Modelling assistants based on information reuse: a user evaluation for language engineering
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Model-driven engineering (MDE) uses models as first-class artefacts during the software development lifecycle. MDE often relies on domain-specific languages (DSLs) to develop complex systems. The construction of a new DSL implies a deep understanding of a domain, whose relevant knowledge may be scattered in heterogeneous artefacts, like XML documents, (meta-)models, and ontologies, among others. This heterogeneity hampers their reuse during (meta-)modelling processes. Under the hypothesis that reusing heterogeneous knowledge helps in building more accurate models, more efficiently, in previous works we built a (meta-)modelling assistant called Extremo. Extremo represents heterogeneous information sources with a common data model, supports its uniform querying and reusing information chunks for building (meta-)models. To understand how and whether modelling assistants?like Extremo?help in designing a new DSL, we conducted an empirical study, which we report in this paper. In the study, participants had to build a meta-model, and we measured the accuracy of the artefacts, the perceived usability and utility and the time to completion of the task. Interestingly, our results show that using assistance did not lead to faster completion times. However, participants using Extremo were more effective and efficient, produced meta-models with higher levels of completeness and correctness, and overall perceived the assistant as useful. The results are not only relevant to Extremo, but we discuss their implications for future modelling assistants.