How to write a UX case study
Case studies are an essential part of any UX designer’s portfolio. They fill up the main part of your portfolio and are a must-have when you want to get hired in UX. But how to write a UX case study? That’s what you’ll learn in this article.
Here’s everything you need to know about UX case studies. We’ll discuss everything from structure to content and the number of case studies you need in your portfolio. I’ll also share my UX case study template below.
Table of Contents
What is a UX case study?
Let’s start at the beginning. What is a UX case study exactly? If you bring it down to the core, a case study examines your design process around a particular project or job.
In the case of a UX designer, this will most likely be a project you’ve completed previously at a company or client.
Your case study can be an individual document or be part of a more extensive document like a pitch, proposal, or UX portfolio. The goal of a case study is always to show your process, skill, and, most importantly, your impact as a designer.
We’ve created a video on The Designer’s Toolbox YouTube channel that can help you write better UX case studies. It compares the case studies you’re taught at a UX bootcamp with actual real-world case studies and teaches you how to get started. Take a look here.
How to structure a UX case study
A good UX case study showing your skills, process, and impact as a UX designer requires a clear structure.
Did you know recruiters and hiring managers only take a very short time to look at your work? Yet another reason why a solid UX case study structure is essential.
It gives your readers something to hold on to. Good case studies make your work scannable and easy to digest.
If you look at it like that, creating a thorough case study that is easy to read is the perfect job for any UX designer. I mean, isn’t that what we do?
Structure your case study using the ‘STAR’ method. STAR stands for situation, tasks, activities, and results.
If you follow this method, your case studies will be a breeze to go through. Let’s take a closer look at this case study structure.
First up is the situation. This part of your case study is also known as your project’s challenge or problem statement.
In this part of the UX case study, you mention the business goal your client wants to achieve or a problem your users keep running into.
You’re hired or assigned to work on that business goal or problem. State your role and responsibilities in this part of the case study.
Second, we have your tasks. What tasks did you do to address the challenges mentioned in the first section of the UX case study? This is the place to name them.
As a UX designer, these could be anything from conducting user research to delivering a state-of-the-art visual design concept. Make sure you mention skills and tools relevant to your role and the role you’re looking for.
Activities show what you have done to complete the tasks mentioned above. Tasks are abstract. Activities are detailed and together make up a bigger task.
If we stick to the user research example, activities might include recruiting participants, conducting user interviews, and presenting your findings to stakeholders.
Again, mention relevant activities here by connecting this and the previous section together.
In this final section of your UX case study, you link your results to the challenges mentioned at the beginning of your case study.
What was the original problem or goal, and what was the result of your work? Make this as specific as possible. Then, focus on the impact you have made as a UX designer.
If the challenge was to increase a low conversion rate, mention the new and improved rate that was only possible by your work. It is okay to exaggerate a bit here, as long as you don’t lie.
If you put this all together, you will get a nice case study of about five to eight paragraphs. That’s one or two paragraphs for each of the sections mentioned above.
Once this is all in place, it is time to look at best practices to enhance your UX case studies. Here’s a list.
Headers for your case study
You do not have to name the title of every paragraph after the ‘STAR’ method.
Instead, you can use headers that fit your personal style or branding. Or even better, do not name your paragraphs at all. Go for a fluent story. That is better and more fun to read.
I recommend adding relevant pictures to specific paragraphs to make an even stronger UX case study. These could be images of your progress, photos of workshops, or pixel-perfect visual design mockups.
There’s no good or bad in this case as long as the pictures are relevant to your case study.
Highlighting your UX skills
You can add extra paragraphs to zoom in on a particular skill you want to highlight.
Let’s say you mention design thinking as a task you worked on for a particular case study. You’re super proud of the workshops you’ve facilitated and are eager to do more workshops in the future.
This is an excellent example of a skill to which you can dedicate a paragraph or two. You can also add images here, as I mentioned before.
UX case study resources
Let’s be honest for a moment. Even when using all the information above, creating a UX case study is much work.
This gets even worse when you want to make multiple case studies showcasing projects you completed a while ago.
Here’s a list of recommended resources to help you write better UX case studies.
UX case study template
Learn how to create a UX case study within 24 hours.
- How to make your case study stand out.
- Step-by-step guide to write your case study.
- Includes examples.
That’s the theory behind case studies in the field of UX. If you follow the structure and best practices outlined in this article, you will get a UX case study example that looks like this.
A UX case study example
The UX Bank has a mortgage calculation tool that does not reach the targets set by the bank. Furthermore, there are delays in customer service due to the increase in demand.
As an entry-level designer, I have designed a new version of the mortgage tool. In addition, I completed a design thinking project with the calculation tool at its center to determine why the bank didn’t meet the set targets.
After completing my user interviews, I discovered that users didn’t like the level of detail found on the results page of the tool. They found the results to be unclear. Users flooded customer service with questions about the unclear results.
Finally, I’ve designed a high-fidelity prototype to validate a new version of the mortgage calculation tool. After testing and refining the prototype, I did a handoff for development.
Since the release of the new calculation tool, users have been much happier with the test.
As a result, the UX Bank has seen an increase in mortgage requests of 8%. The customer service delays are decreasing as well.
This is an excellent example of a UX case study. It is short, to the point, and focuses on the impact you made as a designer.
All you have to do from here is add your visuals, like the featured image and a stunning mockup.
Once that’s done, it is time to add your case study to your portfolio. I recommend hosting it on your website, but Dribbble or Behance is also fine.
And finally, some frequently asked questions on the topic of UX case studies. I will answer as much as possible based on my UX design experience.
How many case studies should I put in my UX portfolio?
Add at least one excellent case study to your UX portfolio that showcases a relevant project.
I’m not going to mention a specific number. Many other UX designers will say you need three or five case studies, for example. However, it’ll hurt the quality of your work when you force yourself to hit that number.
Instead, show what you want to do more of. Do you want to create stunning UI design mockups? Pick a case study that shows just that!
Is it okay to only have student case studies in my portfolio?
Yes, it is perfectly fine to have case studies you made in school or during a bootcamp in your portfolio.
Your portfolio would be stronger if you had some real-life case studies as well, but we all have to start somewhere.
To make that happen, you need to work to get some work experience. Luckily, there are many ways to get hired in UX without experience.
How do I present my UX case study?
For most companies, you have to present your case studies during the second interview. That’s scary! Make sure you have the basics right. In doing so, you will most likely beat a few of your competitors already.
The biggest tip I can give you is to keep it short first. That way, you can focus more on questions and having a good discussion.
Where can I share my case study?
You can also share your case study on Medium and LinkedIn. Both are excellent platforms to share your work and build a professional network.
I can’t stress enough how critical case studies are for a UX designer. You write your case studies by sharing the business challenge, what you did to tackle that challenge, and how your work has impacted your client.
Case studies are the foundation of your UX portfolio. You need that portfolio to get a job in UX. You can read about your portfolio next.