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Studying User Engagement on a Diabetes Forum



Technical University Delft


Nikita Arora

Eliene Oei

Carolina Sanchez Villegas



With this project, we wanted to investigate the user experience research conducted within the context of Online Healthcare Communities. Our endeavor extended to a comprehensive exploration of existing literature, aiming to both deepen our understanding of the field and contribute novel insights to address gaps in the current scholarly discourse.

Literature search

Literature search

The diagram below indicates the process we used to arrive at the gap in literature we chose to address with our research design.


Amidst various chronic conditions, our focus sharpened on diabetes – a complex condition that demands sustained engagement and support. This choice was driven by the urgent need for more robust online platforms that could provide effective management tools and foster a supportive community for individuals with diabetes.

The Methodology

Our approach was twofold: First, a thorough literature review to understand existing work in this domain. Then, we embarked on a novel research methodology, analyzing various user roles within online diabetes communities. This involved a detailed pilot study, followed by an in-depth analysis of user interactions over their first year on the platform.

We carefully chose our user-group (purposeful sample) for the study to improve the reliability of the study. We also made a conscious choice of studying their engagement over a span of one-year as that seemed to be large enough to reveal patterns of engagement while being a manageable amount of data. Inclusion and exclusion criteria of the study were also decided upon and revised after getting insights from the pilot study

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Through meticulous data analysis of over 2,000 user posts, we uncovered fascinating insights into how individuals engage with online healthcare platforms. Our analysis focused on user behavior patterns, their evolution over time, and the effectiveness of different support mechanisms within these digital communities.

This project was not just about understanding healthcare communities but also about personal growth in technical skills. We ventured into the realm of Python programming for web scraping, a skill that was new to us. This technical journey was crucial for data collection and analysis, allowing us to extract and examine thousands of posts from the platform.

Data Analysis & Insights

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Our research culminated in valuable insights into user engagement within online diabetes communities. We identified specific patterns and roles, providing a deeper understanding of how these platforms can be optimized for better support and engagement. These findings not only contribute to the academic field but also offer practical implications for the design of digital health platforms.

This project was a journey of discovery, learning, and innovation. Beyond the academic and technical milestones, it helped us in understanding the complexities of online healthcare support and how different types of support may be sought by different users. The experience has profoundly shaped my perspective as a designer and researcher, pushing me to explore and apply different skills to tackle challenges in digital health.

Paper sent for the CSCW 2024 conference, awaiting review under the guidance of Prof. Lianne Simonse.

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