Diary Study

Diary studies are designed to gather data from users over a long period of time, sometimes weeks, and in research terms are called ‘longitudinal studies’.

They are carried out when a concept or proposition is being developed, or in the case of an existing digital asset or service, when a redesign is being considered. The research is designed to gather input and generate insight from external users


The briefing and planning process is an important stage in generating a clear understanding of the objectives of the project and for planning how it will run. With diary studies this is critical because once the study is launched and in the field it is not possible to alter it. The study is designed and planned to the last detail including questions that may be delivered to the respondent via the app during the fieldwork.

In some cases, where the focus of the research is a concept or proposition that is not fully developed, this stage may include a workshop where the client team shares information with our consultants. This is an excellent way of ensuring that the client team has fully considered the proposition (or concept) and understands the questions they wish to answer through the research so that the consultant is able to create a robust research plan


We have to go beyond the standard screener used for qualitative research and ask questions about availability and comfort with recording video, photos and messages. Getting the screener right avoids people dropping out part way through or delivering unreliable or ‘gappy’ feedback.

It is also important to structure the incentive payment to maintain the respondents engagement. Staged payments or even rewards can be used to encourage respondents to interact, record and share data. This needs to be clearly communicated when initiating the recruit and even so we always allow for people to drop out of the research.

The project starts with briefing the respondents about what is required during the research. This is sometimes done in a focus group or a one-to-one session with the respondents. This will involve installation of the data capture app (see below) and explanation of the type of activity we are interested in.

In cases where the research needs to be carried out over a wider geography and holding face-to-face meetings is not possible, we schedule phone calls to brief them on the requirement for the diary study, make sure they can access the app and provide them with a contact point for any issues or questions they may have.


nativeye We tend to (currently) use Nativeye software for data capture for diary study projects. Nativeye is a cost-effective solution for running mobile diary studies. The app enables us to create a study, invite participants to download an iOS or Android app and then have the ability to interact with them during data capture period and use a variety of analysis and reporting modules when it is complete.


The key to diary study research is to keep the demands on the participant simple. If we need more granularity we would look to ethnographic research which involves observation of behaviour rather than respondent reporting. The type of things we will ask respondents to do includes:

  • Typing a message, thought or description of what they are seeing
  • Taking a picture of surroundings or a screen
  • Recording a short video of themselves or surroundings
  • Responding to an alert or notification on their phone
  • Using built in tools like sliding scale of emotion (see example below)

sliding scale of emotion

If time and budget allow, we prefer to interview each of the respondents after carrying out some initial data analysis. This is done either one-to-one or in small groups and allows us to dig into reported behaviour, thoughts and feelings.

We can run these interviews in a research facility so the client can view the discussion first hand. It is possible to report on the diary studies from the data captured alone but carrying out the depth interviews or small groups provides far richer findings.

Delivering the Findings

Communicating the findings from discovery research of this type is key to the success of the project. We need to not only provide clarity about what we learnt and the recommendations bsed on those findings, but also bring this to life.


We often provide deliverables that include a detailed report, story boards, behaviour mapsand more. Here is an example of a story board:

story board

There can be a lot of data, insight and suggestions following diary studies so we always advise our clients to be prepared for this and allow time to digest the findings.

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