Best Practices for Online Diary Studies

By Chris Martin

A Customer Diary

Diary studies are a powerful tool that provide you with real-time data on user opinion and perception. One of the biggest issues with focus groups and depth interviews is the difference in time between product usage and the research itself. With an online diary study, the time between the product (or service) usage, and the feedback can be removed. This allows for more accurate, pertinent and relevant insights, delivered in near real-time.

However, while diary studies may be a powerful tool, it is still important to ensure some basic steps are followed, to ensure that the most value & insight is gathered. In this article, we outline just a few best practices to ensure your diary studies run smoothly, and provide you with the rich opinion & perspective that you are looking for.

Set Participants Specific Tasks

The first recommendation we would make is to set participants particular tasks. One such way to do this, is to provide participants with a product to test, and ask them to record feedback (or even product usage itself) each time the product is used. This can be expanded on further, such as by asking participants to use your product at certain times of the day, or in particular situations. It is also possible to set time limits on these tasks to ensure you receive the data promptly, and without any complications.

By setting tasks, it is possible to give what can be quite an unstructured feedback format, a much more concrete set of objectives. Of course, setting tasks is not necessary, and it is entirely possible to simply ask participants to provide feedback when they feel it is appropriate. However, by setting a range of different scenarios for your participants to test the product (or service) in, then it becomes much easier to compare performance across the board.

Allow Free-Form Comments for Instant Feedback

Free form comments are a fantastic, but often underused, method of collecting feedback. These types of comments give participants the freedom to express their opinions in a format that suits them. Further, by providing in the moment feedback, free form comments allow participants to express their thoughts before they become clouded by reflection, or the fog of memory. In this way, free form comments are a much more visceral and veracious form of insight, something that can be much harder to extract in a focus group or interview setting.

In addition to this, allowing participants to use the product or service in a natural environment, means the feedback that is provided will be more accurate –not clouded by researcher bias, or the opinions of others.

Encourage Mobile Usage

Mobile devices are everywhere; they have become a cornerstone of modern communications. So why not take advantage of this in your research? Our Diary MR tool works perfectly not only on web browsers, but on smaller screens too thanks to our mobile optimised website. This allows participants to complete research activities no matter where they are. From recording and uploading videos, to making use of free-form comments – the mobile optimised site has the same capacities as our full, desktop accessible site.

By making use of smartphones and tablets, it is possible to move even closer to the point of usage. Participants are able to freely record their feedback on products in the exact moment that they are using them. In addition, it gives participants a much wider variety of scenarios in which they are able to record their feedback – from in the home, to shopping, even whilst travelling. If your product is used on the go, we would definitely recommend using the mobile features.

Combine Photo, Video & Written Feedback

Combine Photographs with Other Feedback for Richer Insight

Combine Photographs with Other Feedback for Richer Insight

Central to our philosophy is the belief that mixed methods research is more effective than a single instance. Our entire research platform has been built around this principle, and aims to provide you with a simple way to manage multiple forms of in-depth research. The Diary MR tool is no different. In fact, there is a significant amount of flexibility within our diary MR tool for participants to upload different forms of feedback, from photographs, to videos, to simple written reports.

By encouraging participants to make use of these, you can compare different forms of data, and get a much richer understanding of the thought process, and opinions of your participants. While videos may be a short, but highly opinionated snapshot into the participant’s emotions, written feedback will provide a more balanced approach. By combining the results from these formats, it is possible to understand consumers (and even your own products) in much greater depth – and find ways to continuously improve.

Overall, we believe diary tools are a hugely beneficial research tool. One of the most popular uses is to test products and services, but don’t let this restrain you. Used creatively, diary studies can be applied to a whole host of scenarios. Such a study could be used to understand consumer behaviour regarding a purchase decision, or a regular activity. Asking participants to log their thoughts and feelings throughout this process can be used to identify new gaps in the market, and even launch new products.

View our full range of online diary studies

Click here to read more about our Diary MR tool. Or, to book a free trial of the FlexMR research platform and make use of our wide range of quant & qual tools, click here.

Christopher Martin

Chris Martin- Marketing Specialist

Personal Bio: With a relentless focus on consumer experience, Chris is uniquely skilled in managing online communication channels. Combined with an in-depth knowledge of the digital era and a sharp analytical mind, he is able to creatively develop the FlexMR brand in accordance with a constantly evolving industry.




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