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Five key benefits of running a diary study

A Human Factors and User Experience approach for a diabetes wearable device

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Medical device development is experiencing more wearable innovation than ever before. GlobalData projects that the wearable technology market will increase from its value of $59bn in 2020 to $156bn by 2024. As such, it has never been more important to truly understand the end user and their experiences, to create devices that people will be happy to wear continuously every day.

Research objectives

In collaboration with PharmaSens, we set out to better understand the user experience of a wearable device to support people living with diabetes. We identified a diary study as the most effective and efficient exploratory research method to gather data for our key research questions:

  • How does wearing a device like this make users feel?
  • How would it impact the users day-to-day life?
  • Which non-negotiables would convince users of the benefits over the burdens of wearing such a device?
  • Can users access and interact with the device effectively?
diabetes diary study
diabetes diary study
diabetes diary study

Illustrations created by @harmonise_creative based on the diary images provided by participants

Study Design

We met Participants in person on Day 1 to learn about their diabetes journey and wearable technology experience. They applied the non-functioning prototype to their body with a CE marked adhesive before continuing with their everyday life for the next three days. Participants used a Diary app to upload multi-media entries of their experiences prior to a final in-person interview on Day 4.

Diabetes Human Factors diary study

Five Key Learnings

The outputs were invaluable and produced rich and significant insights to feed directly into the design development. Here are the key advantages of our wearable device research from using a diary-study method:

1. We built stronger relationships with our participants

We are Human believe that users should be at the heart of every design. Getting to know our participants and their experiences over an extended period, and on their own terms allowed us to build stronger rapport and trust. Participant’s felt more comfortable sharing their personal experiences and giving insights about sensitive impacts on their daily life, which were invaluable in developing design recommendations. We noticed a significant difference in the warmth, openness, and engagement of each participant by the final interview.

2. Participants were allowed to respond at their own pace

Giving participants the power to determine how and when they respond with their diary entries and removing any pressure of being in front of a research team with cameras allowed them to be thoughtful and flexible in their responses, leading to higher quality data.

3. We gathered in-the-moment data

Typical research studies involve asking participants about experiences and events of the past. The diary method allowed participants to give specific and meaningful feedback on their wearable experience in real time relative to the current context. The research team were able to follow up on these entries to explore themes and gather deep insights.

4. The study revealed emerging long-term patterns

With wearable products designed for long-term use, it is important to understand initial reactions to the device and long-term experiences. This study allowed us to balance participant’s first impressions with their developing views as they evolved over time.

5. It was cost-effective

We used Indeemo for our study, providing ethnographic features in a social media-style interface. This made it easy for participants to upload videos and images at multiple points throughout the day. We could engage with participant’s experiences without relying on the continuous presence of a researcher.

For our client, the insight-driven data generated from the study helped to validate the team’s assumptions and identify new insights to help improve the user experience:

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The data helped us generate a better understanding of our customers. It confirmed ideas and theories and identified further development priorities.

It is important to conduct such an analysis as early as possible in the development process so that the findings can influence the final product design.

 – Andrea Schütz Frikart, PharmaSens

If you are interested in running a diary study or would like more information about our services at We are Human, we would love to hear from you.

Laura McDowall
Lead Human Factors Consultant

We are Human