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How to use remote diary studies to understand attitudes

How to use remote diary studies to understand attitudes

Abstract: Understanding attitudes is key to delivering products that users not only want but need. Remote diary studies are essential to creating and iterating services and products that a target audience will not only use but enjoy.

Understanding remote diary studies

In user experience research (UXR), understanding user attitudes is paramount to successful research and design, and one of the best methods for unearthing user attitudes is remote diary studies. 

Stories are the driving force behind understanding attitudes and why people do what they do.  Diary studies enable users to tell their stories in their own voice, by documenting behaviors through video, pictures, and text, as they go about their day.

With diary studies, researchers can take deep dives into the attitudes and motivations that drive user behaviors and choices.

Researchers and designers invite participants to share their thoughts, feelings, desires, and disruptions when using a product or when trying to complete a specific task.

Remote diary studies benefit users and researchers with newfound ease and accessibility and allow for true contextual study. In its traditional form, researchers struggled to retain participants and get “in-the-moment” qualitative data. With remote diary studies, researchers can easily check in on participants to mitigate dropouts by setting up digital reminders to capture insights as well as personally send notes to participants.

Further, remote studies can capture insights from users within real-time use of a product or service. By instantly capturing users’ thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors, researchers can analyze and start synthesizing findings to adjust studies as needed and cultivate directions for the creation and iteration of products.

Conducting remote diary studies


Plan and prepare by defining:

  • the timeline of the study; 
  • the tools that will be used;
  • the study’s focus; 
  • what you will ask of participants.  

Researchers must recruit participants and prepare subsequent supporting materials during the preparation stage. Before launching the diary study, researchers should run a pilot study to test for any gaffes in the study plan and logistics.


Before starting the study, researchers will conduct a walkthrough with participants:

  • the reporting period schedule;
  • expectations of participants; 
  • how to log information; 
  • what exactly to log

It is a best practice to supply sample logs of the information that researchers are trying to understand and provide clear instructions on logging. The sample logs shouldn’t constrain users to a specific format but should be used as a guide. Researchers should encourage variation in participant logs.


Researchers should provide a simple framework to receive participant feedback: attitudes, feelings, disruptions, and motivations. This framework should only minimally disrupt everyday activity to ensure honest, candid feedback from users. In long-term studies like remote diary studies, researchers should incentivize users with encouragement and possibly rewards to ensure retainment during this phase.


Upon completion, researchers should evaluate data from each participant and conduct exit interviews to gain holistic insights into a user’s overall experience.


With remote diary studies, researchers can evaluate data as soon as the first participant shares their response. However, researchers can synthesize data from multiple users to produce findings that will inform the possible creation and iterations of products and services.

A sign that says Understanding to represent how Remote diary studies allow researchers to understand user attitudes

Understanding users and their attitudes

Good diary studies span contexts: time, place, and experience. Time contextualizes what happened before, during, and after use. The place can account for the life phase and how they may access a product or service.

Experience describes the attitudes and motivations that come up during the use of a product or service, and the emotions usage may trigger.

Question to understand

When the goal is understanding users and their attitudes, researchers should cultivate a series of questions before running a diary study to know what sorts of findings may be used to gain clarity.

The what’s:

  • What does interaction look like?
  • What are users trying to accomplish?
  • What challenges come up during usage?
  • What do they expect when using a product?
  • What other options do they have?

The when’s:

  • When do they use a product or service?
  • When is engagement up? Weekdays? Weekends? Afternoons?
  • When or under which conditions is their usage breakage?

The where’s:

  • Where are they when they use a product or service?
  • Where are the touchpoints?

The why’s:

  • Why are they motivated to use a product or service
  • Why do they feel how they feel about a product or service
  • Why would they discontinue use
  • Why do they keep using a product or service

The how’s:

  • How do they feel about interacting with a product or service
  • How are actions, attitudes, and behaviors impacted by use
  • How do they want a product or service to behave
  • How do they use a product or service


Findings can be used on anything digital: websites, multi-channel experiences, products, and services. With diary studies, UX researchers can improve usability, increase task efficiency, and refine interaction which can directly impact users’ everyday engagement and enjoyment. These actionable insights quickly sniff out relevant personas and innovative solutions.