Capturing the lives of the users through their daily (inter) actions

Practical Information

What is this tool?

The diary exercise gives a daily reflection by your stakeholders on interactions and feelings that are linked to your design challenge. It should be filled out daily over the course of 1 week by a number of representatives of the target group.

Why do we use it?

To understand a problem and to design a solution it is important to know in what context - in what life - this plays a role. The Diary exercise helps to surface routines and how people experience them so that your solution is grounded in true understanding of the context.

Design phase:

Design research


Pen and paper, Print, Online tool


1 week

Worksheet Print
Worksheet Digital
Worksheet French
Worksheet Arabic
Worksheet without Text
Worksheet URL

A step-by-step guide

1. Select and/or adjust a diary template to match your design question. You can ask people to reflect on their interactions and emotions in general, in that case you can use the template as we have prepared it. But you can also ask about specific activities such as learning, communicating, working etc, in that case you can fill out your own questions. 

2.Invite a group of people who are representative for your user group to fill out the diary for 1 week. Make sure these are people who are willing to fill out the diary and make sure the objective is clear to them. Optionally you can provide them with compensation for their time.

3. Take the time to introduce the diary and explain how to fill it out to ensure it is feasible for everyone to do this within their daily schedules. And make sure they are comfortable sharing the information that is asked through the diary. Give each stakeholder a copy of the diary (digital or printed).

4. Check in regularly with the users if they are filling out the diary. If its possible, you can also collect the diaries every day (this can be done through email or Whatsapp). Review the diaries to see if they are detailed in their answers by describing the situation, who they were with and where, and how they felt and why. 

5. By the end, everyone shares their diaries, if they are very personal, you can make them anonymous. But if it’s possible to also reflect them with the whole group, that will bring a lot of added value. In that case organise a short group discussion where people can share the most striking outcomes and take notes of the discussion.


  • Would you like to share some insights you got through filling out the diary?
  • Does anyone relate to this?
  • Can you share one example of the question on (xxx)?

How other organisations used this tool

How to use the outcomes of the tool?

The outcomes of the Diary activity can give you a better understanding of the context, barriers and opportunities of the people you are designing a solution for. It provides valuable insights that you can process into a Persona or into a list recommendations for the ideation phase.

Related tools

Communication map
Understanding which communication channels your users use and how they use them.
Combine the diary with the communication map to understand how people communicate throughout the day.
Social map
Understanding the social connections that influence your users
Combine the diary with the social map to capture the social fabric of the community around your uses
Photo collection
Creating a visual story from the perspective of your users to empathise with them.
Combine the diary with the Photo Collection tool to get a more visual understanding of the context of your stakeholders

Thoughts? Share with us!

We would like to know how you experience how you used our tools.
Share with us your experiences and filled out worksheets.

Email us at: toolkit@butterflyworks.org

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