What is log data analysis?

Log data typically consists of the registration of an event, e.g., logging in, entering a room, sending a message, performing a certain action, and a ‘timestamp’. The analysis of log data of a technology (website, app, etc.) enables researchers to look into the ways users have used a system by studying the logged transaction data. Log data can also consist of data on the behaviour of users in a certain context, logged by technologies such as sensors, GPS, etc. In this way, log data enable researchers to learn more about the current situation. There are two ways in which log data can be used during the contextual inquiry: system and behaviour log data. Log data can also be used for evaluation.

With system log data, researchers can check how often, in what way and when people visited a website or an app, have used a feature, or logged into the system. Behaviour log data tracks measurable behaviour, such as sleep, location or exercising, of the participants. This can include the routes of healthcare workers through a hospital, the amount of persons entering a certain room, or specific behaviours such as the frequency of use of alcohol dispensers for hand hygiene. If sensors or GPS devices are in use, the information can be logged automatically. This way, researchers gain insight into the current behaviour patterns of intended users and can consequently use this information to make sure an eHealth intervention fits the prospective users’ current patterns.

What kind of results can log data analysis generate?

The use log data on technology use and behaviour can provide researchers with insight into:

  • the frequency of an event (use of a system, behaviour)
  • who the users of an existing system are
  • how often certain features of a system or a physical area are used, or what content is accessed
  • how people access the system or website: type of device and operating system used, referral pages or links that were used and/or search words that have led people to a website
  • an idea of how users interact with the system: time spent, amount of messages sent, etc
  • how people move throughout a certain area or system; which routes they take 

For a contextual inquiry log data can be very useful, since it provides a lot of information about the current situation. In some cases, technologies are already being used and their use logged in a specific context. This existing information can be used to determine what should be accounted for when developing a new intervention in the same context, or if an existing technology should be adapted and if so, in what way [1]. Behaviour log data can be used to identify points of improvements in current behaviours, or to make sure that a new technology fits with the current situation.

References

[1] Van Gemert-Pijnen, J. E., Kelders, S. M., & Bohlmeijer, E. T. (2014). Understanding the usage of content in a mental health intervention for depression: An analysis of log data. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 16(1): e27.