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Five Pro UML Diagram Tips

Creating UML diagrams doesn't have to be hard 🙌

Apply the following five pro tips to elevate your UML diagram to the next level. My examples will be shown in Gliffy Diagram for Confluence, but use these tips in any diagramming tool!

UML - Composite Structure

5. Remember Your Audience 👏

One common way novice diagram creators stumble is by overdoing it. Sometimes it’s appropriate to explode a system’s structure or a behavior into granular detail; other times, keeping things simpler and representing objects and actions at a higher level is a better choice.

How to decide?

The key is to remember who will be viewing your diagram and for what purpose. Let your audience’s needs and expectations guide how in-depth your diagrams go.


4. Break It Up, Folks 🔨

If you’re diagramming an extensive system, you may be challenged to fit all the data into a single, easily viewable image. Our advice is simple: don’t.

Instead of creating a sprawling diagram that no one can take in, create a number of diagrams and connect them using Gliffy’s Hyperlink tool (and even link Jira tickets).


Just click the Hyperlink icon in the toolbar and select any text on your Canvas to activate it. You can link to another Gliffy diagram that continues your work, to internal wiki pages that list specs, or to anywhere or anything else online.


3. Less is More 📈

When you’re creating a UML diagram, you may find yourself trying to detail elements with large blocks of text. Resist this urge. Just as with presentations, including a lot of copy in your diagrams is discouraged.

It defeats the point of having a diagram — and that’s visual communication.

If you have a significant amount of text that you need to include, use the Popup Note tool in Gliffy's Icon Bar. With this you can append a block of text to a shape, but that text will only appear on mouseover, leaving your diagram to mean business.


2. Look Sharp 👔

Because UML diagrams are technical, it’s extra important that they look orderly.

  • Start by standardizing the size of your objects. If objects are varying sizes, you will be unwittingly communicating misinformation about their relative importance in the diagrammed system.
  • Line shapes up sharply with a uniform amount of space between them. Use Gliffy tools — like Drawing Guides and Snap to Grid — to help.
  • Take a look at your connectors. Do any lines cross? If possible, rearrange objects to avoid this. If it’s unavoidable, make the crossing lines contrast with each other by adjusting their style.
  • Add color to help differentiate object and event types, stages of process, or key elements of your system. Color helps to direct readers’ eyes and allows you to create visual groups.


1. Get It Together 👯

Get some help. Seriously. There is nothing more effective for turning a rough diagram into something polished than a second set of eyes. Luckily, you can invite anyone to collaborate with you on your diagrams.

Just select Share/Collaborate from the Menu Bar and enter in an email address. Any invitee with access to the internet and a computer can help turn your diagram into the perfect finished product.

Happy diagramming!




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