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What is a Diary Study?

Know your user. In order to develop products that will assist your users, you have to know who they are , how they act and what their goals are. A Diary Study, also known as, a longitudinal study is a log of activities and behaviors over an extended period of time that provides you with an multi-level understanding of the user. It normally takes place following a Contextual Inquiry or In-Depth Interview and can last anywhere from 1 week to 2 months. It can take the format of a standard diary where the user records the information via text or it can be more creative where the user  takes pictures to represent their entries in the diary.

Why Conduct a Diary Study?

Diaries are the revealers of secrets. People often forget or ignore the daily actions that to a researcher is a gold mind of information. By asking the user to provide the log over an extended period of time and specifically through imagery, you are able to observe the habits and behaviors. The log provides a complete picture of the user’s interaction with the product and the environmental influences present. It also provides a more comprehensive view of the user’s goals which supplies you with the information to develop features that will enhance the user experience or tool.

How to Conduct a Diary Study?

The Diary Study can use a variety of mediums: text, photos, video, audio, etc. Feel free to be creative.  Whichever way you decide to implement, there are  four main steps to conducting a successful diary study.

  1. Recruit Users
    1. A unique way to recruit users is to use your list of participants in the Contextual Inquiry.
    2. Review the list and select 4-6 of the more talkative, engaged participant
  2. Brief Participants on the Activity
    1. Inform the participants of what the overarching objective is.
    2. Provide the user with prompts and/or tasks for the activity
    3. Provide the user with the parameters of the activity. Timeframe, frequency, type of entries, etc
  3. Monitor the Usage
    1. Check in with the users every couple of days to ensure that they are still on track in their understanding of the tasks. It also keeps your request in the forefront of their mind
  4. Analyze  Your Findings
    1. At the end of the timeframe conduct a wrap-up session to discuss the experience. This can be conducted  individually or as a group activity.

Diary Studies: Extending your UX research

This clip is provided by UX Mastery

5 Steps for Effective Diary Studies in Customer Journey Research

Diary studies are a longitudinal research method used to understand user interactions at different touchpoints, which is especially useful for omnichannel user research. Participants record their reactions as experiences unfold throughout the customer journey.. (NNgroup | 6/15/2018)


  • Immerse Phase


Research Diary Tools | Flex