The hidden costs of free online focus group software platforms and tools

Free online focus group software, to the extent that it even exists (other than on a trial basis), will inevitably have hidden costs. You may or may not be willing to pay these, but it is important to be aware of them.

We appreciate that there is free online survey software available, but focus group software is more complex. That’s for various reasons, such as them needing to include a registration system, email, and the facility to upload and store media files.

So here are the main hidden costs of free online focus group software.

Security and hosting

Free online focus group software may not be fully secure, and backed up, and may not have a privacy policy for participants. You may not know where it is hosted (or even who with), and whether the vendor is compliant with GDPR for example.


Software developers put great store on ensuring their software runs quickly. Free online focus group software may be lacking investment in this area. This will be frustrating for participants, and mean that they are more likely to drop out, or to give less in their answers.


Free online focus group software would not usually give users the facility to brand the user interface. So this can look unprofessional to participants, and clients.

Viewer logins

Very often clients will want to be able to login to see the online focus groups in action. With free software this feature is unlikely to be offered.


One of the most important elements of any online focus group software is the support that is provided by the vendor. Such software can be complex, participants can get stuck, and so on. Free online focus group software is not going to come with support, let alone telephone support.

Export of results

Free online focus group software is unlikely to come with the facility to export the results. So, this will mean that analysis of the results will take much longer than would otherwise be the case.

Question control

With paid software there are usually a range of functions that allow for more sophisticated question control. For example, participants can be given the choice to answer questions privately. Or moderators can post questions just to specified participants, rather than the whole group.


There are more shortcomings with free software, but you have probably read enough. In the end, you might decide that the cost of whatever online focus group software you choose actually gives you some worthwhile advantages and saves you lots of time.

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