Knowledge Center contributor Eric Severson's 3-part series on component-based authoring began with an introduction of the notion of component-based authoring and a description of component-based authoring's significant business benefits over document-based authoring. In his second part, an explanation was given about how component-based authoring actually works. In this third and final part, Eric provides you with a variety of practical advice to help you get started with component-based authoring and to ensure your success using component-based authoring in your business.
This is the third installation of a 3-part series on component-based authoring. Click here to read the first article, "How and Why to Use Component-Based Authoring: First in a 3-Part Series" and click here to read the second article, "How Component-Based Authoring Works: Second in a 3-Part Series."
will start this third and final part of my 3-part series on
component-based authoring with a definition of the content model. Even
though DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture) is already a
defined specialization, the first step is still to determing how your
content will be structured. DITA uses a very flexible content model in
which many different kinds of topic structures can be defined. This is
done through a powerful and unique DITA feature called specialization
Consistent with the information typing
aspect of DITA,
specialization allows you to create your own variations of the generic
topic structure, each of which becomes a different topic type
. Three out-of-the-box specializations are included with the DITA standard: concept
Most pre-DITA applications of XML have required relatively complex
and restrictive content models. This has had the advantage of precisely
controlling document structure and format, but with the disadvantage of
making XML difficult to author and maintain. In contrast, DITA gives us
a wide spectrum of choices as to how simple or complex our content
models need to be.
Remember that DITA allows any number of stand-alone, reusable topics
to be assembled into a map.
defines the hierarchical structure for each output publication or
deliverable-which may be quite complex-while allowing the topics
themselves to have a relatively simple structure.
With this in mind, the first question to ask is whether there's
really a compelling reason to use anything other than the standard DITA
specializations. In fact, for some applications, the question is
whether we need to use anything other than the generic DITA topic
itself. There is always a cost-especially in usability-when the content model is more complex than necessary.
In cases where specialization is
needed, we recommend specializing directly from the standard concept
types. This is the best way to ensure future compatibility with both
changes to the DITA specification and to the off-the-shelf tools that
If you can't use the standard types as the basis for specialization,
then we recommend staying as close to the standard types as possible.
This will give you the greatest chance of staying consistent with
vendor tools as the standard evolves-and make it much easier to switch
back, so to speak, if you find that future versions of the standard
specializations fit your needs.