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  • Writer's pictureAriana Shives

How to write a UX case study

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

A good case study tells the story behind a design — the research, decisions, and process that went into its creation.



image depicts a white desktop with various UX-related items on it, including a desktop computer with a keyboard, paper wire framing supplies, and an open laptop.
Photo by UX Store on Unsplash

What is a UX case study?

A UX case study is a storytelling tool designed to communicate the decisions and processes behind designs. It allows a designer to showcase their work in a way that highlights their skills and processes. Case studies can be read by anyone, but are generally aimed at potential employers.

Case studies are formatted and presented much like a long-form article: they are preceded by an informal information section and contain lots of images and diagrams.

Anatomy of a UX case study

Title

Your case study should have a catchy, descriptive name that provides some context and draws readers in.

Bad: “Nick’s Restaurant”

Okay: “Nick’s Restaurant UX Case Study”

Good: “Nick’s — An App with Menu and Ordering Capabilities for Patrons of a Fast Casual Restaurant”

A good title formula: [Product Name] + [What It Is] + [Who It’s For]. If a company wants to hire you to work on their mobile app, it’s helpful for their team to be able to take a look at your case studies and determine right away whether there’s a relevant one for them to read.

Intro and Overview

The intro and overview section is a bit less formal and often written in bullet points or single sentences, rather than a paragraph. You can get creative with the formatting of your overview section, like in this case study, or this one.

This section should include:

  • Problem statement — what problem were you trying to solve?

  • Goals — what were the intended outcomes of this project?

  • Target audience — who is your end user?

  • Scope and Constraints— a brief outline of the project specs, including any constraints like budget, time, etc.

  • Team members — roles and responsibilities, including yours!

  • Introduction — a quick intro to the project, much like the abstract in a scientific paper.


Databox case study by FireArt.

Design Process

The design process contains the meat and potatoes of your case study and outlines your research, methods, frameworks, and design decisions.

Identify each of the steps you took to solve your problem. For each one, write a paragraph explaining:

  1. What did you do? What research method did you use or design decision did you make?

  2. Why did you do it? What was the goal?

  3. What was the result? Did it work the way you thought it would? What value did it contribute to the outcome of your project?

  4. What did you learn? Would you do it differently next time? If so, how and why?

Bad: We did user research.

Meh: We completed a user research study of 20 participants to see if they liked our app.

Good: We completed an unmoderated usability study of 20 participants to gain an understanding of our app’s user experience. We hoped to identify pain points and bugs in order to improve our final version. Upon completion of the study, we decided to change the screens in our checkout process to make them more clear.


Jambb case study by Finna Wang.

Things to include in your case studies:

  • User flows and/or journey maps

  • User research

  • Wireframes

  • Mock-ups

  • Prototypes

  • User testing

  • Key design aspects (UI, accessibility, onboarding)

  • UX writing

Note: these are dependent on the scope of your project. If your team was not responsible for the UX writing that went into the site, don’t include it in your case study.

Outcomes and Deliverables

This is where you get to show off your final designs. Include high-quality mock-ups of the key pieces of your final designs and links to your final app or site if possible.

Use this section to conclude your case study by discussing your outcomes. Did you accomplish the goals set out in the introduction? If not, why? What did you learn from this project and how will you use it to inform future ones? What went wrong? What went right?

This is a great time to share any quantitative results from your user testing as well — did your new landing page increase conversions? Was your new onboarding flow more efficient than the previous one?


Mockups from Simon Pan’s Uber case study.

Use this section to add mock-ups that show your site on appropriate devices. Some great (free!) tools you can use to create mock-ups include:

  • Canva

  • Figma — use Figma Community to find templates

  • SmartMockups


Create your case study

  1. Choose a platform. You can host your case studies anywhere that allows you to create a webpage with text and images, but I recommend hosting them here on Medium or directly on your portfolio website.

  2. Outline your case study. Outline the things you want to include in the sections listed above. A quick outline will help you structure your case study so it makes sense and will ensure that you get everything included.

  3. Fill in the details. Go through your outline and begin to write out the relevant information for each section. Grab images, mock-ups, and other material where necessary.

  4. Write headlines. This step comes from Sarah Doody, UX expert and founder of Career Strategy Lab. Her article on writing UX case studies includes a tip to write headlines for the sections of your case study as if you were tweeting about them. Keep headlines catchy, punchy, and under 140 characters and use them to make readers interested in the information you’re sharing.

  5. Polish and publish. Once you’ve finished writing and creating your content, pull it all together, spellcheck twice, and get ready to publish it!

Bonus: Create mini case studies for your portfolio

Traditional case studies are great and serve many purposes, but many times the people looking through your portfolio (busy recruiters and design managers) want quick summations of your work.

Create a mini case study by taking the headlines you wrote and including a couple of the most salient details for each one. Pull all of this together on a single page where someone can get a quick, easy overview of what you did, and include a link to the full case study in case they want more details. One way to accomplish this is by hosting your mini case studies on your website and including links to full case studies hosted on Medium.

Bonus: Great case study examples

These are some of my favorite examples, ranging from simple to very creative.

So… what now?

Next up, start thinking about some of your best work and get ready to practice putting it into a case study. If you haven’t completed any projects yet — no worries! You can start thinking about the things you’ll need to include in your first case study as you move through your first project.

Check out my ebook How to Become a UX Designer for a more in-depth look at creating your portfolio and more tips and information on getting your first UX job!

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