Diary studies

In diary studies, participants are asked to make diary or journal entries about their interactions or experiences with digital products or services or keep diaries about non-digital areas of research interest over a specific timeframe. They record significant events, behaviors, activities, problems, emotions, or feelings, including external factors that impact their product use or experience.

Most diary studies we lead today involve digital diaries or similar online qualitative research (OQR) tools, and Blink has developed its own diary platform called Feedbackpanel that enables entries from any device that can run a web browser in real time. Participants in diary studies are often given exercises or assignments and are asked to upload relevant photos, screenshots, or audio or video recordings in addition to making text-based diary entries. Feedbackpanel can also be used to deploy surveys or other feedback forms.

We often mix diary studies with other user research methods.  For example, we may run a diary study prior to conducting field interviews to better understand participants and their contexts of use to maximize the value of spending additional time with them. Conversely, we may interview people first and then ask them to engage in a longer-term diary effort so that they can self-report and add to our interview “snapshot.” We also use diary studies to identify the most promising or engaged participants in a study from a larger initial group to maximize research value given limited resources.

Blink researchers use several techniques and best practices to ensure that participants are highly engaged in diary studies:

  • Onboarding calls in which we carefully explain expectations and study goals
  • Setting requirements on levels of engagement, such as at least 5 entries per week to receive monetary incentives
  • Ongoing researcher (and client) monitoring of diary entries
  • Within-diary messaging to ask for clarification or elaboration or to provide encouragement
  • Regular participant “assignments” or tasks to be completed around a research question or focal point
  • Debriefing calls or online conference meetings at the end of the diary period with selected participants to better understand diary inputs

Participants in diary studies provide valuable qualitative input and feedback, ideally when they are actually using products or services in real-life settings. This adds to their in-the-moment realism.

Recent Blink UX diary projects include:

  • A study focusing on wearable hardware comfort over time
  • A longitudinal study of an online fantasy gaming platform
  • A study involving use of a beta application for new mothers
  • A home media study involving self-reporting of gaming activities along with movie, TV, Internet and music consumption
  • A study surrounding productivity uses of different device types