A diary study is usually a longitudinal piece of research (ie extending over a long period of time – weeks, months, even years) where participants record their actions, feeling, issues, problems etc in relation to a particular topic, medium, site, piece of equipment or other subject that is being reviewed.
Record completion can often take place at a particular time of day and may be prompted by the testers to ensure completion and consistency. The qualitative data that is gathered by this means can help provide insights into user attitudes, behaviours, usage and other actions that can be helpful in making judgements and decisions regarding the subject matter.
Diary studies are more suitable for some types of research than others. Here are some of the circumstances and topics that are particularly suitable to this form of survey.
- Testing how users interact with a particular site or piece of kit on a regular basis. In this instance you would get participants to record their actions as they happen and also to note their thought processes, feeling, attitudes as they go through the decision process and engage.
- Testing user journeys, for example, how a user makes a specific major purchasing decision such as buying a holiday or a car. Finding out what processes and information they use, what criteria they employ in the decision, who they discuss the decision with and so on.
- Researching general user behaviour in relation to say, social media sharing, using price comparison sites or searching for products and product information, how people use smartphones, laptops and tablets for different tasks etc.
- Finding how users how reacted to a particular interaction with a site or business; this can be achieved by engaging with users after, for example, they have used your customer support and getting them to record their feelings and subsequent actions relating to this.
- Discovering exactly how customers use the various channels open to them to interact with businesses and products; when they do this; what channels they use for specific purposes; how much detail they seek and how much time they spend and so on.
- Observing how users habits, attitudes and behaviours change over a period of time in relation to a product, service or medium. This can cover much longer periods of time where users’ propensity for, say, adopting new technology, taking up new brands or product concepts, using online against physical services and so on can be monitored and gauged.