Here at Centralis, we’re always on the lookout for new tools that help us answer our clients’ questions about their users. One constant struggle is getting information and data from people in the actual moment that they’re doing an activity, and one way we’re accomplishing that is by using a tool called dscout.


What’s dscout?

Dscout ( is a mobile user research tool that people can use to record and share their everyday experiences with us. Participants are given “missions” where they answer a set of questions about an activity one or multiple times, depending on what the project is interested in (see the picture below for an example mission about snacking). Most entries include both text and video for a better idea of what is happening in that exact moment. Users can be recruited from dscout’s panel or from an outside source, and their responses are stored in a platform that can be tagged and categorized so that researchers can look through the data in multiple ways.



What we like about it

Users respond to dscout using an app on their phone which makes it easy to share their experiences anytime and anywhere. This means that entries can be made in real time, and do not rely on unreliable memories of an event. It also means that we can catch actions that would be hard to see in real life, such as a user’s entire flight experience. They can make entries on their phone, then upload them once they are back on the ground.

What’s great about it is that along with written answers to questions, users can also take photos and record videos to give us a window into their worlds. Instead of just a description about what they are doing, we can get a much stronger idea of what their environment is like in that exact moment.

Unlike a lot of other tools, we get to follow up with our participants! Each entry has its own chat, and if we have any questions around why a user did something, we can just ask them. Many are happy to talk more about their experiences and give more backstory around their entries.


Are there any drawbacks?

Alas, one of dscout’s positives is also a negative. Since dscout is only available to users as an app, this may not be the best if your user base is less tech-savvy and would have trouble using a phone to complete missions.

Although dscout has its own panel that you can recruit from, we prefer to recruit from outside the app to decrease sample bias and target users more precisely.

Since dscout wants all missions to be easy for participants to complete, they have limited the amount of questions per activity to 10. This means that if you have a complex research question, you might need to use multiple missions to answer it completely. Dscout is better suited for specific tasks that can tie into a bigger picture instead of the big picture itself.


How we are using it

We like using dscout when we are trying to gather basic contextual information about users’ habits and behaviors. It works best when there is an open question about what a participant does and when they do it.

One way we’ve been using the tool is pairing it with follow up in-depth user interviews for even more information. This is a best of both worlds approach: collecting data from dscout gives us a small peek into a user’s life, and the interview helps us flesh that view out into a real landscape.

Part of what makes this great is that we already know a bit about our interviewees before meeting them, which helps us focus on what’s most interesting. Since we already know a bit about them, there is less guessing about what they do, and more talking about what is important.


     Sound interesting? If you’d like to know more about how we can put dscout or other tools to use on your study, call us at 847-864-7713.