How we used Confluence to run a diary study

Cara Maritz
Designing Atlassian
6 min readJun 30, 2021

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When you think of running a diary study, our guess is that Confluence isn’t the first research tool that comes to mind. Typically, Confluence is best known as a tool for knowledge management and team collaboration, and not a platform to host a diary study (a research method where we study people over time).

We wanted to better understand the experiences of our Marketplace partners, a community of talented people who build apps and integrations for the Atlassian Marketplace. Our research set out to gather data on how we might improve their success; from those who have listed their first app, through to more mature businesses.

We were set on conducting a diary study to understand our partners’ experiences over time but struggled to find a tool that met both parties’ security needs as well as giving sufficient flexibility in capturing content. Of course, the answer was in front of us — Confluence.

This is how we used Confluence to run a diary study and the value it brought to our research.

What we set out to learn & understand 👩‍🔬

First, we sought to get an in-depth perspective into the end-to-end journeys of our partners. This meant seeking out a means to discover and capture in-context experiences and touchpoints with the Atlassian developer platform, rather than solely relying on retrospective data. The top priority was to get an accurate understanding of key aspects of their experiences.

Second, we wanted to design a diary study that not only worked for us but worked well for our participants. This meant designing a sustainable piece of research that could mitigate burnout and drive connection. Diary studies are typically an incredibly intensive process in time and effort, and Confluence is a familiar tool (for this population), which helped reduce some of that intensity.

Secure, flexible, and made for collaboration ✍️

We looked at many different tooling options to run this research. We had a wishlist of functionality and requirements, and some reluctance to procure a new tool. After considering different options, we decided to launch our study in Confluence and discovered some great benefits along the way.

Sensitive information can be hosted and stored securely
Respectful and secure handling of customer data is a top priority for our team. By choosing Confluence to host our research, we were confident that the content participants shared with our team remained secure during, and after the study.

Confluence, a well-known tool and easy to use
We discovered that our participants were quick to orient themselves and contribute content. By inviting our participants to join us in an already familiar platform, we eliminated the burden of potentially learning a new tool.

Flexibility to capture and share limitless content in a structured format
Unlike other tools, Confluence supports structured but flexible content sharing. We invited our participants to add any types of content such as photos, videos (Looms and Zoom recordings) or text into their weekly diary entries. This flexibility helped our participants share their stories (and emojis) in ways most familiar to them. By having this open channel of communication, our participants could freely express themselves. This allowed us to really get to know them, rather than forcing unnecessary boundaries or formalities.

Optimised for async collaboration
Our Marketplace Partners are based all over the world, so Confluence’s asynchronous collaboration was perfect. By choosing a tool optimized for async collaboration, we unlocked opportunities to probe, discuss and dig a little deeper into key areas of interest or experiences.

How we set up our diary study for success ✨

Retention and drop-out rates are one of the first concerns when conducting a diary study. We wanted to make sure we were flexible to adapt to the busy lives of our participants and to mitigate potential burnout. After scoping out possible study designs, we landed on these key decisions:

1. Set up a start and end of study interview to build rapport and establish mutual understanding
We found meeting face-to-face (or Zoom-to Zoom) with our participants extremely rewarding. Meeting for an hour at the commencement of the study, gave us an ideal opportunity to learn more about our Partners and share further details on what they could expect across the 10 weeks of the study. We also bookended our study with 1:1 remote interviews to ensure we tied up any loose threads. Our research timeline looked like this:

2. Customize the Home page
When creating a Space in Confluence, a Home page is automatically generated. For our study, we used the Home page to feature onboarding tips and study details — see the image below. The Home page is the first screen users see when they join the workspace, so it’s best to share relevant and essential study information here. We also put a face to the names of researchers running the study. Based on existing behavioural research, asynchronous communication can increase the psychological distance between yourself and your participants, which can impede people’s willingness to share. Sharing details on who participants will be speaking aids in minimising this distance.

3. Using ‘Personal Spaces’ as a personal digital diary
Adding new users/accounts to Confluence Cloud generates ‘Personal Spaces’ for each new user. We used this feature to connect with our participants each week, resulting in mutual AMA sessions and deep dives into their diary entries, pains, and what worked well, each week. This also allowed us to return to specific entries of interest and learn more about these experiences.

4. For sustained engagement, we opted for the ‘snippet’ approach
The snippet method is a great fit for a platform like Confluence, this approach involves asking participants to capture relevant content (still images or video) throughout their day or week and returning to reflect on the content at a later point when they have time. This approach allowed our participants to decide when they would contribute and what kind of engagement suited them.

Outputs and learnings ⏩

Overall, we met our research goals by joining our participants on each step of their journey. We learned that one of the most challenging phases for our Marketplace Partners is the App listing and review process. Through regular check-ins and opportunities to share in-depth content, we were able to understand the depth and scope of the issues and formulated a process to improve them.

Confluence was a key element in aiding the development of this understanding due to its flexibility and secure content sharing. Most importantly, by using Confluence we could adapt to the schedules of a global network of Marketplace Partners, connecting, collaborating and sharing stories throughout their busy days.

How to get started in Confluence for your own research 🎉

Step One: Create your Confluence Cloud instance
Visit and select Get it Free.

Step Two: Set your permissions
Share Admin permissions with a teammate to help to manage the instance. Ensure anonymous access is disabled to stop unwelcome visitors.

Step Three: Set up an instance for your research
Create a dedicated Space for your research. Populate the homepage with study details for your participants.

Step Four: Invite the participants
Use the automatically generated Personal Space. Add new pages with questions and activities (don’t forget to @ the participants!)

This blog would not be complete without a special thank you to our Atlassian Marketplace Partners for their participation in this research 🙏

Thank you Michael Vogelpoel for the helpful review and suggestions.

Author: Cara Maritz, UX Researcher at Atlassian.
Contributor: Caitlin McCurrie, Lead UX Researcher at Atlassian.

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Cara Maritz
Designing Atlassian

UX Researcher at Atlassian. Learning and sharing knowledge about the Atlassian Ecosystem & Marketplace.