so, a lot was learned about the perception of the brand and what was expected in the interactions with the website and application process. Through the interviews and focus group, clear patterns emerged that were vital in creating the design brief and were used extensively when making design, UX, and development decisions throughout the project.