Basic guide to UML

Basic guide to UML

Claudia Roca

May 17, 2023

May 17, 2023

May 17, 2023

Basic guide to UML
Basic guide to UML
Basic guide to UML

Have you started working in a software development team, have been told that you need to use the UML and don't know what to do? Don't worry, we are here to help you.

We know very well that in this world of software, there are a lot of terms that at first glance are indecipherable, but this does not mean that they are impossible to understand.

What is true is that you need to identify what each of them is about in order to understand them every time they are mentioned.

That’s why we’ve created a basic guide about UML so that you can know what it is, what it is for, why it is so widely used, and what you can do with it.

So, if you have any doubts about this topic, leave everything in our hands, because we will be explaining everything you need to know about the UML.

What is the UML?

Let's start by explaining what the UML is so that you understand what this term refers to.

This acronym refers to a Unified Modeling Language and it’s a type of language that allows you to create a better visualization of the projects you are working on.

Therefore, it’s used when you need to visually show the organization of a process in a structured way.

Thanks to this, it’s also a great help for developers to show their work team how the system works in a completely understandable way.

As its name indicates, since it’s a modeling language, it’s used to show the whole architecture that the software to be developed is intended to have.

Therefore, despite what you may think at first, UML is not a programming language, but it does influence the whole process of software development or program creation.

What is the UML for?

Now, having a clear conception of what UML is, it’s time to talk more in-depth about what it is used for.

This style of language is of great help for those who work with the OOP (Object Oriented) problem-solving model since UML has several object-oriented functions combined together.

Thanks to this, the UML is presented as the possibility of creating diagrams or schemes in which everything that is expected from the project can be presented in a visual way.

This is how these types of diagrams are presented to help simplify a process that can be very complex.

In addition, diagramming everything that must be done for software development, taking into account the results that can be obtained, and having the plan to know what can be done if there is any kind of failure is something that will allow you to be quite prepared.

Where can UML be used?

Although the UML started as something that was only used in the programming area, today it is also used in big companies to improve processes and model workflows.

Therefore, it’s possible to recognize two major work areas in which the UML is quite useful:

In the software development process

As we’ve been discussing throughout the article, the main area of use of the UML is software development, since at the end of the day it was created as a methodology to be used specifically in this type of work.

Thanks to the applications that can be given to the UML in this workspace, it’s possible to work in a better way in software.

By creating diagrams with UML, it’s possible to better visualize the objectives to be met and the steps to be followed to achieve them.

Likewise, its use is of great help for all employees to be aware of what needs to be done, so that they can prioritize the resources to be used at each stage and know what to do in case of any possible error.

The business management process

Now, the UML has also been used to create quite useful diagrams in terms of business management and this has been paying off in this type of workspace.

What is sought after when implementing it in large companies is that the workflow can be better defined and organized in such a way that each employee can be aware of what he/she has to accomplish.

Of course, this is a great help to streamline work processes and make everyone involved aware of what they have to do according to the established work project.

Moreover, since it is created with visual data, all employees will find it easier to understand what needs to be done and to follow the established order of the steps.

Therefore, it’s a very useful organizational methodology that you can use to your advantage if you have many employees under your responsibility.

How did the UML originate?

The UML has been in use since 1996 when The Three Amigos were in charge of developing this work methodology.

This was a positive creation for the entire software field and came with a positive reputation, as its creators had already worked on other software methodologies that became quite successful.

Therefore, since its release to the market, UML has started to be used by large and important companies who have stated that the implementation of UML within their internal processes has been of great help to them.

We are talking about companies with great reputations such as Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle.

So, yes, in short, UML is here to stay and its implementation can be of great help for any project you or your company have in mind.

The advantages of using UML in your projects

The arrival of the UML was a turning point in the creation of software and made the whole process easier to understand thanks to the use of visual resources that look very well organized.

So, as you can imagine, it’s a language style that offers a great variety of benefits for those who are going to use it.

Therefore, if you are not yet convinced about its use, here’s a list of its main advantages:

  • It allows communication lines to be kept open.

  • It helps to simplify complex processes.

  • It can be used in the development of various types of systems.

  • It’s of great help to solve architectural problems.

  • It allows to increase in a remarkable way the quality of the work in general.

  • It helps to automate software development.

  • There are several types of diagrams to be made, so they can be adapted to different types of projects.

  • It’s useful for reducing work costs and total time to market.

advantages UML

Does UML have disadvantages?

After highlighting all the positive aspects of the UML, it’s normal to have doubts about whether it also has some negative points.

As you can imagine, the answer to this question is yes, because nothing is perfect and all things have their virtues as well as their defects.

So, in order to give you a much more complete idea about the subject in general, we are going to list its disadvantages as well:

  • It’s not useful in the design of systems that are distributed.

  • It’s not a development method.

  • It’s independent of the development cycle and therefore developers can do without it.

  • When using it, it needs to be complemented with some additional data.

Types of UML diagrams

Now, another aspect that you should take into consideration is that there are several types of diagrams that can be elaborated with the UML and they vary according to the use that is going to be given to them and their objective.

Of course, it should be noted that these are divided into three main groups, and below we will tell you a little more about each of them and the way they work:

1. Structure diagrams

On the one hand, there are structure diagrams, which are used to represent all the visual elements that are part of a system.

Thanks to this, they are the most used type of diagram when it’s necessary to work with the architectural representation that software must have.

They are a type of diagram that works quite well to show the static structure of a system, as well as to divide the different levels of abstraction that it can have.

Now then, it’s necessary to emphasize that within this group there are a total of seven extra types of diagrams and these are:

  • Class diagram.

  • Component diagram.

  • Deployment diagram.

  • Object diagram.

  • Package diagram.

  • Profile diagram.

  • Composite structure diagram.

2. Behavioral diagrams

Now, the main difference between structural diagrams and behavioral diagrams is that they work to reflect processes and are not static at all.

On the contrary, they are ideal for developments that are usually full of important dynamic situations and may be constantly changing.

Therefore, it’s a schematization that may work better for other types of software developments that tend to require more changes or for projects where improvements have to be made to software that is already ready.

Again, we find another subdivision regarding this group and here we find:

  • Use case diagram.

  • Activity diagram.

  • State machine diagram.

3. Interaction diagrams

Finally, we find interaction diagrams.

Generally speaking, this is a diagram style that, in itself, is part of the large group of behavioral diagrams, but it has a series of characteristics and a further subdivision. That’s why we’d rather take it and understand it as another group.

In this case, we are dealing with that type of diagram that is very useful for working with elements that exchange information.

Therefore, it’s a style of diagram that takes care of defining the role of each of the objects involved and shows how the messages or information sent can affect the behavioral elements.

So, in this case, the following types of diagrams are subdivided:

  • Sequence diagram.

  • Communication diagram.

  • Time diagram.

Types of UML

In conclusion...

UML arrived in the software development field to change the way software development was understood and worked.

Of course, it brought new and very beneficial aspects such as the improvement in the visualization of the tasks to be accomplished and the objectives to be achieved.

At the end of the day, having an organized and well-understood scheme is always something that helps us to perform tasks in a more self-sufficient way.

Hence, this type of language has been a turning point in this field and has grown so much that, as we’ve said, it has also started to work in some others.

There’s no doubt that UML allows you to have a better visualization of software development projects and this is something that will positively influence your creation.

So, now that you are aware of what this type of language is about, you are a little more prepared to make use of it.

And you, have you already heard about UML? Have you already had the opportunity to use it? We are interested in your opinion on the subject, so feel free to use the comments section to express it.