8 step guide to write an amazing UX Case study.

So!

Are you ready for your dream job? But wait.

Have you designed couple of case studies to show your work to the recruiter?

See, creating UX case studies for your UX design portfolio is a very strong way that can help you stand out among the crowd. Writing a UX case study is simple. However there are certain things that you need to make sure while you create it.

A UX designer often falls behind at the very first step of getting that dream job. And most of the time the reason is that their UX portfolio is unable to showcase their skills as well as the work that they have done while working on a project. (even though you know you have what it takes to be an awesome UX Designer)

Hiring managers want to be able to see your UX as well as decision making process. Furthermore, they want to see what you did while working on a project and why you did what you did. After all, this process is a huge part of user-centered design.

In short, you need to have a well articulate UX case study. And in order to do that you must tell the start-to-finish narrative behind the process.

But, how exactly do you write an articulate and effective UX case study? Well Dont worry.

In this article, you will learn:

What is a UX Portfolio

What is a UX Case Study

8 steps to write a Perfect UX case study

Storytelling as a part of writing UX Case study

10 tips to write perfect UX case study

At the end of the article, you’ll find some examples of effective UX case studies.

Lets start from basics and learn about the need of a UX Portfolio

What is a UX Portfolio?

In Simple terms, a UX Design Portfolio is a collection of your key UX design projects presented in the form of UX Case studies; as well as a brief summary about yourself.

Let’s elaborate above sentence. As a UX Designer, you are required to Solve Problems and work on Interesting Projects. You summarise your work in a presentable form — Case studies, which highlights how you approached the problem and solved it.

Be it in Personal or Professional life , the way you communicate to others to tell a story is a key skill. A Recruiter may spend a few minutes or may be seconds while evaluating your work and then they would move on to the next candidate.

Instead of those boring resumes which are all talk and no work; why not engage with the recruiters and communicate about your work in the form of a compelling story.

UX Designer must be able to communicate their work, skills and problem solving capabilities in the form of a compelling story. Your UX Design portfolio allows you to do just the same.

Lets summarize:

A UX Design Portfolio is an important Communication tool to help convey others

  • UX Design Projects you have done in the Past.
  • UX Design Projects that you are currently working on.
  • Past Experiences and abilities in UX.
  • Problem Solving Capabilities.
  • Decision Making Process. For example- user research and findings, sketches, wireframes, prototypes, User personas, user journeys and so on.

What is a UX Case study?

UX case studies are the UX Design Projects that you have worked on as a UX Designer.

It is presented in the form of a compelling visual story with text and organized images, all of this is organized in a way that the reader is easily able to scan entire page without putting much thought to it.

Furthermore, the reader should be able to roughly understand what you are trying to convey in your story. This is your chance to let the potential employers know about how did you handle the design problem.

Infact, the goal is to showcase 3 things

  • UX Design skills you used while working on the project.
  • Steps followed to solve the problem, in other words UX Design process followed.

What and how did you make the decisions while solving the Problem or simply put your ‘decision making process’.Be it from a small or a large company, a Recruiter is only interested to learn about your thinking and professional process.

UX case study can be a real potent weapon in two ways.

  • Firstly, it helps you to open the doors while applying for a Job by showcasing your work visually, which a boring resume and a cover letter can never do.
  • Secondly, When written properly a UX case study can effectively communicate and guide the reader (most importantly the recruiter) about your skills and thought process. Hence, it helps you gain those extra brownie points.

In a Nutshell, ‘A UX case study is the filling of your sandwich’ or ‘ Nuts of your Snickers Bar’ or ‘Patty of your burger’ . See you can make as many distinctions as possible however, my intent is to communicate that UX Case studies forms the core content of your UX Design Portfolio.

Ok!

Now that you have understood in detail about what a UX Portfolio and UX Case study is. It’s time to learn how to write the Perfect UX Case study.

8 steps to write a Perfect UX case study

I hope that by now you agree that UX case studies in your portfolio are your first opportunity to tell recruiters about your skills, experiences, how you approach a problem and more. Furthermore, hopefully you also agree that this information must be in the form of compelling stories.

Now, the stories have to be enticing enough so that the recruiter would want to give you a call to chat and learn more about you to see if you are really a fit for the company.

First thing first, there are three main parts to a UX case study structure which includes

  • Beginning — Title of Case study, Introduction/Overview.
  • The process — UX Process, User Research, Define Problem, Ideation Steps.
  • Conclusion — Test Solution and Iteration, Next Steps and Learning.

These three parts are further broken down to 8 steps. Furthermore, it is important that you understand that not all of these steps will apply for each UX project.

For example, let us suppose that you are working on a project that is just an extension of another design project. There is a huge possibility that User Research was already conducted by the team and now all you have to do is pick up the cues and move further. Therefore, step 3 will get omitted.

Hence, my advice is that while creating UX Case study , use these steps for reference and don’t just stick to it. Its Common sense :).

Here is the 8 step guideline to write your UX case study:

  1. Title of the Case Study
  2. Introduction/Overview
  3. UX Design Process
  4. User Research
  5. Define the Problem
  6. Ideation Steps to come up with solution
  7. Test Solution and Iteration
  8. Next Steps and Learning

Step 1- Title of the Case Study

Many a times designers tend to rush into naming their project. However, having an appropriate title helps in setting the context by capturing the attention of its reader. The big mistake that people make is not giving much thought to the project title.

Well, the ‘title of the case study’ is the first thing a recruiter is going to read when they jump into any of your case study. Infact, this is their moment to decide whether or not to carry on reading UX case study.

Let me give you an example

Poor Case study title : ‘Pet Meetup’

Can you tell me what is the problem with this title? Can you really understand what this UX Case study is about? It tells the reader absolutely nothing about what the case study is about. Moreover, It could have been a case study on visual design or app development.

However adding a little more information can help you learn what this Case study is talking about.

Good Case study title : ‘Pet Meetup — A Networking Platform for Pets to socialize and make friends.

See, by writing additional information you can really understand what UX Designer is trying to convey what this Case study is talking about. Now it tells the reader that Case study is about online platform to connect pets.

Pro Tip — Keep in mind that you must not use any technical jargons in the title. Keep it short and simple.

Step 2- Introduction/Overview

The introduction sets the stage and gives much of the necessary context readers will need to understand your project. Psychologically people also take some extra time to read this section and learn about the Case Study.

Make sure they have all the details they need.

Some key questions to answer are:

  • Your role and Whom did you work with?
  • Project Duration.
  • What is the user problem?
  • What tools and methods did you use?

Let’s discuss about each point.

Your role and Whom did you work with?

In 3–4 lines, include this information to set background about who the project is for. State if you did the project for the client , if not then you can state that it was a conceptual project or a self-practice project or simply a design challenge.

Furthermore, also state if you worked with 1 or more people like fellow UX Designers, developers etc and what your role and responsibility was. This helps the Recruiter to make an informed decision about whether you will need help on the job or hit the ground running.

Project duration

In 1 line state, define the timeline of the project. Simply state how long the project as it will help the recruiter to learn establish whether this is your most recent work.

Pro tip — Always try to put up your most recent work as an accurate reflection of your skills.

What is the user problem?

Preferably in 2–3 lines, briefly describe what is the user problem that you would be solving. Instead of scanning your entire case study to understand what user problem you came across after conducting the user research, recruiter can simply learn the key points in the beginning and this would save their time as well.

What tools and methods did you use?

Do make sure that you also mention various tools you have used in order to find insights about your target audience (e.g. user personas, empathy maps). Also, include what type of prototyping tools you used to create solutions. Furthermore, if you used any tool to conduct research with users then mention that as well.

Well, what makes the summary section a critical step in writing UX Case study is that recruiters usually do not have a lot of time to read through the entire case study. They are only looking for brief summary of the project that can give them a peephole about what the UX Case study is about.

Infact, they may go through a stack of applications in few seconds and only spend few minutes to scan over one or two projects of the portfolio of the applicant that might amuse them.

Step 3 : UX Design Process

This is the most meaty part where you show off your UX Skills. Tell the readers what UX Design Process you followed. In other words, talk about different steps you took in the project and also mention why did you take those steps.

You must ist identify different steps you took while working on the project and why you took them. And then you must also specify how those steps helped you to solve the user problem. In addition to that, it is also advised to share what are the decisions you made? Were there any trade-offs, or ideas that didn’t make the cut?

Here, it is also important to note that for one UX Designer the UX Design Process will be different from the other. In Fact, the same goes for different projects that you do.

Each and every project is different. Hence, describe the process you took as best as you can.

Typical UX Design process looks like this

Some of the things you can include are:

and so on

Also, this is also the right time to mention any collaborations you may have done as well. It is always wise to acknowledge somebody else’s contribution in your project. By Doing this you can let recruiters know that you can collaborate with other teams as well.

Step 4 :The User research

Good UX is a result of good User or UX Research. In fact, a good UX research Eliminates assumptions and guesswork by Uncovering user behaviors, needs, and motivations. In a Nutshell, Good UX research is good business.

A key goal of this section is articulating

  • who your users are ?
  • what their needs are?
  • Problems faced by user
  • What did you learn?

So, Now is the time to mention articulate how and what type of user research did you conduct. There are plenty of user research methods some are quantitative and some are qualitative in nature and you can’t use each and every method to conduct your research.

Hence, Briefly introduce the user research method you used to conduct the research and also mention why did you use it. If you conducted any competitive analysis then mention that too. Furthermore, you must mention how conducting these research influenced your design.

10 most important UX Research methods.

  1. Focus group
  2. Contextual Interview
  3. User Interview
  4. Usability Test
  5. Ethnography
  6. Card Sorting
  7. Surveys
  8. Concept Testing.
  9. A/B Testing
  10. Eye Tracking.

Step 5 : Define the problem

You already touched this point in the step 2 — Overview section. But now is the time when you will explore it in detail. As a UX Designer you have to wear multiple hats while you work on a UX Design project.

Now is the time where you have to wear the hat of a lawyer and present your case as to what makes this project important and why this project even exists.

After you have conducted your Research, you would have a plethora of insights which can be quantitative or qualitative. In the next step you have to analyse the information gathered and make connections around it so that you draw some conclusions.You must also build the narrative around the problem in a way that frames your design work as a solution.

Framing the right problem is the only way to create the right solution. Only after you have detailed information of the wants, needs, and pain-points, you can synthesize the information into an actionable problem statement.

Some of the key deliverables in the section can be

  • Qualitative/Quantitative Analysis
  • Market research results / Competitive Analysis
  • Any tools used to conduct analysis like Affinity mapping/empathy maps etc
  • Interview highlights
  • And Finally the Problem Statement

Allow me to share one example of the problem statement that i created for one of my UX Case studies by the name Helping hands.

Step 6 : Ideation Steps to come up with solution

This section is going to be the longest. Directly arriving at the solution which solved user problem doesn’t make any sense to the recruiter . Infact, recruiter would like to see different tools and techniques you used in order to arrive at the solution.

Hence, show various UX Tools/techniques you used to deliver relevant design artifacts like paper sketches and visual mockups of solution. Don’t fret upon the low fidelity of these deliverables. Basically you must Demonstrate how did you combine the Project requirements with user research insights to come up with proposed solution.

You don’t have to include every individual sketch, but maybe a photo of a range of ideas on the whiteboard.

Your key Deliverables here might include:

Please note that you don’t have to include each and every deliverable in your UX Case study. Just include key deliverables and how did they help you in creating the solution for the user problem.

Step 7 : Test Solution and Iteration

Congratulations! You have reached to the end and final part of your work. But Beware, this section is going to be the longest as well.

Here, you need to showcase your final solution and was the solution accepted by the users. Include How and what user testing you did to gauge the impact of your work.

If you are testing a Physical object then let people take it with them and encourage them to use the prototype in the real context of life. If you are testing an experience then rent a space or use your existing workspace and simulate the real situation. Testing an App, let the user interact with it and ask questions while they use it.

Take pictures and add it your case study as a proof. Now, if you’re able to show the impact of your work then it is going to make an outstanding Case study.

Furthermore, if your solution has been built and is available in the market then add analytics report like satisfaction data or any error report. Inact, mention how did your design improved the overall user experience or achieved business goals.

Step 8 : Next steps and learnings

This is the section which is often ignored by UX Designers who are just starting out. Whatever you do in life adds up to your life experiences (be it good or bad). Why not take up the opportunity and tell the readers what did you learn while working on the UX project.

Maybe you learnt a new tool, maybe this project was a part of hackathon and you won it, maybe you learnt something very unique and interesting about the Users, may be this project failed after launch,Maybe you figured out a better way to conduct user testing.

Always remember that No project is perfect or final. Whatever the case may be, tell everyone about it and what are your future plans or next design steps. Showing next steps is a great way to demonstrate that your thinking is not linear, it is iterative.

10 Tips for Writing a Better UX Case Study

Now that we have discussed and understood in detail about what is a Case study and have also explored the 8 simple steps that you must follow to write an amazing case study.

Here is the right time to discuss about some tips and tricks that you can follow to make sure that not just your case study is amazing but engaging as well.

Lets me now share some tips with you while you follow the steps to write your UX Case study. These tips are carefully crafted after creating and reviewing several case studies over past few years.

Introducing 10 tips for writing a Better Case study

Tip 1 : Define Your UX Design Process

Create a Rough structure of the steps that you would follow while you work on the user problem. Infact, if you are working in a team then it would be even better, discuss how and what steps you will take to approach and solve the problem. Furthermore, it’s okay if the process isn’t perfectly linear.

Defining and including the UX Design process in your case study would provide the reader with a clear understanding that how have you solved the user problem

Typically a UX Design process has 6 steps

  1. Understand- Understand problems and learn the business objectives
  2. Research — Conduct user research to learn about target users and their problems.
  3. Analyze- Analyze the findings from the user research.
  4. Sketch- Create Paper representation of solution.
  5. Prototype- Create UI Mockups.
  6. Test– Test the solution if it solved the user problem

Always Remember that design process is iterative in nature which helps a UX Designer to continuously improve and polish designs based on User Feedback.

Tip 2 : Draw a rough framework on paper

Before you go ahead and design your case study, visualize what information you want to include and what is it that you want to exclude from your case study.

For example, you might have conducted research with 20 participants and must have collected multiple pics/videos and must have analysed the information using multiple tools and techniques. But do you think that it is feasible to include everything in the case study.

Visual Outline of UX Case study sketched roughly on paper for reference.

Remember what we talked about in the beginning? Your case study should be easily scannable. Hence, to go about it is to create a rough sketch on paper just like you create for your paper prototypes. You can create multiple sketches and then pick the best one to refer to and then design it.

Tip 3: Check for Errors

Your UX Portfolio and the design Case study that you work upon is your gateway to get a job in the UX Design Industry.

Don’t give the opportunity to the recruiter to reject you for petty grammatical errors. Hence, double check the grammatical as well as spelling errors before you decide to press the send button.

For example: Don’t mess up on words like Hear/here, Advice/ Advise, Right /write and so on.

I understand that manually taking care of these mistakes all the time can be a bit cumbersome. Simple way to avoid the mistake is by using browser extensions like Grammarly. Google Docs and Microsoft Word have free built-in spell checkers as well.

Another simple way is to ask your friend to proofread your case study.

Tip 4 : Choose quality over quantity

We have learnt that a UX Case study is presented in the form of a compelling visual story with text and organized images, all of this is organized in a way that the reader is easily able to scan the entire page without putting much thought to it.

While including Images, only include those which are relevant. Don’t go after quantity of images just because you have to show that you did a lot of work. Because all it would do is to make your case study puffy and fluffy.

Only choose relevant images which are appropriate and have good resolution. Hence, don’t go overboard, and make it easily scannable. Also, don’t use blurry images just for the sake of it.

Tip 5 : Give due Credit wherever necessary

Solving real world Problems (unless you are Nikola Tesla ) is always a group effort . As a UX Designer you work with multiple people from multiple departments like UX Researcher, Product managers, Engineers and so on.

Unless you have specifically worked single handedly, always use the term, “we”. And mention what part of the project you took up. Because not just it tells that you are good in collaboration but also instils integrity into your character in the eyes of the recruiter.

Hence, talk about how others and you collectively contributed to the product and design process? If you conducted the research and somebody else took notes then mention it. If you created the wireframes and somebody else created UI mockups then mention it

Tip 6 : Don’t stuff your Case study

When you are working on a Design Project, you use different tools and techniques to produce deliverables like Personas, empathy maps, user journey maps, user flows etc, in order to arrive at the solution to solve user problems.

Well, Do not stuff your case study with all the deliverables. I know you did all the hard work and you want to show the recruiter that you have got skills and proficiency as well. But again remember ‘Your case study should be scannable’.

Including everything would make your case study extremely lengthy and boring. Hence, Just pick the best ones and leave others out to talk about when you secure the job interview.

Tip 7 : Tell a Story

Be it Kids or Youngsters or oldies, everyone loves stories. Storytelling plays a very important role in order to communicate and explain things in day to day world. In fact, Storytelling can play an important role while crafting your Case study as well.

Best case studies are the ones that are presented in the form of stories. Hence, identify key points / highlights in your case study that you want the reader to focus upon. And then present the information in the form of video/storyboards /doodles/sketches etc.

Make the stories as simple as possible because your reader may be too busy to really understand the details. Here in the example you can see that for one of the UX Case studies, I have included the background in the form of a visual story.

Tip 8 : Share your work and Get Feedback

In your head, you might have designed/redesigned the best application or a website. But did you get any feedback from the real masters in the UX Design Industry?

Hence, share your work with fellow designers. Infact share your work with even those who are just starting out like yourself. And you would be amazed to see the amount of constructive feedback that you can get from them.Getting criticism for your work always helps you in improving yourself.

Some of the best platforms to share your work for feedback is by Joining Facebook UX groups like UI/UX designers , UX/UI Design Projects etc- where UX Designers at all level come together as a community and help each other.

Tip 9: Document Everything from start

As soon as you start working on a Project, start documenting everything.

An idea has just come to you mind about how to approach the project? Just write it down. Had a discussion with team members on the next steps? Go ahead write it down. Discussed about an idea with team with the help of a whiteboard? Take pictures and take notes as well.

Whatever it may be record your progress along the way. Don’t wait until the project is done because you are no Robert Langdon from Dan Brown books who got a Photogenic memory. You’ll forget key elements about the project if you wait till end.

Tip 10 :Always End on a Positive note

Conclude your case study by reflecting on what are the lessons that you learnt during the design process and what is it that you accomplished?

As we discussed before, Maybe you learnt a new tool, maybe this project was a part of hackathon and you won it, maybe you learnt something very unique and interesting about the Users, may be this project failed after launch,Maybe you figured out a better way to conduct user testing. What would you have done differently if given more time on the product?

Whatever the case may be, tell everyone about it and what are your future plans or next design steps.

To Conclude

Communication is a crucial skill for a UX professional. The way you communicate with the recruiters about your work to get that job, or the way you communicate with the fellow UX Designers/product managers/colleagues while working on a UX Project, or how you communicate to the stakeholders while discussing the deliverables , and more.

All of this require UX designers to be able to articulate their ideas in a clear, crisp and concise manner. Hence, having a good written as well verbal communication skills can really help a UX Designer stand.

Just think!

If you don’t have well-written UX case studies, then how would you be able to get through the first step of getting that dream job of yours? How can recruiters and hiring managers trust that you’ll be able to communicate what you did and why you did it if they hire you?

Ultimately, How you perform in the interviews is what will likely get you hired. However, to get in the door for an interview, you need a solid UX Design portfolio.

And the quality of the writing for your case studies is going to be the most important variable in your success as a UX Professional.

Thankyou for Reading!
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I love Pandas, Food and UX Design (to be Precise) 😊 . Learn UX with me at www.yukti.io

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