Blogs as a research tool

I’m looking to hear people’s experience using blogs as a tool for design research. Blogs can be used as data collection tools, similiar to journals and diaries - has anyone used a blog as a way to capture product usage experience or feedback?

[FYI - I’m putting together a presentation for IDSA related to this.]

Interesting topic, Rob.

To answer your question, I haven’t used blogs as a diary-like device to gather user data. There is certainly not reason it can’t be done, but I see some disadvantages:

–logging on to a blog is more hassle than creating a handwritten diary. So if the audience of the blog is simply one researcher, than a diary seems easier for the user participant, even though it involves more transcription/logistics on the part of the researcher.

–if you are looking for “found data” (data created that was not specifically intended for a study), blogs might be a good source. But it involves several assumptions: the user is very motivated to keep writing to himself about a product, and he is geeky enough to do blogging. Depending on the type of product, these factors might skew the sample.

That said, I have found some interesting comments about products in blogs. A friend (a usability person, so hardly typical) mentioned on her blog how annoying it was to stop a recorded pod-cast on her i-pod, only to have to start the thing over again from the beginning, when the pod-cast might be an hour long. If that were a topic of interest, one could try various googling techniques to find any similar references from others.

–I think that people, being social animals, might want to discuss products, so bulletin boards might be another approach. Either vendor-hosted/endorsed, or yahoo group type discussions might be sources of user experience data.


I think it’s great. The web is the greatest knowledge base of all time.

It’s major benefit is its affordability and reach, so I would expect that if you were to use a blog vs. more traditional techniques, you’d take advantage of one or both of those qualities.

I have personally used “found blogs” in conducting discovery research.

Interesting thought.

Much has been learned about cultures by picking through thier trash heaps or middens. I see a blog as a similar type of artifact repository, but without the delay. You don’t get everyone’s input, only a few.

Functioning as a digital collection of though streams and imagery presents a powerfull opportunity, but tapping into a social network might yield too much information from too few people. Data mining technology has allowed for some filtering, but you would almost need a clear picture of what you were hoping to find, as opposed to gleaning a trend from so much data.

For a specific design project, a blog might serve as an ad hoc focus group, but your options for feedback are limited.

check out the second article on this page “Is consumer generated marketing a credible research tool?”

Marketing could be substituted with design in this article.


While a blog does have convenience disadvantages relative to a hand-written diary. There are potential benefits:

-“real-time” communication of information to researcher

-ability to communicate back to to the participants (e.g. follow-up questions, detailed probes as appropriate)

as a matter of fact, I’ve just started a new blog that is, in part, a research tool.

first pullover
footwear design/development blog

while not a corporate sponsored project (but i have the Ok of the company- hummel), i have been using my blog to share information, providing case studies of the footwear design process and an inside look at the industry.

As well, by posting pics of upcoming projects and things still on the drawing board, I have been able to gather public opinion and reaction from a very wide cross section of potential users without the ususal marketing study BS.

From what I have found people are much more candid responding to a post on a blog that they would be in a more formal setting, where they anticipate that there is a “right” or “wrong” answer.

for sure i dont intend to get any hard numbers, and only a certain type of people typically use the net and check out blogs, but still, research wise, i think there is lots of potential.


first pullover
footwear design/development blog

Thanks for your input. I’ve used this information in a presentation on blogs that I gave at the IDSA national conference this past Friday. The presentation can be accessed here: