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June 26, 2017

Beyond production: DITA transformations for QA

I’ve written in the past on how a QA mindset can improve the quality and consistency of your content. While having a robust test set and test plan are useful, there’s another tool that you can use.

The DITA OT allows you to create plugins that can transform your content. Most of the time this means taking your DITA content and turning it into a target output like PDF or HTML. However, it’s also possible to use a custom plugin to produce output for your QA pipeline.

You can use plugins to focus on specific content that needs review. Flickr, Allen Allen

For example, let’s assume you have a segment of your content that contains large quantities of strings. The strings are going to be referenced into your main content or exported for use on a piece of hardware.

For content review

Problem: Part of your process requires that subject matter experts (SMEs) review the content from your authors for correctness and consistency. It’s inconvenient or impractical for the SMEs to review DITA, and some strings that need review are likely mixed with strings that don’t need review.

Solution: If your content model flags individual strings with a revision status like review, approved, or deprecated, a plugin could gather only the strings in need of review and output them in a PDF. SMEs receive a clean PDF for review, then hand any necessary edits back to the authors for fixes.

For content auditing

Problem: The screen on the hardware that displays the strings is an LCD panel that can only fit a set number of characters. Because of this, the strings for this display have a character limit. While your authors should ideally stick to that character limit, human error happens. Localization can also easily result in strings that expand beyond the character limit.

Solution: If the strings that require a character limit have some form of identifier, a plugin could count the length of those strings and compare them to the character limit. It could then output those strings that exceed the character limit in a PDF that authors could use to correct the discrepancies.

Yes, there are tools on the market that have inbuilt review functionality. However, if you don’t have access to them, or their functionality doesn’t fulfill your needs, a QA plugin can help keep your content in good shape both during and after content creation.