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Audience is King: The Significance of DITA
2016, Q1 (November 06, 2015)
By Sajdah Nubee, Duke Continuing Education Student

Sajdah Nubee
Sajdah Nubee
The Darwin Information Technical Architecture (DITA) workshop, hosted by the STC Carolina Chapter on Saturday, October 17, taught me one fundamental thing about DITA – that audience is the focus of any good technical writer. Larry Kunz, the presenter, emphasized that structured authoring allows writers to focus on content rather than format, and content exists to serve the audience. As an inexperienced user of structured authoring, I discovered the features of DITA and its value to technical writing.

DITA’s built-in structure guides the emphasis on content, as it frees the writer from making formatting decisions. It consists of a hierarchical structure of topics and those topics have semantic elements that categorize information. The elements are collected and organized by DITA maps. Those maps dictate rules enforced by programming called the Document Type Definition (DTD) as determined by the Information Architect. Element options are defined for the writer beforehand.

Without considering presentation, the writer selects elements that create the structure. Writers can then insert content into that structure. The structure gives a consistent presentation for the reader and allows readers to locate information through quick queries in web print. Styles are applied to content when published as defined by the style sheet.

DITA logo
Not only does DITA have importance for the reader, it also has business significance because of its efficiency, consistency, and flexibility. Due to the modular writing style, efficiencies are built into the document-creation process as writers can work on a piece of a document while other writers work within the same document on a different section. These aspects lead to cost-savings and improve customer satisfaction with consistency. Though DITA’s structure and presentation is pre-defined, it maintains flexibility through single-sourcing, which frees up content from the printed page for different content mediums such as web pages or mobile devices.

During the workshop, I learned the functions of structured authoring but more importantly how this form of authoring will help me as a technical writer. Larry mentioned that writers spend 20% of their time on formatting when working in unstructured environments. Using DITA, I can focus on what my content says rather than how it looks. Larry says, “Audience is King” because content is about the reader. And, when content effectively serves its purpose, the audience and business are fulfilled.

SAJDAH NUBEE can be reached at sajnub at gmail dot com. Read more articles by SAJDAH NUBEE. End of article.

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