You already know that throwing a substantial block of plain text up on a web page is going to get you exactly zero readers. Now consider that an average case study can be 500 to 1,500 words or even longer.
No matter how strong the writing or how impressive the storytelling, you need the deft hand of a designer to grab and keep the reader’s attention.
Good case study design does more than pretty up a page
Done well, case study design will:
- increase readability by providing breaks for the eyes and mind
- boost credibility and trustworthiness
- break complex topics into digestible morsels
- highlight key statistics, facts or quotes
- use visuals to explain processes or impacts
Carefully applied color, headers, subheads, bolded text and bulleted lists should be part of the design of every case study. Here are a few other case study design elements to consider—you should include at least some of these:
1. Insightful callouts
Highlight your amazing testimonials. You’re sharing a customer’s story—what’s more effective than letting them tell it themselves? A great quote is a credible third-party review of what you do. Showcase it!
Select the best sound bites from your interview to use as callouts or pull quotes. They should be informative and substantial, but not more than a sentence or two. Don’t be afraid to splice together two fragments into one killer quote (but make sure you run the final version by the interviewee). Include attribution with all quotes.
You can also use key statistics or benefits for callouts. Treat them as you would a great quote: use different colors, fonts and type sizes to make the callout stand out from the body text.
Depending on the length of your case study, you can use a few callouts with consistent design to draw attention to key points.
2. Pro headshots
Include a headshot with your testimonials. It will deliver instant trustworthiness and credibility. Unfortunately, testimonials are invented fairly regularly by less scrupulous companies, so adding your customer’s face, name, job title and company to the testimonial helps it carry more weight.
Readers relate to people. You’ve worked to humanize the customer experience by telling a relatable, candid story in your case study. Hammer it home with a quality headshot. Don’t accept a selfie or an out-of-date photograph. Headshots must be on-brand, personable, professional and do both you and your customer justice.
3. Workplace photos
If possible or relevant, include other photos from the customer’s workplace. This can help the reader understand the type of industry, work processes and standards of the customer. Vast libraries of stock photos are available if you’re stuck—but your own pictures will be better and tell the story more honestly.
4. Data illustrations
Some readers are visual. A clear data illustration with minimal text is more effective than a paragraph full of numbers. Experiment with the best way to showcase the statistics or data you have. Examples include:
- pie chart
5. Informative infographics
Infographics visually break down a complex process into simple steps, or help guide the reader through the highlights of your case study.
Some case studies may lend themselves to infographics more than others. If you think this may be the case, talk to an experienced designer. Translating words into a compelling graphic is an art.
Keep the focus on the story
Remember, the text is still the main feature of your case study. Case study design elements should be used to pull the reader through the story, highlight key points and make for an easier reading experience. Don’t let the case study design elements overwhelm the reader.