Diary Study
Uncovering thoughts and attitudes from your target customer

Diary Study

Not all user research takes place in the confines of the lab, or requires the presence of a usability professional: a diary study can be situated at customers’ homes, workplaces or wherever they use a product.

With this method, customers enter their experiences whenever they use a product in a diary, which can be the traditional hard copy or an online electronic form.

A diary study is ideal for products that are used briefly or infrequently. It is less costly than a field study, while still providing insights into behavior in a “real world” context. Additionally, it provides more and richer detail than a survey, and is excellent for collecting information from a user’s perspective on their customer experience.

Our Approach

Diary studies are conducted at the users’ home, office, or anyplace they use a product.

  1. We start by working with you to understand your research objectives, identify your target audience and determine which topics will be covered in the study.
  2. Your assigned research team will then develop a test plan. The plan includes the questions that will be used and/or metrics to track to ensure all necessary feedback is gathered.
  3. In parallel, Usability Sciences’ in-house recruiting team will screen and schedule participants who meet your target audience.
  4. The study is generally conducted over several consecutive days/weeks. During the study, participants are instructed to record how they conduct specific tasks or use a product, as well as their goals, needs and frustrations within this defined domain. Additionally, interviews are conducted with participants at the start and end of the study period, and for longer studies, during the middle of the study.
  5. After the diaries are complete, the results are analyzed and compiled into a report, which contains observations about common user needs and various environmental factors.

The Results

By examining real customers’ accounts of how they use a product in their usual surroundings, you can design or improve your product based on concrete feedback instead of guesses, as well as confirm whether your product meets customers’ needs.

The diary study method is especially ideal for researching “real-world” mobile device usage, since a realistic environment is difficult to replicate in a lab. Also, a diary study can take place over a longer period of use, so you can observe how customers’ behaviors evolve or change over time. Likely the customer experience will change as the study continues.

A diary study will also help you answer the following questions:

  • How do your target customers naturally perform a task?
  • How frequently do customers use your product, and what are their experiences?
  • What kind of environment will your product have to operate within?
  • How can your product solve unanticipated challenges revealed during the study?
  • How can you improve the customer experience for current customers?

Contact us today to find out how your target audience acts in the “real world” with your product.


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“From beginning to end, everyone I interacted with from Usability Sciences was professional and thorough. I was impressed with the testing technology, the methodology and especially the team that led the project. This is one of the most impactful pieces of research I have ever delivered to my team. Thank you!”

Kevin King
Senior Director of Digital Media, A&E Television Networks

“USC managed tight timelines and a client team that was tough to wrangle, But more importantly, the quality of the work was exemplary. It's work I would hold up as "the way we should do things" and share as a case study across the organization.”

Group Product Director
Digital Marketing, Pharmaceutical Company