4 Necessary Steps for Your Content Audit
A crucial and central part of planning for DITA is developing your information architecture. This requires a content audit that will help you build your content model for the future.
A content audit includes four main steps:
I. Review your existing content.
Reviewing your current content will help you formulate your tagging rules and policy and a common map assembly plan. Based on your current content, you can identify your various topic information types, the common internal content structure for each information type, how topics are organized in your current publications, and conditional attribute usage.
II. Identify the delivery outputs and structure you will be using and your customer’s use-case scenarios for accessing your content.
Without knowing how content will be read and used, you won’t know how to structure it. For example:
- Where will customers and employees expect to see your information? (In an online knowledge base? In print? In mobile ebooks?)
- Do your customers use search? Will they be using a table of contents? Will they benefit from an index?
- Will users go straight to the topic they need, or will they read it within a specific flow? Keep in mind that when moving to structure, your topics will need to be more “stand-alone” than they were before.
III. Determine where DITA specializations will be beneficial for your organization.
A DITA specialization means customizing the DITA DTDs – that is, the DITA rule sheets – in a way that will make authoring and formatting your content easier. The content audit and tagging policy will help you arrive at DITA specializations that can make authoring easier and more semantically correct. Many organizations try to keep DITA specializations to a minimum, as they can create extra work to deploy your DTDs and style sheets to your authors and to your toolset. Many times, however, specializations have the potential to save so much time for authors and for your style sheet development that they are worthwhile.
This cost/benefit analysis for specializations is not always clear. You can best arrive at the proper balance with the help of a good information architecture consultant.
IV. Identify the reuse opportunities for your content.
Content reuse is a key benefit of DITA. But to benefit from reuse, you need to identify potential reuse opportunities in your content, on the chapter, topic, element and even phrase level.
Reuse often comes with a cost of additional complexity for authors, but it can also provide significant cost savings in authoring time and localization costs. You need to decide what types of content can be reused, which reuse opportunities are worth the cost of additional complexity, and then plan for how to implement your reuse strategy. Generally, the larger your team of writers, the harder it is to implement and maintain a complex reuse strategy.
There is a wide range of content reuse you should consider.
- Reusing topics by linking them into multiple publications.
- Reusing topics for different contexts by conditionalizing their content based on attributes such as product, audience and platform.
- Reusing commonly used text such as notes and warnings across multiple topics using content references (conrefs).
- Reusing commonly used terms such as product name. By reusing commonly used phrases you can standardize their usage, easily change them if necessary in only one place, and conditionalize them to change based on how they are used in different publications or product lines.
We hope this has been helpful for you. Let us know if you would like to hear more about any one of these steps, and tune in for our next blog post: The 5 Basic Components of your Content Model.