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Reusable and Generic Design Decisions for Developing UML-based Domain-specific Languages

Context: In recent years, UML-based domain-specific model languages (DSMLs) have become a popular option in model-driven development projects. However, making informed design decisions for such DSMLs involves a large number of non-trivial and inter-related options. These options concern the language-model specification, UML extension techniques, concrete-syntax language design, and modeling-tool support.

Objective: In order to make the corresponding knowledge on design decisions reusable, proven design rationale from existing DSML projects must be collected, systematized, and documented using an agreed upon documentation format.

Method: We applied a sequential multi-method approach to identify and to document reusable design decisions for UML-based DSMLs. The approach included a Web-based survey with 80 participants. Moreover, 80 DSML projects1, which have been identified through a prior systematic literature review, were analyzed in detail in order to identify reusable design decisions for such DSMLs.

Results: We present insights on the current state of practice in documenting UML-based DSMLs (e.g., perceived barriers, documentation techniques, reuse potential) and a publicly available collection of reusable design decisions, including 35 decision options on different DSML development concerns (especially concerning the language model, concrete-syntax language design, and modeling tools). The reusable design decisions are documented using a structured documentation format (decision record).

Conclusion: Our results are both, scientifically relevant (e.g. for design-space analyses or for creating classification schemas for further research on UML-based DSML development) and important for actual software engineering projects (e.g. by providing best-practice guidelines and pointers to common pitfalls).



B. Hoisl, S. Sobernig, M. Strembeck, Reusable and Generic Design Decisions for Developing UML-based Domain-specific Languages, Information and Software Technology (2017) 49–74

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