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March 6, 2007

Driving Miss DITA

Over on the Adobe Technical Communication blog, Aseem Dokania compares DITA to transportation infrastructure:

In the XML authoring paradigm, the document is split into structure, content and style, which are analogues to Driving Rules (structure), car (content) and road network (style).
DITA is […] based on the premises that the same set of driving rules cannot be applied to all terrains (desert, mountains, city, etc.). Therefore, DITA allows each country to specialize the driving rules for its own unique requirements. In addition, DITA also has recommendations on the content (car) design – i.e. topics.

Great analogy. Perhaps unintentionally, it also provides an excellent entry point to discuss DITA’s limitations. It’s not that hard to customize cars — left-hand or right-hand drive? two doors or four? red or blue? — but what if you really need a bulldozer? Or a tank??

DITA specialization does have its limits. Before you dive into DITA, spend some time assessing whether DITA’s idea of a topic matches your requirements. How much customization/specialization will be required? If DITA is a good fit for your content, you can probably cut the cost of structure implementation. But if you attempt to shoehorn your publication workflow into a structure that Simply Does Not Fit, life could get pretty unpleasant.

For more on this, take a look at our white paper, Assessing DITA as a foundation for XML implementation. It’s free with registration through our online store.