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7 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With Online Diaries

March 18, 2021

This valuable tool was transformed from a pen-and-paper methodology to one that can be deployed digitally, and we at MindSpark spent a lot of time getting to know the major players offering this approach. As a result, we’re well-suited to understand which platforms are best for which diaries and which audiences, when diaries work and when they don’t, and even how you can take diary studies further than you had imagined.


With that said, we present to you our list of 7 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With Online Diaries:


1. Diaries are one of the best ways of learning about users remotely. Even in the pre-digital era, one of the benefits of looking at user diaries is that they share things with you as they happen, in the moment. No need to ask people to plan a shopping trip with a stranger, come to a central location they wouldn’t otherwise go to, or change their schedules in any way. These little entries give us glimpses into people wherever they are, whenever they’re doing the thing that interests you.  

2. Diaries are for more than just pre-group homework. Years ago, when diaries emerged on the scene, they were often used to gather a few days’ worth of information before bringing people together for in-person groups. Now, though, diaries are a powerful option that can even be used as a standalone methodology providing a wealth of data, thanks to the variety of diary platforms and the features they offer.

3. Diaries can be one of the most meaningful ways to get to know your users. While no methodology is perfect and diary studies are no different, they can be particularly revealing if used in the right ways. They allow for you to see repeated glimpses of people in their real lives, rather than the faces they put on for ethnographic research or group discussions.

4. Diaries can end up being very rich in artefacts. People tend to “show” more when they cannot “tell” you face-to-face, so expect lots of screenshots, voice memos and even video recordings. Being behind a screen as “protection” usually makes participants open up and share things they otherwise wouldn’t share.

5. Diaries can be more empathetic to participants. They can log at their convenience, through preferred methods (device, social channel, means of communication) taking a lot less time than before. It also allows your recruits to think and share things in their natural environments. When tasked correctly, it’s possible to gather a lot of insight on said environment, and the role it plays in the overall user experience. Diaries, done right, can even yield clues on cultural differences!

6. Diaries, due to their length, allow for better behavior tracking. Longer duration diaries can provide much better habit/behavior tracking over time. We usually schedule weekdays and weekends to observe any change in behavior, same with pre-post special events (holidays, sales, launches).

7. Diaries are great for co-creation. Collaboration is such a powerful element within online diary studies, allowing for inspiration, unlimited access and deeper insight. Information that comes from co-creation provides much more robust and honest intel, making it an invaluable tool in the realm of research. We get further when we work together, and we all need a little “mind spark” once in a while anyways!

Check out a short webinar-style introduction to some platforms with which you can do online diaries:

How to Build, Launch and Manage Online Research with Ease

How to Gain Rich, Immersive, In-Context Insights No Matter the Environment

How to Get Quick & Real-time Insights

And if perhaps an online diary is not the best solution, take a look at our Remote Research Decision Tree to find the perfect approach!

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Grab your free copy of our Remote Research Decision Tree!
Do you need a simple guide to help you land on a remote research approach? Never think twice again with our Remote Research Decision Tree including 10 questions that lead to 10 different ways of conducting online research.
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