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Capture Contextual Data with Video Diary Studies

Capture Contextual Data with Video Diary Studies


When it comes to understanding users, methods like remote diary studies prove powerful. It is now easier than ever to recruit and study users through this method, which has enabled many companies to thrive with apps, software, and services that are designed with users top of mind.

Understanding contextual research

For example, grocery delivery apps would do well to draw out personas and outline the various contextual constraints that these personas face before heading into usability research. Without understanding their audience, the app is in jeopardy of spending precious time and resources building a product for an audience segment they may not fully understand.

Through methods like field studies and diary studies, researchers can shed light on the distractions and disturbances that affect users. Most importantly, researchers can gain insight into the gaps in the current market when it comes to grocery delivery, and in a greater sense, they can understand how users make decisions around shopping and planning for meals. With a greater sense of objectives and actions at play, researchers can better understand how to iterate and improve a product with features that would entice and engage users.

Collecting contextual data with diary study tools

When it comes to diary studies, video data has the upper hand as it can capture usage in real-time. Outside of directly observing users, researchers have traditionally had to rely on user-reported logs, post-use interviews, and other methods that could cause modification to natural use or reports. Video data not only captures use in real-time but it sheds light on what else may be happening around a user. In the past, users may have forgotten or misreported the severity of certain disruptions. Further, remote video diary studies can capture expressions and emotions that may go unreported or unobserved in other methods. Video data can be a powerful tool for a research team, and it may be beneficial to share with designers and stakeholders.

During a remote video diary study, users will be tasked to narrate their usage of an object as well as discuss how they feel about usage. Often, users are told to think aloud, so researchers can better understand the types of questions and emotions that may arise in the greater target audience. This is also a powerful tool for users to reflect upon how products and apps help or hinder their lives. With these profound insights, UX researchers can better understand what sorts of iterations will truly put the user at the center of future designs.

Remote diary studies not only provide richness in terms of context, but the data is also easily collected and analyzed. Though watching footage can be a bit time intensive, a good UX platform will have features like transcriptions, tagging, and timestamps. This data collection and analysis method also increases collaboration and eases peer review of findings.

Diary studies are most profound for shedding light on the attitudes of users. These sorts of studies can run from a couple of days to as long as a few weeks. This sort of method is easiest for researchers as it can be done remotely, and communication with participants can be completely asynchronous in some cases. The advantage of remote diary study tools is that researchers can collect data in real-time. This gives researchers the opportunity to probe for more information from users as well as make adjustments to the overall study should an issue arise.

This method of contextual inquiry can supercharge the discovery phase by getting a true pulse on where users are, what they say they want, and what they actually do. The earlier this method is utilized, the better. Again, UX methodologies are extremely complementary, and remote diary studies are one of the quickest studies to run with a high return on investment. UX researchers can utilize this foundational knowledge to initially design and future iterative concepts as well as development and implementation. Findings from this type of UX research can serve as a guiding light for improvements and innovations.

UX research team planning a video diary study to capture contextual data

When to utilize remote diary studies

Understanding when to utilize diary studies necessitates understanding why we need contextual methods. Unlike usability testing, where there is a focus on task analysis, performance, and overall success, contextual methods like diary studies reveal ways to improve users’ greater experience. With remote diary study software, we can delve into the following:

  • Inconsistencies between what users say they do and what they actually do
  • Differences between what they believe they would and what they actually do
  • What external tools or people they utilize to complete tasks
  • Common disruptions during a task and how they recover
  • Workarounds that differ from how something was designed to be used
  • Habits and routines
  • Fringe cases

Diary studies unveil the attitudes users have toward products, apps, and software over longer periods of time. This can be an incredibly useful way to understand the learnability of a product as well as how it can be iterated to better fit real contexts.