What are diary studies? When and how to use them

Torresburriel Estudio
3 min readSep 30, 2021

When we have to do UX research, the first step is to decide whether we need to obtain qualitative or quantitative data, and then, which research technique to carry out. Within all of them, we find diary studies.

What are diary studies?

A diary study is a qualitative research method used to collect data on the behaviours, use cases of a product and experiences of users over a period of time.

The duration of these studies can vary from a few days to a month or even longer, depending on the characteristics and information required in each particular study.

This method is often underestimated, as it requires not only the time to collect data but also the time-consuming and difficult analysis of the data we have collected, which can be very tedious and challenging compared to more immediate research methodologies. However, the information obtained can be precious.

When to use diary studies?

This methodology is appropriate if we need to have an in-depth understanding of the context and behaviours of the people who will use the product, and is used when we need to understand long-term behaviours.

With diary studies, we can answer questions from different categories such as:

  • Usage habits: at what time of day do users use the product?
  • Context of use: when do they decide to use the product?
  • Attitudes and motivations: how do they feel about using the product?
  • Behaviour and perceptions: what is the learning curve like, how do they perceive the brand after using the product?
  • Customer journey: what is the typical customer journey like when using the product?

Depending on how we approach the diary study, the results we obtain can be very broad or very specific. We can investigate how all interactions with a website are over a very long period of time, or understand how users complete a specific activity.


To conduct a good diary study, this is the usual type of process we follow:

  1. Planning and preparation: defining the objectives we want to achieve and the tools to be used with the participants.
  2. Overview before starting the study: We need to make sure that those who are going to participate are able to conduct the diary study and know what they have to do. We also need to make sure that they are familiar with the tool or technology that will be used during the study.
  3. Study period: in this phase, we have to provide all the necessary information and instructions so that they can conduct the study correctly. We have to make sure that we do not bias or influence the behaviours or perceptions of the people who are going to participate.
  4. Post-study interview: After completing the study and analysing the information that has been collected, a follow-up interview is necessary to clarify what needs to be clarified.
  5. Analysis of the results: at the end of the study we will have a large amount of qualitative data, so the last step will be to identify all the patterns and behaviours that respond to the questions we had originally set out.

Although diary studies may require more time and effort than other research methods, they are perfect for obtaining information about user behaviours in real-life environments, providing valuable information for the long term of our digital product.



Torresburriel Estudio

User Experience & User Research agency focused on services and digital products. Proud member of @UXalliance