Sketches and Diagrams in Practice

Sebastian Baltes, Stephan Diehl

Sketches and diagrams play an important role in the daily work of software developers. In this paper, we investigate the use of sketches and diagrams in software engineering practice. To this end, we used both quantitative and qualitative methods. We present the results of an exploratory study in three companies and an online survey with 394 participants. Our participants included software developers, software architects, project managers, consultants, as well as researchers. They worked in different countries and on projects from a wide range of application areas. Most questions in the survey were related to the last sketch or diagram that the participants had created. Contrary to our expectations and previous work, the majority of sketches and diagrams contained at least some UML elements. However, most of them were informal. The most common purposes for creating sketches and diagrams were designing, explaining, and understanding, but analyzing requirements was also named often. More than half of the sketches and diagrams were created on analog media like paper or whiteboards and have been revised after creation. Most of them were used for more than a week and were archived. We found that the majority of participants related their sketches to methods, classes, or packages, but not to source code artifacts with a lower level of abstraction.

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