Use Case Analysis: Tutorial & Examples

Instructor: Saranya Ramachandran

Saranya has a Bachelors in Science focused on Electronics and Telecommunication and a Masters in Business Administration. She has 8 years of Project Management Experience and is PMP Certified.

Use case analysis is a way of gathering information about how a system would interact with users or other systems. This lesson describes how a use case analysis is performed.

What is Use Case Analysis

Use case analysis, in simple terms, represents the various ways a software would react based upon the input that it receives. Consider the example of a person interacting with a social networking site. The various ways in which he or she interacts, and the results derived from that interaction could be captured in the form of a use case analysis. The person, or other external system, that is interacting is also referred to as an actor. The person types in the web address or url of the site and then enters their username and password. When the url is typed, it automatically launches the homepage. The entire process is captured in the form of a use case.

A software development lifecycle goes through several stages: design, analysis, implementation, and close out. Use case analysis can happen at any stage. A use case analysis is used to design a system from the viewpoint of the end user, the person actually using the site or software. It is used to determine and convey system behavior information. The use case analysis attempts to convey information on the system requirements and usage, the role of the user, the system actions in response to the user, and what the user will receive from the system.

The use cases are analyzed so that they can be converted into more technical requirements for the software developers. Later, when the software is developed, the use case is analyzed to develop the testing scenarios, also referred to as test cases, and so that they can be included in the user documentation.

Elements of a Use Case Diagram

Use cases are generally written in simple language from the perspective of an end user. The use case becomes more meaningful when it is included in a use case diagram. The use case diagram has an actor and an association relationship. The actor, in our example, could be a college student who is using the social networking site, and his association could be that he is an end user. In some instances, depending on the association, the system could behave differently. For example, a platinum card holder, when logged in to his or her personal bank account, could see more options than a regular credit card holder. The system would behave differently for the platinum credit card holder and a normal credit card holder.

The other element of a use case diagram includes a system boundary. This could represent the operating system or the computer the actor is using. For example, the action that an actor needs to take on a Macintosh computer might be different than what he needs to do on a Windows computer.

Example of a Use Case Diagram

When creating a use case diagram, you will typically find a use case ID, which is a unique identification for the use case, and is usually a number or series of some sort. You will also have the actor, which is the person or system that performs an action, and the use case name, which is the actual action that the actor performs.

Other items that could be included are scope (the extent of the design), priority (which measures the importance of a system function), and a system boundary. In some cases they may not be applicable.

Let us consider a simple example of a user trying to buy a garment from an online store. The woman who is trying to purchase is an actor and her relationship is that of a end user.

Use Case

In this case, the elements of the use case diagram could be:

  • Use Case ID - UC.1
  • Use Case Name - The actor clicks on an item and adds it to her online cart.
  • Actor - The woman purchasing the garment.
  • System boundary - The action that an actor needs to take on a Macintosh computer.

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