This week I’m attending the Australasian Online Documentation and Content Conference (AODC) on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. In one of the sessions today, Sarah Goodall walked us through a DITA application developed and implemented by Tactics Consulting under consultation with Tony Self from HyperWrite.
This session was interesting as a practical application of DITA and as an application which is not primarily a technical documentation system. Tactics developed a DITA-based system to create and store proposals. Before the new system was implemented, the creation of proposals was largely a manual process involving copying and pasting information from similar proposals in Word documents. This could lead to inconsistencies and even inaccuracies.
The proposed solution was a single-source XML-based solution. Tactics chose DITA because they saw a lot of commonality between DITA and Information Mapping, the technology used and promoted by Tactics. It was relatively straight forward to map DITA information types to the Information Mapping types. Also, Tactics was keen to use an open source solution, and one that they can share with their customers.
As a next step, Tactics plan to move even further into single sourcing, by drawing their web site content from the same source as their proposal documents, brochures, etc.
Sarah’s presentation was interesting from the technology side of things. She also mentioned other aspects of the project, such as change management — moving the staff to the new procedures and technologies.
A couple of snippets:
- Elkera XML Print is an Australian product that renders DITA into Microsoft Word.
- I raised the point that people often don’t like to see the same information thrown back at them in different media. For example, if they see some information on a brochure they might go to the web site for more in-depth information or to see the same information but worded differently. They find it annoying to see exactly the same words. So while you can use conditional tagging to include more or less information, would you also need to ensure that the wording itself is different and is this a design consideration? Sarah Goodall replied that Tactics will continually test their users’ responses to the content, and supply different content for different media if necessary.
Thank you Sarah (Goodall) for an interesting and useful session!
BTW, there are eight Sarahs at this session, in a total of 65 attendees 🙂