User Diary

User logs (diaries) of daily activities as they occur give contextual insights about real-time user behaviors and needs, helping define UX feature requirements. A diary study is a longitudinal user experience (UX) research method that allows your team to explore how users use your digital product over time. Diary studies often include a combination of videos, photos, and survey questions, in addition to product analytics, which provides your team with a rich mix of qualitative and quantitative data.

A diary study is a research method used to collect qualitative data about user behaviors, activities, and experiences over time. In a diary study, participants self-report data longitudinally—that is, over an extended period that can range from a few days to a month or longer.

During the defined reporting period, study participants are asked to keep a diary and log specific information about activities being studied. To help participants remember to fill in their diary, they are sometimes periodically prompted (for example, through a daily notification or at select times during the day).

The context and period in which data is collected for a diary study make them unlike other common user-research methods, such as User Surveys (which are designed to collect self-reported information about a user’s habits and experiences outside of the context of the scenarios being studied), or Usability Testing (which yield observational details on a specific moment or planned set of confined interactions in a lab setting). They are the “poor man’s field study”: they are unlikely to provide observations that are as rich or detailed as a true field study, but they can serve as a decent approximation.