Primary Reference Source
Kirakowski, J and Corbett, M (1990) Effective Methodology for the Study
of HCI. North Holland Elsevier.
Diary methods require the informants to record activities they are engaged
in throughout a normal day. The structure of diaries varies from unstructured
or open ended where the informant writes in with his own words, to highly
structured tick-box questionnaires. The technology involved ranges from
paper and pencil based techniques, to the use of tape and video diaries,
to computerised on-line questionnaires administered by computer. Providing
users with a portable cassette voice recorder and asking them to ‘make
a note’ of their experiences with whatever is the focus of the diary study
is a useful way of capturing the users’ interest and to get on-the-spot
notations. The data usually has to be content analysed. Kirakowski &
Corbett give an account of this process.
Typical Application Areas
They can be used during the initial phases of design, to provide a picture
of the activities the user group engage in. The frequency, duration and
difficulty of performing tasks can be recorded in order to establish an
understanding of the users difficulties and the context wherein a technical
aid will be introduced. They can also be used to provide design feedback,
or evaluate products.
The methods demands some effort from the users. If structured methods are
used, as with questionnaires, it can be difficult to interpret results,
due to lack of context information. A lot of data can be collected, this
may lead to a lot of work to analyse the information. The method relies
on the informants ability and motivation for filling in the information.
Provides information that may be forgotten in an interview, or by means
of other methods. Involves the users in an active manner. Provides an understanding
of the activities the users engage in. The method is useful to obtain real
life measures about the activities and technology the users are surrounded
Costs of Use
Relatively low cost. May take some time to analyse results, especially
when an informal approach is used. A structured diary or computer based
inquiry will demand some resources for preparation.
Suitability for Telematics Engineering
Provides vital information about the users, tasks and environment in an
efficient and fluid way.