Dissecting design effort and drawing effort in UML modeling
Paper i proceeding, 2017

One argument in the discussion about the adoption of UML in industry is the supposedly large effort it takes to do modeling. Our study explores how the creation of UML models can be understood to consist of different cognitive activities: (i) designing: thinking about the design (ideation, key-design decision making), (ii) notation expression: expressing a design in a modeling notation and (iii) layouting: the spatial organization of model elements in a diagram. We explain that these different subactivities relate to different short-term and long-term benefits of modeling. In this study we present two controlled experiments with a total of 100 subjects creating models for a small system. In these experiments we focus on software models as represented through UML class diagram. Our results show that at least 56% of the effort spent on creating a class model is actually due to designing. Notation expression is around 41% of the model creation effort and layouting is in the order of 3%. This finding suggests that a significant part of creating models is devoted to design thinking about the problem.

Modeling Effort

Software Modeling

Software Design

Empirical Software Engineering


Design Effort

Layouting Effort


Rodi Jolak

Chalmers University of Technology

Eric Umuhoza

Politecnico di Milano

Truong Ho Quang

Chalmers, Data- och informationsteknik, Software Engineering

Michel Chaudron

Chalmers University of Technology

Marco Brambilla

Politecnico di Milano

43rd Euromicro Conference on Software Engineering and Advanced Applications, SEAA 2017; Vienna; Austria; 30 August 2017 through 1 September 2017

384-391 8051376


Data- och informationsvetenskap