Why I (we) need to get better at writing case studies

  • 21 Jan 2020
  • 2-minute read


How to write a freakin' awesome UX design case study

Recruiters always push case studies as the most important part of any UX portfolio. That may be true, but I believe that case studies are so much more than that. They should be part of daily life as a designer, whether or not you're looking to switch roles.  

If we want to be boss designers  -  sorry, my scouse slang is creeping in there… Here in Liverpool, 'boss' means 'great / awesome / incredible / [insert other suitable superlative of choice]'  -  we need to master the art of the case study.

To be clear, I am by no means an expert on this! In fact, this article is designed to help me (and hopefully you) clarify and distill what makes up a good UX design case study.

Say it with me:

What's a case study?

Just in case you have no clue what I'm taking about when I say 'case study', let's take a sec to get on the same page…

A UX design case study is an explaination of your thought processes and design iterations as you work through - and hopefully solve -  a design problem.

Another way to think about it: case studies are storytelling.

Think about what that means for a minute. How rubbish would every Disney story be  -  or novel or film or fable or whatever  -  if it just introduced the characters and then immediately told you that they lived happily ever after?

But that's exactly what we're all doing when we show off our nice shiny finished designs to a client/stakeholder (or on our beautifully crafted portfolio website) without explaining how we got there and why others should go with these designs!

Here is a code block test

Instead, just like in maths, we should be 'showing our workings out'. Or, to continue the storytelling analogy, we should be inviting others to share in the characters, plot twists and unexpected challenges we encountered through a project.

Sharing case studies  -  explaining your design decisions and why you made them  -  is an essential skill that every designer needs to learn. (And every developer, in my view, but that may be for a different blog)

How to show your work

  •  pictures, 

Sometimes a design story will be dead simple: Analytics show that people don't click that link. Why?

Users say they didn't realise it was clickable because it looked the same as the text around it.

I added styling to make it look like similar-behaving links on the site 

People started clicking the link. The end. 

I know, that's a rubbish example… But the point is that some problem-solving is like an A,B,C book you give to toddlers, whereas others will read like a 17-part novella, with as many twists and turns "as a twisty-turny thing" - [Blackadder Refererence, sorry to the non-fans]. 

a window to your professional practice, by showing how you think, adapt, cooperate and ultimately solve challenges.