Diary studies with UserTesting

Learn about diary studies with UserTesting. To learn more, check out our Running a Diary Study course.

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About diary studies

  • Diary studies are longitudinal studies where contributors/participants create diary entries over a specified time.
  • These diary entries can be audio, text, images, videos, or a combination of formats.
  • Diary studies give valuable insight into how users behave and interact with their surroundings in their everyday lives. For example:
    • You want to understand the first-time user experience throughout all stages - from when they initially open the software through the days and weeks of using (or not using) it.
    • You want to understand the experience users have with the software by getting them to complete daily check-ins where they provide feedback.
    • You want to understand different events throughout their experience. For example, for the car rental experience events include reserving a car, picking the car up, and dropping off the car at a rental location.
  • Designing and running a diary study using UserTesting may differ from what your team previously did.
    • Historically, customers have engaged with UserTesting's Professional Services team to assist with these projects.
    • Diary studies have different stages, and contributors will likely drop out of the study.
    • This variable in a diary study is why we suggest involving our Professional Services team.



Run a diary study with UserTesting

To learn more, check out our Running a Diary Study course. This course includes an example test plan for a diary study.

  1. Define the flow of your test, including timeline and touchpoints. For example:
    • Pre-screen contributors (within seven days of launching the test). Look for contributors who are the best fit.
    • Pilot a shorter version of the diary study to ensure that all the instructions and materials are clear to contributors. Make changes accordingly, based on any feedback, before the following sequence of touchpoints.
    • Touchpoint 1 (Day 1): Live interview to understand background and experience Example:
      • What is the contributor shopping preparation process, if any?
      • How will contributors decide where to shop?
      • What are contributors planning on buying/shopping for?
        • Do they have a specific item or category in mind, or are they planning to do more general browsing?
        • Are contributors planning to buy items they want and/or items they need?
    • Touchpoint 2 (Day 2): Recorded test of first-time experience.
    • Touchpoint 3 (Day 7): Recorded test of experience after one week
    • Touchpoint 4 (Day 14): Recorded test of experience after second week
    • Touchpoint 5 (Day 15): Live interview to follow up on their overall experience. For example:
      • How do participants describe the post-purchase experience overall?
        • What does an optimal post-purchase experience look like?
        • What are the most important details to know?
        • What kind of post-purchase communications are expected from retailers?
      • If they needed to return the item or cancel the order, how would they expect to be able to do that?
  2. Run an unmoderated test to identify contributors for your study.
    • We call this pre-screening because you will select which contributors (based on their answers to the unmoderated test) are to be included in your full diary study.
    • This step is important because diary studies require time and commitment from you and the individuals participating in your study, and you want to ensure you have the right people participating.
  3. Create a favorite contributors list of the people you to in your test.
  4. Invite your favorite contributors to the first test (touchpoint).
  5. Run this session as a Live Conversation to answer questions from contributors/participants about the overall process to make sure the study runs smoothly.
  6. On the appropriate days, send the next test (touchpoint).
    • These unmoderated tests can include specific questions and, if needed, a link to tools you want people to use to complete their diaries. For example, Google Form, Microsoft Office 365 documents, etc.
    • Pro Tip: Schedule the tests vs manually launch them each day.
  7. Conduct the final test (touchpoint).
    • Run this touchpoint as a Live Conversation.
    • This allows you to collect the most data and customize your questions about each of your contributors’ experiences during the study.
  8. Keep in touch with your contributors and message them before every touchpoint.
  9. As a best practice, store all the tests for your diary study in the same folder. This makes it easy to look at them as a list on your Dashboard.


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