Writing Effective Use Case

January 27, 2016
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Use case analysis is a widely used technique used to identify the business goals to be accomplished by a software system. Use case, an important concept in use case analysis, represents a unique objective that the business stakeholders want to achieve. It can be in text form, or be visualized in a use case diagram, like this:

use case diagram example

The beauty of use case is that it aims at describing a system from external usage viewpoint, rather than from developer's perspective. Therefore, writing use case can be the deciding factor for building a system that meets users' needs. In this tutorial, you will learn how to write effective use case.

What is a Use Case?


Use cases are business goals. They are named with a short verb or verb + noun phrase. You should use concrete and specific verbs and nouns to avoid ambiguity. Verbs like 'do' and 'perform' and nouns like 'data' and 'information' should be avoided whenever possible.

Theoretically, the end users will perform actions that are supported by the system to achieve their ultimate goals, as identified in use case analysis. Take online hotel reservation system as an example. "Make reservation" is undoubtedly a business goal, thus a use case. The function to look-up a hotel on an online map can also be what a user needs. However, it is not a use case because the action itself does not yield any observable goal.

Some analysts try to make use of use case to describe requirements (e.g. support multiple look & feel), deployment arrangement (e.g. ready server) and even implementation level (internal) requirements (e.g. construct database). All these are wrong. and may lead to bad or even wrong system being built.

What Makes a Use Case "Effective"?

A use case is typically a simple title that describe a user goal, such as "Make Reservation" in hotel reservation system. Use case analysis is intended to provide an overview of business goals without knowing the system requirements in detail. In order to identify real system requirements, you can make use of user story. A user story is a brief statement that describe a particular user problem or concern. While a use case represents a goal, user stories can be created under use cases to record and manage the problems associated with different business goals. The separation of use cases and user stories provide you with a clear division of what the business stakeholders want, what the front-line staskeholders need and what the system has to support.

In Visual Paradigm, there are some other features that helps you leverage the power of use case. You can create a use case grid to list the use cases in model, and to model the other aspects of use case by elaborating use case with sub-diagram of another diagram type (e.g. use a sub-requirement diagram to model the additional functional and performance requirements).

sub diagram

Use Case Diagram

A use case diagram is a kind of Unified Modeling Language (UML) diagram defined by Object Management Group (OMG), created for use case analysis. Use case diagram provides a graphical overview of goals (represented by use cases) users (represented by actors) want to achieve by using the system (represented by system boundary but is often opt out in diagram). Use cases in a use case diagram can be organized and arranged according to their relevance, level of abstraction and impacts to users. They can be connected to show their dependency, inclusion and extension relationships. The main purpose of modeling use case with use case diagram is to establish a solid foundation of the system by identifying what the users want. Base on the result of analysis you can move forward to study how to fulfill those user needs.

use case diagram example

A use case diagram is mainly formed by actors, use cases and associations (connectors).

An actor is any person or external system that interacts with the system in achieving a user goal. There are two kinds of actor - primary and secondary. Primary actor is anyone or thing that interacts with the system to gain direct benefit. Secondary actor is anyone or thing that involve in achieving a use case yet, they do not gain direct benefit from the system. Very often, secondary actor is someone who assist the primary actor to achieve a use case.

Drawing Use Case Diagram in Visual Paradigm

In this tutorial, we will make use of an online hotel reservation system as an example to demonstrate how to write effective use case with Visual Paradigm. Let's begin by drawing a use case diagram. We will carry on with writing effective use case with the resulting design.

  1. Open UeXceler in Visual Paradigm by selecting UeXceler > UeXceler from the application toolbar.
  2. Open the Use Case Diagram page.
    Open use case diagram
  3. Select Actor in the diagram toolbar. Click on the diagram to create an actor and name it Customer.
  4. A customer can make a hotel reservation, which is a use case of the system. Let's create a use case from the Customer actor. Move the mouse pointer over the Customer actor. Press on the Resource Catalog icon at top right and drag it out.
    create use case
  5. Select Association -> Use Case in Resource Catalog.
    select use case in resource catalog
  6. Release the mouse button to create the use case. Name it Make Reservation. The association between actor and use case indicates that the actor will interact with the system to achieve the use case associated.
  7. Complete the design to make it look like this:
    Use case diagram example

Write User Stories

While use case is the business goal of an IT system to be developed, user story represents a user problem or concern captured by the analyst and front-line stakeholders during the detailed discussion of a use case. No doubt that, all captured user stories aim to fulfill the business goal of the IT system.

  1. Right click on Make Reservation and select Open Use Case Details... from the popup menu.
    open use case details
  2. Open the User Stories page.
    Open user story tab
  3. Create user stories by double clicking the empty region inside the tab. Create three stories: Search hotel, Make a hotel reservation and Process rush reservation.
    User stories created

Capture User Story Scenario

A user story tells you what the end user want to achieve by first identifying their problem. Once you have found out the problems, you can start looking for a solution. The user story scenario tool enables you to outline the interactions between actor and system in solving a problem as described under a user story. You can use this tool to find out the desired system behavior with user.

User story scenario constitutes a high level user-and-system conversation, which aims to find out the intents or actions of actor and how system react to those actor inputs. You should be concise when deciding what to include in the events flow. Do not include how system process user's input internally, or even implementation detail like an insertion of database record. This is wrong as user story, in fact use case analysis, is aimed to identify requirements from end user's point of view. Implementation details can, however, be modeled with sequence diagram in form of sub-diagram of user story.

Let's write the scenario of a user story.

  1. Double click on the user story Search hotel to open it.
    Open user story
  2. Open the Scenario tab. The scenario editor is formed by rows, known as steps. Each step represent an actor input or system response.
    Open user story scenario tab
  3. Click on the first step and enter the first user input: Enter city, arrival, departure, room type and click Search.
    Entered first step
  4. Use the format tools available under the UeXceler toolbar to set the word Search in blue and bold, for emphasis.
    Format scenario step text
  5. Press Enter to complete this step. Step 2 will be created for you.
  6. Step 2 is about how the system react to user's input. You may start by writing "System...", but there is a better way to represent system response. Select UeXceler > Add Control > System Response from the toolbar to add a step of system response.
    Add system response to scenario
  7. You can now enter the content of step 2: Display a list of hotels.
    Entering system response text
  8. Add the following steps:
    User input System response
    Click on a hotel's logo to read its detail  
      Display hotel details
    Scenario steps entered

Something More - Creating Scenario-Based Wireframe

Wireframe is a sketch of user interface. It helps you represent the screen and screen flow of the system to be developed, early in requirements gathering. You can associate wireframes to steps in scenario. This section will show you how to make use of the wireframe tool to add a wireframe to a step.

  1. Click on the first step.
    Select first step
  2. Move your mouse pointer to the green triangle on the right hand side. Then click on Define Wireframe.
    Define wireframe
  3. You see the gray pane appear on the right hand side? Click on it to select a kind of wireframe to create.
    Create wireframe
  4. In the popup window, select Website.
    Select wireframe type
  5. Click New Website Wireframe. A new wireframe appear, with an empty browser window in it. It's where you can prepare mockup for the web site.
  6. Before we start adding different components into the Browser window, let's resize it to make it smaller. Click on the title of the Browser window.
  7. Once clicked, the resize handlers appear around the Browser window for you to adjust the window size manually. Let's try a more direct method. Right click on the title of the Browser and select Browser Size (1024 x 768) > 800 x 600 from the popup menu.
    Resize wireframe
  8. Make use of the wireframe tools listed in the diagram toolbar to create a wireframe like this:
    Wireframe created
  9. Go back to the scenario editor by clicking on the triangle button next to the step title.
    Go back to scenario editor
    Finished, and you can see the thumbnail of your wireframe appear in the scenario editor.
    Wireframe added

Related Links

  1. YouTube Video: Requirements Gathering with UeXceler
  2. YouTube Video: Elaborate Use Cases with Sub-diagram
  3. Wikipedia: Use case
  4. Wikipedia: Use-case analysis
  5. Wikipedia: Use-case model
  6. YouTube Video: How to Create Use Case Diagram from Business Process Diagram

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Comments (22)

written by sebastian on February 11, 2010

ok, am hooked.How much is it going to cost me to purchase the full software?Are there more tutorials that i can do so long to get used to the application? Please Please Please reply.

written by Angus Chan on February 11, 2010

The cost of the software is USD 699 or 838.5 with one year maintenance.
Visual Paradigm for UML Professional Edition

You can get attend our multimedia training course in VP Training Center

written by Graham on March 31, 2010

I downloaded the sales_order_system case study but can not find the vpp to open it. How should I access this?

Excellent tutorial.

written by Angus Chan on March 31, 2010

Please download the software in following link:

written by rob on April 27, 2011

Good morning,
1) I have many UATs (User Acceptance Test) already written in office excel
2) I would like to IMPORT these files into Visual Paradigm in order to get them into the use case detail screen, flow event

Is this possible?

I have tried to use Interoperability, Import, Excel, importing the file in attach --> but I get "error"


written by Angus Chan on April 28, 2011

Currently we don't support import Excel to Use Case Flow of Events.
Please contact support team about this feature

written by Gustavo Salazar Longas on May 2, 2011

Me gustaría mucho aprender de todos ustedes. Uso el español por es muy exacto para mí. Puedo elegir todas las opciones. Sin embargo el Ingles tambien personaliza mi estado en el sistema para modelar y hacer aplicaciones de los casos de uso sin necesidad de Descargar los programs. Yo trabajo con las herramientas de windows para configurar los soportes de UML pra hacer el modelado especial en html y hacer las capturas en pantalla. ¿Es posible?

written by mehdi on May 4, 2011

I want to know if it is possible to write from right to left for Arabic purposes, specially for use case specification part.

written by mehdi on May 4, 2011

I want to know if it is possible to write from right to left for Arabic purposes, specially for use case specification part.

written by Marena Markasović on November 13, 2011

I just want to ask i download free community edition and try to make this Actor Grid but i dont have Create Actor button. I have the latest version so i want to know is this because i dont have full softver or? Thanks

written by Marena Markasović on November 13, 2011

I just want to ask i download free community edition and try to make this Actor Grid but i dont have Create Actor button. I have the latest version so i want to know is this because i dont have full softver or? Thanks

written by Marena Markasović on November 13, 2011

I just want to ask i download free community edition and try to make this Actor Grid but i dont have Create Actor button. I have the latest version so i want to know is this because i dont have full softver or? Thanks

written by Jick Yeung on November 14, 2011

Hi Marena,

The button "Create Actor" has been renamed to "New Actor". Yet, the icon's appearance has no change at all. You can find it easily in the editor. If you cannot find the button, please submit a ticket with a screenshot. You can submit ticket at:

Best regards,
Jick Yeung

written by ajinkyabendre777 on May 17, 2012

Excellent information.can i get the detail tutorial of how to find use cases, actors and all relation between them from textual representation of requirment document.

written by Jeremy Vonledebur on May 13, 2013

When I enter actors into the Flow of Events from the right click menu a red squiggly line appears. Can you explain why?

written by Jick Yeung (VP) on May 14, 2013

Hi Jeremy,

Sorry about the wrong rendering of underline (for spell checking). Our engineers are now fixing the problem. When the fix is ready, I will post here.

written by Jick Yeung (VP) on May 30, 2013

Hi Jeremy,

The issue has been fixed. You can obtain the fix by updating to the latest patch build. Here you can find the instruction:

written by Simon on October 27, 2013

Steps clear, but comes to abrupt halt. The written English is poor, which makes reading the text unpleasant: it is missing indefinite and definite articles ('a'/'an); it fails to conjugate verbs properly, e.g. putting '(e)s' on the end of verbs; it fails to use plural nouns instead of singular where appropriate.

written by Jasmine on February 14, 2014

Excellent Information. I have one question. When I right click on the use case to write flow of events, I'm not getting those options (open use case details) :(
I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong.

written by Jick Yeung (VP) on February 19, 2014

Hi Jasmine,

Thank you for your message. May I know the version of VP-UML/Agilian you use?

written by Sabine Barlatier on January 14, 2016

Excellent Information.

written by Gustavo Salazar Longas on January 20, 2016

Gracias por esta nueva entrega y me agrada que ustedes me recuerden como entrar a este tipo de software para realizar varias aplicaciones de los casos de uso que agilizar mis gestiones dentro del sistema orientado de objetos.

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