# Diary Study

Capture usage in actual context and over time
Time required
approx. 5 man-days preparation, duration 1-2 weeks, min. 10 man-days follow-up
User Researcher, 10 - 20 users
Level of experience
Symbol image for a usage scenario

# Summary

Diary studies are conducted over an extended period of time in the intended environment of the product. The participants independently document their experiences and activities with the product in a given diary. It makes sense to specify a structure for the diary, e.g. questions to be answered or tasks to be performed. Diary studies can be realized classically with paper and pen, as web-based version or as video recording.

# Result

Qualitative data on a user's behaviour, activities, and experiences with a product in the actual context of use.

# Approach

In preparation, the objectives of the study must be formulated and the form and scope of the diary defined. Also, the task for the participants must be formulated and the participants selected. If technology (e.g. video cameras) is to be used, it must also be prepared.

At the beginning of the implementation, a meeting with all participants to introduce the study, present the diary and, if necessary, explain how to use the technology is useful. While the study is running, the participants should be continuously supervised and there should always be a contact person available. A regular reminder to fill in the diary can also be helpful. At the end of the study, there is often a final interview in which questions can be asked about the respondent's entries. Feedback from the respondent can also be obtained in order to improve future studies.

After the diary study, the notes must be evaluated and prepared for documentation.

# Time of use

In order to apply this method, you need to know your user groups. Furthermore a test object (product or application) must be available. The method is very well suited to uncover unconscious actions or to document a process in the use of a product/application.

# Tools and Templates

For each subject:

  • Prepared diary in paper form, or
  • Laptop/Tablet/(Smartphone) for recording in a web-based diary, or
  • Recording device (audio or video)

# Advantages

The method takes place in the natural environment of the usage situation and results are not falsified by laboratory conditions.

# Disadvantages

The results are strongly dependent on the motivation and participation of the participants. On the one hand, the participants must have understood exactly how the entries are to be made. On the other hand, they must repeatedly write entries in good quality and with meaningful content. The evaluation of a diary study is time-consuming since it concerns numerous qualitative data.

# Hints

A contact person should be available to subjects for queries throughout the time subjects are participating in the study.

# Sources