There was a time when designers could just upload thumbnails of their work, or added a link to a website they designed, and that was enough. Not any more. With UX Design, a manager wants to see your problem solving skills and how you applied your design process, and the best way to do that is by putting together a Case Study. I found that a few years ago I was being offered more interesting opportunities when I started presenting my work as case studies. There are 2 major benefits of having case studies in your design portfolio:
- Very easy to present them during an interview
- Having them on your portfolio is a great way to show your design skills
In my experience, the more senior a designer you become, the more likely you will be required to have at least 1 project in your portfolio that you can use as a case study.
How To Create A UX Case Study
I have put together the step-by-step process on how best to create a UX Case Study. The aim of creating a Case Study is that you can have something ready if you are ever asked to show a project you worked on, or present your design process.
The best time to write something like this down is during the process itself. If you have already finished the project, then don’t delay. The challenges you faced during the design process will be fresh in your mind.
I would recommend you keep a project journal if you can. Even if it’s just a Google document with information about the project, why certain decisions were made. I would also recommend you try to keep photos of sketches and wireframes. These days, everyone has a smartphone, so there’s no excuse for not documenting your process.
So now that you know to collect as much information about the design process, I’m going to outline how you can piece together a Case Study for a major design project. We will start by selecting the project you are going to showcase.
1. Selecting Your Project
Choose a project that you were heavily involved in. It doesn’t have to have the most beautiful end-result. What you are looking for is an interesting story to tell. Ideally this project showcases all the major steps of your design process – from research to testing.
2. Outline the Goals of the Project
This is a great way to introduce a project. You could mention why a product was redesigned, or why certain new features were to be added. Why did the business want to change designs? What metrics were you using to gauge success? What challenges did you face? Were you under the pressure of a tight deadline? Write about how you overcame those challenges – it’s a great way to show your problem-solving skills.
3. Show Your Research
This would be particularly important in any UX Design project, as research is a key element of getting to understand users needs. Write about what other apps and sites you looked at during your competitive analysis.
4. Show Sketching
Demonstrate how you took the requirements of the project, along with your user research, and how you combined these into a proposed solution. You don’t have to include every individual sketch, but maybe a photo of a range of ideas on the whiteboard.
5. Show Testing
I’m going to assume that you carried out user testing during your project. A designer who does not do user testing is really more of a graphic designer (sorry to be hard on people who don’t do testing).
Talk about the prototype that you created, and how you created it. What tools did you use? What did you learn? How did you implement what you learned? Talk about what exactly the user testing uncovered, and what you did to solve those problems.
Learn from my mistake – take photos. Take photos of the sketches up on a wall, the user testing sessions, the flows, the whiteboard sessions… use your phone and take at least 1 photo (but more is better) of each part of the process. It’s a great way to illustrate the project, but has the added benefit of being evidence that you did it.
A few years ago, I was in a meeting about a potential opportunity, when I got the distinct impression that the person asking the questions did not believe that I carried out user testing. Ever since then, I have taken it upon myself to document the main steps of a design project, with photos as evidence.
Bring It All Together
How you present your Case Study is up to you. For my own design portfolio, I created 6 case studies and presented them as separate web pages. Because I was under time pressure, I download some of the many free HTML templates just to get started.
You could also package it as a PDF. That way, whenever someone asks to see it you can just attach it to an email.
So that’s it! Those are my steps on how to create a UX Case Study. Now that you have a case study to show off your amazing design skills, you have something ready to talk about if you have an interview, or a great link to show a hiring manager.
As always, I would love to hear from you! If you have created a case study and want to share it, give me a shout on twitter or on my contact page. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.