UML Diagrams: Where to Start?

After a short summer trip to GoF patterns, our readers are hopefully ready to dive into neighbouring waters of UML diagrams. Giving all our respect to practicality and importance of every single type of these diagrams for a heavyweight enterprise architecture, we’d like to share our experience in bringing UML novices into the theme.

A good starting point is a well-known class diagram. Renown it has won is so much that a class diagram is merely often—albeit incorrectly—simply called a UML diagram. With no further details. It does not matter that there is a good many of other UML diagram types. Whatever the case, there are millions of naïve practitioners all over the world who say, «We use UML diagrams,» while meaning by that, «We use class diagrams».

Doing appropriate exercises, consider harnessing class diagrams in every possible way in each of your projects. Apply them to describe your on-hand systems and model whatever you can: attribute visibility,  class templates, enumerations, exception classes, interfaces, etc. Find and show generalisations and implementations, generic associations with various multiplicities.

Next move to object («instance-of») and sequence diagrams. The former ones depict instantiation of your classes, the latter bring some certain operational semantics and are close to other behavioural diagrams, most useful of which are state-machine diagrams.

As you are done with it, consider taking a bird-eye view of your system embodied in use case diagrams showing system boundaries, internal and external workers, and stakeholders.

Now, 5 of 14 diagram types are at your entire disposal!

Finally, we’d be happy if our readers amplify these knowledge and skills by getting acquainted with the following books:

  1. Ambler, S. The Elements of UML Style (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003).
  2. Booch, G., Rumbaugh, J., Jacobson, I. The Unified Modeling Language User Guide (Addison-Wesley Professional, 2005).
  3. Fowler, M. UML Distilled: A Brief Guide to the Standard Object Modeling Language (Addison-Wesley Professional, 2003).

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