Darwin Information Typing Architecture, or DITA, provides a formidable toolset for creating and maintaining technical documentation across multiple products and services. DITA allows writers to consider each section in a document as one single unit, and allows writers to then edit individual units accordingly, eliminating the need to rework whole documents manually. By enforcing standardization, DITA makes it easy for content authors to maintain a consistent style and topic architecture, and allows content reuse rates to average around 40%. DITA also organizes documentation into topics (rather than chapters), making information easy to find and to use. Using DITA for translation can reduce translation costs by 50%. In this way, DITA provides opportunities for companies that maintain high volumes of documentation to cut costs and increase efficiency.
What Are the Difficulties of DITA?
While DITA is free to use, it features over 400 code elements, each of which contains attributes. Training writers, editors, and project managers to understand and use DITA can therefore be arduous. A company planning to implement DITA must be prepared to invest in the adoption process, expecting returns to come within three years.
Is DITA Right for Me?
DITA is worth considering if your company maintains over 300 pages of documentation or if most of the following statements apply:
– Your company frequently multipurposes content across departments.
– Your company translates documents.
– Your company customizes content to different audiences.
– Your company updates documents several times per year.
– Your company uses a template or pattern for creating documents.
– You or your team spends over 10% of project time managing content formatting.
Take the Long View Approach
Your company may be at a point at which the cost of having a prolific and cumbersome body of technical documentation outweighs the cost of implementing and training content authors in a complicated new tool. At this point, DITA may be a wise investment, particularly if your company has long-term plans to continue to create products that require documentation. This long-term view gives DITA the most time to provide returns on your investment, as the time and money you save accumulates with each new document.
Have You Reached the DITA Point?
If you find this question difficult to answer on behalf of your company, you are not alone. Many business leaders choose to seek guidance from a company that offers professional technical writing services, and can provide expertise on the cost savings available based on your company’s practices and needs.
Written by Michael Elias – Technical Writer at CSOFT International