For decades, diary studies have been a valuable research technique. They provide researchers with an unobtrusive way to observe daily life. By asking users to record their experience over time, a researcher can learn more about their emotions and motivations. This makes diary studies a valuable addition to many types of UX research.The field of user experience has a wide range of research methods available, ranging from tried-and-true methods such as lab-based usability studies to those that have been more recently developed, such as unmoderated online UX assessments
What Are Diary Studies?
A diary study is a research study where participants record their experiences with the research topic in a journal or diary. In terms of UX research, a diary study examines how a person uses a product over time and what motivates them to use or not use the product. This kind of research seeks to address a qualitative aspect of the product’s use and user interest. A researcher might choose a diary study to understand the motivation, habits, context, and change in behavior over time of product users.
What Is the Process for a Diary Study?
There are usually five main steps in a diary study:
- Planning: The purpose of the study is defined. Researchers choose the study parameters and the behaviors they want to examine.
- Pre-study Brief: The participants are chosen and given instructions on how to complete their diaries.
- Logging Period: The participants use the product and record their experiences in their journals. The researcher may create prompts to direct the user’s attention to specific study behaviors.
- Post-Study Interview: The researcher interviews the participants about their experience with the product and the process itself.
- Data Analysis: The researcher analyzes the data according to the parameters of the study.
Why Should You Choose Diary Studies?
The most important benefit to diary studies in UX research is understanding how people use the product over time. A study can answer many questions that might be answered in other research methods, such as product surveys, but a survey can only give a user’s impression on one day.
Other questions that could be addressed might be:
- What time of day do they use it?
- How do they feel when they use it?
- What makes them use it when other alternatives are available?
- Do they recruit others to use the product?
- Is the product hard to use?
- Are there unanticipated design flaws that arise from use?
- How does the product make them feel about the brand?
Compared to other UX research methods, diary studies might offer less statistical data but can shed light on areas where statistical data seems incomplete or surprising. This can help researchers determine if there is a problem that needs to be fixed or why a product has gone viral so that it can be reproduced.
Diary studies are a research method that is often used to explore the experiences of individuals over a period of time. This can be very useful when researching user experience because it allows people to record their thoughts and feelings in real-time. This can be a valuable tool for UX researchers to add to their research data so that they can compare the findings with other studies.