«return to Tip of the Month Listing3 Ways to Spotlight Parts of a Case Study

By Casey Hibbard

In a detailed customer case study, how do you get certain information to stand out?

With strategic use of sidebars.

A sidebar is simply a callout box that highlights details of the story. Here are the three types of sidebars that I use most and examples of each:

Story highlights

Give skim readers the basics of your story in a sidebar summary. What’s included may vary from one business to the next. You might feature pieces such as the company name, location, industry, challenges and results.

If folks read nothing else, they can gain the most important points from this overview.

Check out the sidebar in orange on page 1 in this AWAI case study.

Lessons learned or advice

Customer case studies educate buyers not only about the benefits of a solution, but about how to approach a project or implementation for optimal success.

Many of the case studies I write include a “lessons learned” or “best practices” section with advice from the featured customer – usually toward the end. The vendor brings valuable peer-to-peer advice to current and prospective customers.

Take a look at the “Sharing Best Practices” section in this Scaled Agile case study.

Technical descriptions

Sometimes – especially in tech case studies – product explanations break the flow of the story you’re telling. Or maybe there’s another idea you want to introduce that also doesn’t quite fit within the body of the story.

Again, sidebars are a perfect spot, helping clarify without slowing down the reader.

Check out the sidebar, “Soccer in the Age of Big Data,” in this Avaya case study:

Every case study I produce includes at least one sidebar, if not more. Consider how you can make your case studies more readable or spotlight an idea using this design tactic.