Illustration of 3 , painted as workers around a big machine, by Pablo Stanley.

Disclaimer: There is nothing new here. And when I say nothing, I mean nothing. This is just about using again one of the oldest tools ever created to plan software.

Let me tell you a little bit about my story. In 2012 I graduated as a computing engineer in France. I was trained to use “UML” as the first steps of any software development. Before coding, we would always create user diagrams, class diagrams, sequence diagrams, etc. Some of those diagrams defined the system at a really low level. But some of them were at a really high level, looking at the system from the outside. It was then about the users and how they would interact with the system.

Few years after, my career path takes me to UX and Product Design. Part of our job is to keep improving our process. And there is so much room that we end up creating, again and again, some new fancy tools.

Now the question: did we forget some of the good old tools?

Is UML a great tool for designing products?

I think the answer is yes. It is a wonderful tool to communicate and iterate on the definition of a system, at all levels, from a technical perspective, and from a user-centered perspective.

What is UML?

UML stands for Unified Markup Language.

What is ?

This is UML.

UXML was just a clickbait headline. 🙈 Just wanted to make it read and sound more sexy and attractive. Nothing less, nothing more (than unified).

If we want to give this acronym a meaning, we could say it stands for Unified Experience Markup Language or for User Experience Markup Language. Whatever!

How can we use UXML?


Define the happy path and the edge cases.

Activity diagrams help us to quickly define a simple path. From there, we can explore the edge cases by asking ourselves “What could go wrong?”


Speak a common language across teams.

What’s the most widespread language in the world? English? No, UML!


Keep track and update.

If your system is already defined in UML, Technical Writers will love you.

Final words

What about To-be journey maps, Storyboards, Wireflows, …? Those design artifacts are so powerful, and so useful, yes. But there is no unified format for those.

The suggestion here is to make sure we still consider those good old tools and conventions. They aren’t perfect, but they offer consistency and a common language.

We could simply translate the common design artifacts in UML.

Further readings

Want to learn more about UML?

— What is UML:

— UML diagrams:

— Applying Lessons from UML to UX:

UXML: a designer’s new best friend was originally published in UX Collective on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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