Nowadays I can’t participate in a discussion of content standards without somebody asking me, “But what about DITA?” For the few who haven’t heard, Darwin Information Typing Architecture—DITA for short—is an XML-based data model for authoring and publishing. DITA, originally developed by IBM, features an Open Toolkit publishing system that can be applied to single-source publishing. Many organizations, challenged with the move towards content reuse and single-sourcing, are adopting DITA.
The big question: Which is better?
What people are asking me is whether the Information Mapping® method competes with or conflicts with DITA. It’s a reasonable question, since both Information Mapping and DITA are used to create topic-based modular content. This leads many people to think that the two are alike, and to wonder which would better meet their organization’s needs.
The surprising answer: Neither, because Information Mapping® and DITA
My answer to the “But what about DITA?” question is that there is no competition or conflict between them, because as the cliché goes, you can’t compare apples to oranges. Despite the confusion expressed by many people, Information Mapping and DITA are fundamentally different.
• DITA is an open XML‐based architecture and a technology framework for reusing information and single‐source publishing.
• Information Mapping is a methodology for analyzing, organizing and presenting information.
Simply put, DITA is a technology solution and Information Mapping is an information design methodology. Information Mapping doesn’t include any equivalent to DITA’s technology framework or the Open Toolkit. And DITA doesn’t offer a theory of information design—there’s little about DITA that guides authors to create content in a clear, reader-focused way.
DITA and Information Mapping are synergistic
The good news is that DITA and Information Mapping are actually synergistic. If you’re making the shift to single-source publishing and reusable content, it’s worthwhile for you to consider adopting them both. Organizations implementing DITA sometimes don’t realize until late in the process that it will be a major challenge for writers to shift from document-centric authoring to a topic-based approach. This requires new skills, and the Information Mapping method provides writers with guidelines and principles that help them succeed when writing within DITA’s information structures.
There’s more information in our white paper
There’s much more to the Information Mapping/DITA discussion than I can include in this article. If you’re interested in learning more, download the white paper, Information Mapping and DITA: Two Worlds, One Solution from our web site. It’s a thought-provoking read, and of course it’s free.
Are you involved in a DITA implementation? What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered? Have you been applying the Information Mapping method to create your content? We’d like to hear how it’s going.