How to write project case studies for your portfolio

How to talk about the problem statement and research

What is important when talking about the context of your projects?
  • State the problem in one sentence.
  • Define the audience and why that problem was important for them
  • Explain why you picked that problem
  • Think about the expected outcome: what did you want to achieve before approaching the problem?

People or business problem

You've got it if you can reduce the statement to one sentence without extra complications or explanations.

If you have a lot of explaining to do, you probably lack a simple problem statement (if true, consider dividing the feature into smaller chunks or user stories).

Remember, this problem statement should correspond with the described solution and results.

It is important to explain the problem because your presentation with problem-solving skills heavily depends on understanding a problem. If your listener doesn’t understand the problem, they will have no means to evaluate your solution and draw conclusions from your presentation.

People struggle with this question most often. Here’s a quick way to make sure you can boil down a complicated problem into one sentence: try answering a question — what would have happened to users if you hadn't implemented that thing? Transform the answer into the problem statement.

We have also witnessed a situation when a candidate wastes too much time explaining the problem. Usually, it is a bad sign because a complex explanation requires a lot of attention from a listener, and they can easily misinterpret a lengthy explanation. Even if a problem is complex by its nature, you want to make its statement as simple as possible.

What would have happened to users if you hadn't implemented that thing?

We had the following dialogue with one of our users:

— I can't explain the user problem because it was such a complex project.

— What were you doing there?

— We worked on how to link a banking card to the account and all sorts of that kind of things.

— What would have happened to users if you wouldn't implement these features?

— They would not be able to transfer money between countries.

— Can I suggest that the user's problem was that they needed a way to send money internationally?

— Yes! That's it!

Target user/addressable audience

Describe your user so that the problem you were solving would be more relatable.

Also, elaborate on why this audience was picked in the first place, how many users were there, and why you decided to focus on them.

The information about the audience would provide context to a listener.

Problem verification

People usually don’t like working on problems that are not worth solving. If you can explain the origin of a problem and why you have picked this problem to solve, that might also provide more context to a listener, and they will understand your story better.

Try answering these questions:

  • Why was it a problem to begin with?
  • How do we know this is a real problem?

Goals/success metrics

When you have a problem to solve, you sure have thought of the desired outcome before you start solving the problem. Usually, you want to improve a metric, or change the user behavior in a specific way, or reduce friction (which also could be measured and turned into a metric).

Consider thinking about these questions:

  • How would you know the problem was solved?
  • If there was only one metric (relevant to this project), what would it be and why?

Remember, you've described the problem above. Your desired outcomes should correspond to the defined problem. This would help a listener to understand your thought process and the solution.

Make it shorter

The best strategy here is to think about answers to these questions, write them down and then turn them into one short paragraph.

It is okay if you can't provide examples of all the items above, but you should be able to rationalize them and show that you understand what you are talking about and sound assertive.

The context was needed so that a listener would understand your work. Now that we've covered the context of your project let's move to the best part: show your work. Your work should be the most exciting and informative part of your story.

How to talk about solution and key design elements
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