Case studies are an essential part of designers' and design agencies' portfolios. A case study is a well-structured visual document that showcases the work you did on a specific project.
But great case study serves a bigger purpose: It shows not only the final results but your whole journey, starting with the problem you were trying to solve, the approach that you chose, and the way you have worked to drive results.
In the case study, you lead the reader through the obstacles that you've faced and the solutions that you've created to overcome them. Simply put, you show why your design worked.
In this article, we list and explain which components are essential when you write a case study for different digital products. Before we dive into that, here are some general tips that are applicable to all types of case studies.:
Plan your structure ahead. Before starting to write a case study, you should plan its structure. Think about all the information that you want to share and organize it in sections. Then order them, so that it makes sense. You can use a different approach, but having the structure at the beginning is vital.
Explain your process step-by-step. What was your starting point? What were the obstacles on your way, and how did you connect the dots to achieve great results.
Use the power of storytelling. Some designers struggle with storytelling, but it’s one of the most valuable components of a good UX case study. Your great story deserves to be told in an engaging way, so don’t hesitate to spend some time on that.
Provide visuals that speak for themselves. It goes without saying, (but we’ll mention it anyway) that you should choose the visuals that present your work in the best light. Don't just tell them how you did it, show it.
Make it about them. A great UX Case Study is not a showcase of your design skills. It’s about how you helped clients achieve their goals. Your UX Case study should be closely tied to business outcomes.
Intro. Present the company and the product to the reader and provide some context. This section should be brief, but we always share why we were fascinated by the company in the first place.
Body part. Here are the general sections of the body part.
Here are some general sections that you can include in the body part.
The problem. Here we explain what was the challenge and what were our goals. We talk about the approach we chose for facing the challenges and what were the obstacles that we overcame.
The target audience. We briefly explain who we are building the app for. We often answer the question ‘How did the app make the customer’s life easier?’.
The process. We talk about our way of work. We give many visual examples of the work that is being done. We also show some of the best features of the app and use animation to show the user flow.
Business outcomes. Finally, we share what were the direct benefits for the company.
We summarise the content and restate the vital points. In this section, we often put testimonials from the clients summarizing their experience working with us on the project.
How would you describe a great mobile app? The common answer is that it should solve a real problem. Also, it should be easy to use with a good interface and clear navigation.
Where to start?
What's the purpose of your app, and how does it make the client's life easier? That is something that you should explain in the case study. Once again, explain the process, describe your approach, the product vision, and the steps that you took to realize it. This is a case study, showing our work for 'Anyone'. As you can see, we have pointed out the challenges, solutions, and deliverables. We have included some metrics, and we have used a tiny bit of humor.
What if you could talk to Anyone?
When building digital products you need to be constantly iterating and evolving your user experience. Sometimes your UX/UI needs a major overhaul to make your product easier to use with a better user interface and reduce friction through better user experience.
Where to start?
Before writing a redesign case study, you should answer the question of why those changes were necessary in the first place. One of the most common reasons why a redesign is necessary is bad UX. That’s reasonable, having in mind that 88% of online buyers say they wouldn’t return to a website after having a bad user experience. Other reasons for a redesign are changes in the branding of the company, issues with the website, or just a new vision about the functionalities and appearance of your website.
That's where you should start - by explaining why those changes were vital for the business.
Before and after
After figuring out why the redesign was necessary, presenting your work on the project will be easier for you. It’s vital to include great visuals or animation showing the difference between how the product used to look and how it looks now. Show the new functionalities and the way they will solve the users’ issues.
One of our favorite examples is this case study by Ueno.
This is a screenshot from Ueno's case study for Clubhouse
The last part of the case study should illustrate the difference that the redesign made. How did your work help the company achieve specific business goals? Maybe the sales went up, the customers' trust in the company increased, or the better UX led to more satisfied clients.
Where to start?
The main purpose of an e-commerce website is to sell items and present the brand in a good way. From the client's perspective, it should be also secure and easy to use.
When writing an eCommerce UX case study, you should have that context in mind. You should explain your process and design, but also show how it drives sales and makes the customer experience better.
Let’s dive a little deeper! Here are some questions that you should answer in your case study.
Operational and visual simplicity - How did you present the items and why did you choose to do it in this specific way? What were the results?
Order completion - How does the checkout page look? Is it secure and easy to use?
Great navigation - The customer journey should be clear and easy. The navigation should be intuitive and simple. How did you face these challenges?
Feedback options - When shopping online, people often need additional information. Some fashion websites encourage you to upload photos of you wearing their products and share feedback. Others have live chats and virtual assistants. What are the feedback options on your website and is it easy for the clients to share and receive feedback?
When writing the case study explain how did you overcome all those challenges. What was your approach, were there any obstacles? Present your decisions in the context of the overall goals of the company.
This is a snapshot of our case study for Koleda. Here we use animation to show how simple the checkout process is.
Koleda checkout process
Results backed up by data are very important for this type of case study. For that reason, you can mention data in your case study title, e.g.: “We designed e-commerce ... That ...X% … Z%” or later on.
What is a Design Sprint?
The design sprint is a four-day process that helps you solve critical business challenges. Its purpose is to test a prototype solution with real clients before spending time and money to create the actual product. Design sprints are highly interactive and often reveal hidden strengths or flows of the product. So how do we write a case study for a Design Sprint?
Where to start?
Every design sprint is focused on solving one particular challenge. Explaining what it is, is a good place to start. While writing the case study, you should explain the activities and processes, and how they help you to overcome that challenge and reach a solution.
As you can guess the case study won't end here. Now is the time to explain how the outcome of the design sprint benefited the product. Was the prototype accepted well, or was it a complete disaster? By the way, if it was a disaster, that's a good thing - because you know what not to do next time, and you know it in just 4 days.
Our final tip is to keep the case study short. Try using fewer words and more examples and visuals.
A while ago we conducted a two weeks design sprint with a company from the travel industry. Then we wrote a case study, explaining what the challenge, solution, and results were, and also what we’ve done during the different stages. We tried to make the case study as visual as possible.
You can find a lot of great Design Sprint case studies here.
What is a design partnership?
More and more innovative tech companies and startups prefer to hire design studios to coordinate their design efforts. That type of service is a design partnership. The studio not only becomes the digital moving power of the company, but it also takes part in strategic business meetings that define the overall direction of the business.
Where to start?
A design partnership is a long process that could last months or even years, so the first challenge in front of us is how to show months of progress in just one case study?
Divide and conquer! Divide your work into months (or even weeks) and talk about the concrete goals that you set and what results you achieved.
A great way to visualize those milestones is a slider or a timeline like that one.
The partnership case studies reflect the several months of progress in design work showing critical milestones of the partnership between the design team and client (turning points, redesigns, etc.). In a way, it’s an EPIC case study!
A great example in this category is the Pitch case study from MetaLab.
Writing a case study is easy as long as you know enough about the specific product and its purpose. Don't show your work in a vacuum but add context. Explain the challenge, your unique process, show the metrics and results. Finally, describe the overall impact that your work made on the product. Create a comprehensive case study that looks great and sounds professional and everyone will fall in love with your work.