Software for online diary studies

in Lucky dip

Diary studies are a useful way for understanding customers’ needs, motivations, and behaviors.

While they are cheaper than observing users over a long period of time, paper diaries tend to have problems:

  • Typically filled out once a day only (so subject to recall inaccuracy)
  • Rich detail may be forgotten or edited out  by customers
  • Self-referential – talked about through a time of day the customer thinks is important


I’m investigating software for running online diary studies to overcome these problems. A simple blogging or chatting tool such as tumblr may work well for online diary studies. I would set up a blog for each of my customers and they will fill them out.

Advantages of online diaries appear to be:

  • Customers may be more likely to record their on-going activities throughout the day with a web-based tool – especially for web-based research.
  • On-going recording is likely to give a more accurate account of their day, i.e. less self-referential.
  • Allows researchers to monitor customers’ contributions and encourage diary-keeping.
  • Facilitates quicker data logging and aggregation

If you have any experiences of using something such as Tumblr (or Twitter) as a diary or cultural probe, I’d be interested to hear your experiences.

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