Decision guide: Do I need DITA?

This DITA decision guide helps you assess whether you should adopt the DITA XML writing standard for technical documentation.

You probably don’t need DITA* if:

Your content

  • You write narrative content.
  • Your content has a “shelf life” of less than two years.
  • The way the content looks to the user is the most important issue.
  • You need to customise outputs for individual documents (such as PDFs).
  • You want the presentation layer embedded (“baked”) with the content layer.

Your writers

  • You have fewer than four writers.
  • You don’t want to work within strict rules regarding how topics are written (where content is marked up semantically).
  • You need to use the tools used by developers or the marketing department.

Your management

  • You have limited budgets for tools, training and migration.
  • You want to improve the workflow for reviewing content.
  • You don’t have the time to deal with the issues around changing working methods.
  • The cost of migrating existing content will be expensive.
  • You want a simple information architecture.

(*)

Although you might not need DITA, you still might need a better solution than your existing tools and processes.

You might need DITA* if:

Your content

  • You need to write to (and enforce) a standard.
  • Your content has a “shelf life” or more than two years.
  • You need to localise content into many languages.
  • You want to write semantically.
  • You create many variations of the same document.
  • You want intelligent content that can adapt to different users and contexts.
  • You want automated publishing.

Your writers

  • You have more than four writers.
  • You need to re-use content in different projects and different contexts, and make those topics accessible to other writing teams who might want to re-use them.

Your management

  • You need a more efficient authoring, reviewing and publishing process.
  • You are spending too much time on formatting content.
  • You need to establish a controlled vocabulary and taxonomy.
  • You want content validated for consistency.

(*)

You might need either DITA or another topic-based structured authoring environment. The solution is likely to be XML-based, using a Component Content Management System. For more information, contact Cherryleaf.

You probably do need DITA if:

You face the problems listed in “You might need DITA”, plus:

Your content

  • Your content will need to last more than 30 years.
  • You need to share content with other organisations, who will rebrand it and/or repurpose it.
  • You want content to be stored in an open data standard, independent of any tool.
  • You need transclusion (where an element can replace itself with the content of a like element elsewhere) across a range of media.
  • You want to have a way of generalising back to a common standard.

Your writers

  • You have a large team of writers.

Your management

  • You don’t want to be tied into a specific authoring tool, content management system or publishing/rendering engine.

Cherryleaf can help you solve the issues around how you create, manage and publish content

For more information, see Cherryleaf’s Content design and content strategy services.

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