Automated Software Engineering

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 381–421 | Cite as

The design and evaluation of a tool to support software designers at the whiteboard

  • Nicolas ManganoEmail author
  • André van der Hoek


Despite the availability of advanced software design tools, software developers are known to frequently turn to the whiteboard when faced with a specific design problem. Free from any restrictions, they engage in an informal form of software design that relies heavily on sketching. However, whereas whiteboards afford flexibility and fluidity, they at the same time limit a designer in only being able to draw and erase content. This paper presents Calico, a novel software design tool that leverages electronic whiteboards to enhance the design experience with explicit support for the creative, exploratory aspects of design. Specifically, Calico offers a grid to partition the drawing space, scraps to organize and manipulate the content, and a reusable palette together with gesture-based input to address several natural behaviors exhibited by software designers, including frequent shifts in focus, use of low-detail models, use of a variety of notations, and a tendency to refine representations. To evaluate Calico, we performed a laboratory experiment involving the design of an educational traffic simulator. Through a three-pronged analysis examining the use of Calico’s features, design behaviors exhibited by the participants, and the nature of the design conversations, we show how Calico benefits the design process as it takes place at the whiteboard.


Design Software design Sketching Creative exploration Electronic whiteboard Informal drawing 



This work is partially supported by the National Science Foundation under grant numbers DUE-0920777 and CCF-1118052. We thank Hitachi for donating three FX-Duo Starboard interactive whiteboards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of InformaticsUniversity of California, IrvineIrvineUSA

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