[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Resources: UPA 2004 Idea Markets

How can the UML approach be enhanced and integrated into the User-Centred design approach?

Activator: Halima Adebayo

Starter Questions

The session began with the following starter questions:

  1. What experience do professionals have with using UML for both modeling/analysis of system or product life cycle?
  2. To what extent can we say the UML as a modeling language, incorporates a lot of user involvement activities in its analysis and design process, with the aim of designing for usability?
  3. Why do Usability professionals believe it is a difficult task to integrate the two approaches?
  4. What are the specific characteristics or features of the UML that makes it so difficult to integrate with user-centred design?
  5. Are these difficulties directly linked to the notations used in UML for analysis and design process?
  6. Are there any similarities between the two approaches, and what are they?
  7. Are these similarities descriptive or pictorial?
  8. Which of the UML modeling artifact can be associated with a User-centred design analysis approach?
  9. Where do we go from here? (e.g. continued discussion)


Integrating both the UML approach and UCD is a big challenge. Although, the outcome of the discussions held during the session set to look promising as most usability professional agreed on one point that this integration is achievable, but it's a long way before we get there. It appeared also that there was a general feel about the UML notation as being very hard to digress, and therefore puts-off many professionals in using the methodology for the entire development life cycle.

During the session, one of the participants talked about their past experience working on a project were the company successfully created an in-house software development methodology that combined both the UCD and UML artefacts (ENABLE) to deliver their IT solution which worked out quite well. Obviously, this shows that this idea does really carry some weight and that we can hope in the very near future that this integration can become a reality.

The session also revealed that a lot of professionals are seriously thinking about this idea, but are still not quite clear of the best way forward. It was quite interesting listening to the different views of the various individuals, who sort to suggest different approach in which the methodology can be adapted to suit different audiences and needs.

Finally, majority of the participants felt that integrating both UML and UCD is heavily dependent on the support of influential management teams in the organisation. In addition Usability professional would need to actively promote the idea and possibly working towards making it into an industry standard. Most important of all, we need to continuously educate ourselves on both methods to see how best they can be brought together to benefit the organisation and the users of the methodology.

General Comments

The comments documented in this session are the comments of the participants. Apologies if any have been omitted. Some comments have been edited to bring more clarity to those reading this summary report.

  • The company I worked for incorporated UCD activities into the overall software development methodology and came up with an in-house methodology coined as ENABLE, which was used across the organisation for all development projects and if tried to market it to other clients.
  • ENABLE provided the all the artefacts that combines both the UML and UCD approach which got the buy-in from the stakeholders and the developers.
  • Programmers don't like storyboard, personas and wire frame. Our offshore staffs do find it very hard to use this type of artefacts. All they are keen to do is to code, and most of the time they don't understand use cases as well.
  • Certain types of companies like certain type of communication approach, some may have preferences for using UML notation across the board, and some would use a mixture of UML and UCD, while others will just go for UCD.
  • How do we translate User intent into UML
  • Difficulties are directly linked to UML notations; they can be very hard to understand.
  • There is a need to define some kind of UML process to integrate it with UCD
  • There are different ways of communicating design solution
  • It is very difficult to see the goals when using the UML and therefore the level of description are not fully captured
  • Information are not fully detail enough in UML
  • There are overlaps with task analysis and use cases
  • UCD uses more prototypes and UML is contextual base
  • UCD shows the doing whereas UML is good for thinking.
  • UML is good, but most usability professionals don't have enough background knowledge to use it effectively.

Generally, all the professionals who participated in the discussion demonstrated a clear understanding of UML and provided a lot of information on their respective experience in using the approach in one or more projects that they have been involved with in the past and present.



What the above methodology stands for:

  Meaning Artefacts
EN ENVISION Storyboard, personas, scenarios and wire frames where used to capture information and document problem statement)
A ARCHITECTURE Use cases, class and object model where used by developers
B BUILD A mixture of UCD/UML used with some testing framework
L Launch Implementation
E Evolve Iterative process applies
Usability Resources UPA Store UPA Chapters UPA Projects UPA Publications Conferences and Events Membership and Directories About UPA