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Diary Studies: A Powerful UX Research Method for Discovery

Diary Studies: A Powerful UX Research Method for Discovery

Abstract: Diary studies are one of the most powerful tools to wield during UX discovery. UXR teams utilize findings from diary studies to build exciting and engaging products and services.

What is the discovery phase?

In UXR, discovery is the preliminary phase of the design process. In this stage, designers and researchers collect information about the business, the market, and users to explore gaps, opportunities, and challenges as a source of creation and, often, iteration.

During this phase, UX researchers will examine the problem space and begin to pose questions before diving into hypotheses and testing. The discovery phase is a foundational component of any soundly built product where UX researchers take time to:

Understand users

Through UXR, teams must establish who their users are and how product usage affects their everyday lives. Research teams must show how exactly users interact with products. For example, when users use a rideshare app after a long-haul plane ride, they want to know precisely where to go to get picked up. Prior to understanding this desire, designers simply designed the interface to focus on hailing a ride. In contrast, users were anxious and frustrated when trying to meet a driver at a new airport. Rideshare apps soon solved this issue by visualizing better and incorporating user-friendly maps that allowed users to find drivers in foreign airports.

Gain clarity in the problem space

The discovery phase relies heavily on investigating the problem space and its effect on users and the business. UXR teams are able to truly understand the ramifications of a bad product by understanding competition, gaps within similar products, and liaising with stakeholders to better understand business value.

Create a shared vision

Discovery offers a rare opportunity to piece together user desires, business objectives, and newfound opportunities into a collaborative vision. At the end of discovery, UXR teams should know precisely what problem they are trying to solve, and what success looks like. Before turning inward, UXR teams must examine and analyze external market factors as well as users’ attitudes and behaviors. Once they have established external factors, UXR teams can turn to their internal stakeholders to focus on what will yield the biggest impact on the team and business. By the end of discovery, UXR teams will agree on goals.

Best times to dive into discovery

New markets

Whether an organization is looking to expand to a new market or establish a novel design, discovery is a necessity to determine the possible impact on users, market interest, cost, and operational value. UXR teams exploring new markets should research new target audiences through diary studies, analyze competition and market value, and investigate a new venture’s profitability.

New Products and Services

Discovery research is critical to developing new products and services as it helps mitigate risk by increasing the chances of product market fit. Before any new product is brought to market, it’s crucial to understand the needs of your target audience so you can ensure your product provides users the value they are looking for. If users do not gain real value from your products and services, they will not adopt them.

Product Iterations and New Features

People’s needs change over time, so conducting periodic discovery research is essential. When you understand the shifting needs of your users, you are in a position to add new features that align with their changing needs. This helps improve the stickiness and continuous usage of your products.

Mergers & acquisitions

During acquisitions, there must be a reexamination of tools, processes, and systems to achieve a harmonious consolidation for the future of the business. UXR teams should first focus on common problems that face all organizational parties and then move into the design and development solution space.

New regulatory practices

Regulatory changes can greatly impact the operability, profitability, and marketability of organizations and what they offer. UX researchers and designers should investigate affected populations through longitudinal diary studies and achieve a fine-tooth understanding of regulations and their application.

Re-organization & persistent organizational issues

When internal sources drive changes, it is crucial to understand the needs, goals, challenges, and desires of users within the organization. By delving deeply into user needs, organizations are able to ensure all internal shifting is centered on the user and efficiency. The key to organization drivers is to identify common needs and processes that users face in their everyday life.

When the organization has long-term issues, UXR teams would do well to reflect inward to understand how and why problems occur as well as research how competitors may have mitigated similar issues.

A sign that says Discovery to represent the discovery phase of UX design which is a foundational component of any soundly built product

How can diary studies be used during discovery?

Diary studies are an incredibly powerful tool to wield during the discovery phase. This UXR method has participants record their thoughts, experiences, and activities with a particular product or service. In diary studies, UXR teams will establish the length of a study to yield user insights. Diary studies are self-recorded; thus, remote diary studies offer companies a mainline to understanding their target audience. After a diary study, UXR teams analyze moods, thoughts, and behaviors to find common themes, attitudes & habits, gaps, and challenges in the market. Upon analyses, UXR teams will be able to provide insight on user habits and patterns, as well as offer, suggested paths forward.

Sometimes referred to as the “poor man’s field study,” diary studies offer a unique relationship with target users. With the growing accessibility that remote dairy studies provide, UXR teams have an unprecedented chance to analyze demographics and groups that have largely been unheard of and unrecognized in product development.

Remote diary studies are easier to run since there isn’t a need to have researchers and participants share a common physical space. By digitizing tools like diary studies, the accessibility of UX research benefits not only organizations but their audience. Remote diary studies allow UXR teams to truly gain a representative sample — something rare if not unheard of in most organizations prior to the shift to remote work.

Aside from increasing inclusivity, diary studies turbocharge your design process with real-time logs of how users engage and interact with a product or service. UX researchers are able to adjust studies in real-time to capture better insights. UX teams can analyze results while studies are ongoing to begin to delve deeper into other areas needing investigation like competitive analyses, stakeholder insights, and other operational acuity.

UX researchers and designers can tap into how users think, feel, and behave to truly understand how to solve their problems. In the discovery phase, UXR teams should come away with goals and possible opportunities for creation and iteration to explore in later UXR phases.