Diary Studies for User Research

A typical user research session involves working with a single participant for about an hour. During this hour, we investigate a product or concept that's new to the participant and learn about how easy or difficult it is to discover and learn features of the product. But what about learning how people use the product after this discovery phase has passed?

Data Collection, Post-Discovery: The Diary Study

The diary study method is used to collect longitudinal data. This means we hear from the same group of participants at different points in time. The beauty of this method is that it allows us to hear repeated feedback about participants’ evolving relationships with products.

In the past, the diaries in this sort of study were written on paper and mailed to and from participants. Thankfully, we now have apps and websites that save us this trouble at the post office, make it easier for participants to provide feedback, and allow for the data to be analyzed in real-time as it comes in.

Our 3-Pronged Method

At Progress, we combine a few approaches to get deep into the minds of our diary study participants.

1. Video Snippets:

Instead of having participants write about their experiences, we ask them to show us by recording short videos of their environments, what they’re up to, and what they are thinking about the product. We set a target number of snippets for participants to submit each week and analyze these as they are submitted.

2. Surveys:

Weekly surveys allow us to gather numerical data to track users’ journeys over the weeks of the study. They also provide jumping-off points for conversations between researchers and participants.

3. Phone Interviews:

Because we are constantly analyzing submitted video snippets and surveys, we are also constantly thinking of questions for our participants. During weekly phone interviews, we ask these questions and also check in with the participant about their experiences with the product.

Diary studies can take a lot of forms but we feel that Progress’ honed approach provides rich, deep data about users’ behaviors and emotions.