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What Is a Case Study?
When you’re performing research as part of your job or for a school assignment, you’ll probably come across case studies that help you to learn more about the topic at hand. But what is a case study and why are they helpful? Read on to learn all about case studies.
Deep Dive into a Topic
At face value, a case study is a deep dive into a topic. Case studies can be found in many fields, particularly across the social sciences and medicine. When you conduct a case study, you create a body of research based on an inquiry and related data from analysis of a group, individual or controlled research environment.
As a researcher, you can benefit from the analysis of case studies similar to inquiries you’re currently studying. Researchers often rely on case studies to answer questions that basic information and standard diagnostics cannot address.
Study a Pattern
One of the main objectives of a case study is to find a pattern that answers whatever the initial inquiry seeks to find. This might be a question about why college students are prone to certain eating habits or what mental health problems afflict house fire survivors. The researcher then collects data, either through observation or data research, and starts connecting the dots to find underlying behaviors or impacts of the sample group’s behavior.
During the study period, the researcher gathers evidence to back the observed patterns and future claims that’ll be derived from the data. Since case studies are usually presented in the professional environment, it’s not enough to simply have a theory and observational notes to back up a claim. Instead, the researcher must provide evidence to support the body of study and the resulting conclusions.
As the study progresses, the researcher develops a solid case to present to peers or a governing body. Case study presentation is important because it legitimizes the body of research and opens the findings to a broader analysis that may end up drawing a conclusion that’s more true to the data than what one or two researchers might establish. The presentation might be formal or casual, depending on the case study itself.
Once the body of research is established, it’s time to draw conclusions from the case study. As with all social sciences studies, conclusions from one researcher shouldn’t necessarily be taken as gospel, but they’re helpful for advancing the body of knowledge in a given field. For that purpose, they’re an invaluable way of gathering new material and presenting ideas that others in the field can learn from and expand upon.
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How to write the perfect web design case study to win more clients
An immersive digital portfolio is the key to landing new clients. Learn how to show off your skills with a winning web design case study.
A design portfolio without case studies is like a movie with no dialogue — visually present but lacking the substance needed to convey its full meaning.
Dialogue and case studies both communicate meaning. Without dialogue, audiences struggle to understand a film’s plot, characters, and themes, similar to how clients will struggle to understand the problem you solved, your design process, and the impact of your work without a thorough case study.
When you’re competing against other designers for a project or role, a well-written web design case study sets your portfolio apart , showing potential clients what you’ve done and what you’re capable of.
What is a case study?
A case study is an in-depth investigation into a person or group of people, a situation, event, or a product. A web design case study is a visual and textual analysis of a successful web platform, landing page , website design, or other web-based product. These types of case studies can be physical documents, but they’re often digital: PDFs, infographics, blog posts, or videos. Screenshots are an essential component, as are wireframes and mockups. But a robust web design case study also features detailed written explanations.
These visual and written elements work together to create a comprehensive assessment of the design process from start to finish, including the challenges faced, the solutions implemented, and the results achieved.
5 benefits of web design case studies
Now that we’ve touched on how case studies sell prospective clients on your work, here are a few other benefits of adding web design case studies to your portfolio website:
1. Demonstrate expertise
Case studies are a powerful marketing tool for designers to demonstrate their capabilities to potential clients or employers. A good web design case study showcases your skills and expertise in solving complex design problems.
2. Build credibility
In case studies, designers often include the name of the business, client, or project they’ve worked on, building credibility by providing real-world examples of their past work. You can even add testimonials and reviews to highlight positive feedback directly from those you’ve worked with.
3. Inspire future projects
Examining and analyzing your own work can inspire your next website build — maybe you’ll try one of the layouts that was nixed for this project or center the next design around an element you ended up loving. It also provides guidance and best practices for design projects, setting the bar for innovative design.
4. Encourage personal growth
Writing an investigation of your own design portfolio pieces after completing a project provides an excellent avenue for self-reflection. Reflecting on past projects, the struggles you’ve faced working on them, and what you’ve learned from the process will help you identify your strengths as a designer and areas of improvement to work on.
5. Improve communication
Presentations of your own work don’t just communicate the design process, decisions, and outcomes to clients. They also speak to stakeholders, including clients, team members, and management. A well-written case study illustrates a designer’s ability to effectively communicate complex design ideas and concepts, and writing it will improve your communication skills and offer insight into how effectively you work and collaborate with others.
What makes an effective web design case study?
A web design case study describes the process you took to solve a challenge with a particular web design project. A successful case study features a notable client project, a well-written narrative structure, and an engaging visual design.
Think of it as a story with an identifiable beginning, middle, and end. Throughout the story, show clients your approach to successful web design — the problem, the research you did to prepare for the project, the steps and iterations you completed throughout the process, and the final results you delivered. This narrative structure helps clients understand the project’s evolution and details your design process, making it key to an effective case study.
Case study curation and criteria
We’ve covered the basics of what a good case study looks like. But how do you determine which projects to include? If a project meets all the following criteria, it’s a good candidate for a detailed case study.
Is it relevant to the future projects you hope to explore?
If there’s a type of project you’ve completed in the past that you’d like to avoid in the future, that particular portfolio piece might not be a great option for a case study. You’re not just trying to sell yourself to clients — you’re trying to land jobs you actually want to do.
Does it have a defined initial problem?
Web design projects often arise as a result of a problem. These projects are perfect for case studies because the product design goes beyond appearance and functionality. Here are some of the issues your designs might solve:
- Poor user experience: To create a smooth, enjoyable experience for users, user experience (UX) design focuses on identifying and solving issues that cause frustration, confusion, or difficulty while using an app or a website, such as confusing navigation, misleading icons, or slow load times. Addressing these challenges lets you showcase your understanding of your target audience’s needs and demonstrates your ability to apply your creative and technical skills to solve them.
- Low search engine ranking: Redesigning a website with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind will improve its ranking in the search engine results pages, and you’ll have metrics to include in your case study to quantify the claims you’re making.
- Inconsistent branding: Brand design is a massive part of a company’s identity. A lack of alignment between the logo, colors , and other visual elements of a brand’s identity and its digital assets reflects negatively on the company, leaving customers with more questions than answers about who’s behind the brand. Good web design can bring a sense of cohesion to the company’s digital products, an achievement you can speak to in your case studies.
Does the outcome deliver measurable success?
Good design is subjective, but the best projects for case studies have data to show how successful they are. Search engine ranking is one example. You might also highlight impressive metrics for user engagement (bounce rate, time spent on the site), conversion rate (the percentage of visitors who make a purchase or fill out a form), or web traffic (the number of visitors to the website).
Is the project visually suitable for presentation?
When preparing a web design case study, consider the various formats it can be presented in, such as a video, static webpages, or interactive web content.
Selecting projects that fit your chosen presentation format is essential to showcasing your web design skills. As a web designer, it’s a given that whatever you’re presenting to potential clients needs to use thoughtful, aesthetically pleasing designs.
Design for display
There’s no single right way to present a case study. What’s most important is that your case study tells the story of the journey from an initial problem or idea to a finished product that meets the client’s needs.
A minimalist design will help you achieve this goal. But don’t confuse minimalist with boring. You can (and should) get clever with the presentation. Instead of using basic screenshots, for example, consider exhibiting your work in modern frames with immersive features. Or display screenshots of the product in its natural habitat. Webflow designer Karen Huang uses a digital screen in this user experience case study to feature a screenshot of the user interface (UI) on a smartphone screen just as users would experience it:
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How do you structure a case study?
The contents of every web design case study will vary, but they should all follow this basic structure:
1. A challenge
Start your case study with an introduction to your client and the problem your design solved. Include details about the project’s context, goals, and constraints. This section sets the stage for the rest of the case study and ensures the readers clearly understand what the project — and your solution — is all about.
2. A solution
Detail your approach to solving the challenge introduced in the previous section. Include information about your research, its methodology, and the data you gathered to develop your solution. Focus on your skills, not diagnostics — this is the place to showcase your intelligent approach, reasoning, and innovative ideas that ultimately resolve the challenge.
For this section, it’s helpful to break each key resolution into separate paragraphs and introduce images in chronological order to detail your design process. Screenshots of wireframes and strategy phases will paint a vivid picture of the project’s journey.
If you face any challenges or roadblocks while designing your solution, discussing them provides insight into your problem-solving skills and shows potential clients how you overcome difficulties. End this section with multiple pictures of the final product, and be sure to include a direct link to the project for potential clients and employers to peruse.
3. The impact
This section is where you’ll highlight metrics and data that back up the project’s success. Leverage metrics, user feedback, or whatever data is available to illustrate how your solution solved your client’s challenges and achieved the project’s goals. You can also include information about the potential longitudinal impact of your work and future opportunities for the project.
4. Key quotes
A case study is a perfect place to share client testimonials and add quotes from team members to help readers learn what the experts behind the project think about the build. Get creative but use quotes sparingly, sprinkling them throughout the case study to support the image or project stage the quote relates to.
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5 inspiring web design case studies
A good case study makes for a top calling card; check out these examples.
The reality of web design is that once you've finished a project, you hopefully move straight onto the next one. However, every site you deliver is an essential portfolio piece that demonstrates your skills and abilities, and while you'll usually want to link to your recent work on your site, it pays to do the job properly.
Rather than simply grabbing a screenshot of a landing page and a link and adding it to your online portfolio, writing up an engaging case study on your work can be a lot more worthwhile. Case studies don't need to be lengthy essays; they just need to give readers a taste of your process and provide some insight into the challenges you've faced over the course of a web build and how you solved them.
They're a great way to let potential clients know how you work, and they can also provide inspiration for other designers and developers; here are five of our favourite recent examples. Make sure you also check out our top web design tips .
- How to write engaging case studies for your portfolio
01. Museum of Science and Industry of Chicago
For a really inspiring case study, it's hard to beat DogStudio's extensive piece chronicling its work for the Museum of Science and Industry of Chicago. The museum is a vast and highly respected American institution, and you can't help but get the impression that DogStudio was punching well above its weight when it won the commission to rethink and revamp its web platform, but as this case study reveals, it carried the job off with aplomb.
Packed with revealing wireframes, imagery and animations, it's a fascinating insight into a massive and challenging build that had to cater for more than five million online visitors wanting to do everything from buy tickets through to figuring out where to park and finding information about individual exhibits.
02. National Geographic: A Bear's-Eye View of Yellowstone
Sometimes it's better to show rather than tell. For this captivating look at Yellowstone National Park as seen by four bears fitted with camera collars and GPS, Hello Monday had a wealth of footage, data and expert analysis to work with. And rather than go into dry details of how it fitted everything together, it keeps things brief in its case study , providing a short outline of the project and deliverables before moving on to an entirely visual essay that demonstrates just how much work went into creating this digital feature.
As well as a good helping of footage and screenshots showcasing what the site's all about, what we really love about this study is a section dedicated to how Hello Monday stamped its own personality on the project, breathing extra life into the feature with animation, watercolour illustrations and pencil-drawn portraits of each bear.
03. Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood
Currently doing big business at the box office, Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood is a love letter to 1960's cinema that recreates its era with Tarantino's typical attention to detail. And to create an online presence that captured the feel of 1969 Hollywood as well as the film, LA agency Watson went the extra mile to create a digital magazine that feels like it could have come off a newsstand 50 years ago.
In this case study the Watson team explain not only the thinking behind the magazine and its pitch-perfect adverts, but also how they create a physical print run of the mag that got handed out at the premiere and first-night screenings, creating a whole other social buzz as movie fans posted shots of their magazine to prove that they were there. If you're looking for ideas on how to run a strong social campaign, there's some great material here.
04. British Red Cross
Kota's case study on its recent work with the British Red Cross is a clear and concise piece that provides valuable insight on the challenges – and opportunities – of working on a campaign with an institution with clear-cut brand guidelines that need to be adhered to. In the case of the British Red Cross's OneKindThing campaign, Kota had to create a platform that stood out from previous campaigns while staying within the society's pretty epic brand guidelines.
With a handful of images and a couple of paragraphs, Kota outlines how it managed just that, and also covers some of the technical hurdles that had to be overcome to deliver the finished site. The end result was well worth the effort, as the British Red Cross testimonial at the end of the case study reveals.
05. Stonewall Forever
To mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, an event that helped bring about the Pride movement, Stink Digital partnered with The LGBT Community Center to create Stonewall Forever, an immersive digital experience that features key narratives and previously unheard stories from LGBTQ+ history.
Stink Digital's case study explains how it built a living monument to 50 years of Pride, based in Christopher Park, New York, but accessible anywhere through a website or AR app, and goes into some detail of the challenges of creating a WebGL monument that consists of over 10,000 individual shards with post-processing effects, but still runs at 60fps, even on low-end devices.
Beyond the technical challenges, though, this is an absorbing and insightful piece on a project that explores life before, during and after the Stonewall Riots.
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Jim McCauley is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler who started writing professionally way back in 1995 on PC Format magazine, and has been covering technology-related subjects ever since, whether it's hardware, software or videogames. A chance call in 2005 led to Jim taking charge of Computer Arts' website and developing an interest in the world of graphic design, and eventually led to a move over to the freshly-launched Creative Bloq in 2012. Jim now works as a freelance writer for sites including Creative Bloq, T3 and PetsRadar, specialising in design, technology, wellness and cats, while doing the occasional pantomime and street performance in Bath and designing posters for a local drama group on the side.
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5 Reasons To Include Case Studies On Your Website
Case Studies For Your Website
The world of marketing is very competitive. One way to get ahead is to use case studies on your website . They are very effective written accounts attesting to what your business can offer.
A case study simply outlines a request your business received from a customer and the steps you took to find the solution that suits their goals. It demonstrates your knowledge and skills while summarising and quantifying the achieved results. According to Hubspot , case studies are the fifth most popular type of content and are ranked as one of the top forms of media by 13% of marketers.
The 5 Advantages of Case Studies
This is the most powerful aspect of case studies. They are effective because they show to what degree you are able to help customers yield their results. This demonstrates your company’s credible. Talk is cheap!
Express Previous Successes
They allow you to highlight how your unique products and/or services have benefited your customer.
Your Unique Process
Individual descriptions for each case study give readers a glimpse of your process. These descriptions demonstrate your ability to offer advice and/or products to get results for your customers. Case studies also exhibit your skills and experience in your line of work helping to attract new customers wishing to do business with you.
Build Your Reputation
Case studies help express how you work with your customers to find the solution that suits them. This displays transparency on how you conduct business with customers. New customers will know they are going to get an excellent service and/or product(s).
If customers are ‘on the fence’ about approaching you to do business then they are not sure you can do the job. A well-written case study can remove questions and doubts potential customers may be asking before they approach you. Your case study is one of the best ways to exhibit your professional skills and experience.
Case Studies are an easy and effective way to market your skills and experience on your website . It is to your advantage to explain to your new and existing customers what it is you can do for them to get real results for their business.
Why not contact us today to discuss how case studies can benefit your business today.
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