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How to write a case study?

Case studies primarily help us expose our expertise (skills, methodologies, domain knowledge…) and portfolio of clients.

Their main audience are potential clients. Secondarily, it can give job applicants an idea of the type of work we do.

We prefer short case studies focused on telling a story (like those of MadeByMany, IDEO or Pivotal). These stories focus on the strategic achievements rather than just technical details.

Preparatory work

Before getting started on writing the actual case study, we spend time collecting the raw material;

  1. Interview project members; identify who are the key contributors on our team for this project (lead designer, lead developer, project manager…) and interview them. The hard part here is to avoid getting a simple description of the work done. You want to to hear about the interesting bits;
    • What was in place when you joined the project?
    • What was the goal?
    • Was it difficult? Why?
    • What was your strategy to get this done?
    • Did you learn anything new?
    • What resources would best illustrate the work you did (e.g. a screenshots of a dashboard, a picture of a design workshop…)?
    • Are you happy about the final product? Why?
    • What tools/methodologies/technologies did we use? Anything special about it?
    • What would you change if you had a chance to start over?
    • What would be the next steps?
  2. Define the 5 W’s; Who, What, Why, Where & When. These are crucial to help you define the story arc later on.
  3. Assets collection; gather everything you can: Wireframes, mockups, screenshots of the final product, photos of the team working… Try and storyboard the photos before you take them, and don’t hesitate recreating a scene when needed. Make sure as well that you always have at least one picture of the final product in context (e.g. actual users using an app in a store) and remember to take pictures through the project (especially some that includes the client’s teams).
  4. Metrics; it is crucial to include a few (usually 3) metrics that help communicate very quickly the project’s achievements. For example:
    • 100k users within in 2 days
    • 10% daily user growth
    • 2x revenue on launch day

Writing the case study

You now have the raw material. You can proceed in three steps;

  1. Skeleton; do not skip this step. You can start by writing the title, then an excerpt and then move on to drafting your story arc. It should properly set up the context, challenge and main activities (“highlights”) that led us to a solution.
  2. Draft; once your skeleton is in place, add flesh to it by writing actual paragraphs. Don’t worry about grammar or length, you’ll fix that later on. For now, focus on getting some actual content out there.
  3. Final copy; gradually trim down and improve the draft to a satisfactory point.