Lightweight DITA in Action: Authoring and evaluating technical content with HDITA

Expectation keeps growing around Lightweight DITA in webinars, social media, and email lists. Addressing the anticipation, I provide empirical evidence on the process of creating and evaluating technical content in HDITA—a Lightweight DITA model based on HTML5 that can be used for either authoring or displaying information. One of Lightweight DITA’s key purposes is to ease adoption of structured authoring by communities who do not need all the features of full DITA XML. HDITA, specifically, can involve web developers, online content creators, and developers in DITA workflows using HTML5 and its custom data attributes.

In the specific case reported, a group of technical writing students at a large research university learned fundamentals of DITA (topic-based writing, granularity, and reuse) without being exposed to XML. Their topic collections were created according to the preliminary lightweight HDITA syntax, and members of their potential audience evaluated them following a widely-used rubric for assessing quality in technical information. The technical writing students in this project represent a population of novice authors who could work in many DITA-using industries. Recommendations and lessons learned from this study impacted the development of Lightweight DITA and its advantages for writers who do not use XML.

What can the audience expect to learn?

The audience benefits in several ways depending on their level of expertise with DITA. For advanced users, this presentation offers a concrete example of a Lightweight DITA pilot implementation. For intermediate users, it opens the possibility of including non-XML content in DITA workflows and collections. For audience members not fully familiar with DITA, it provides an introduction to the standard’s benefits and affordances without XML, which could help in involving web designers, bloggers, and developers. For vendors and consultants, this presentation can start the conversation on how to implement Lightweight DITA features, following the success of this case, as the subcommittee prepares for releasing the standard.

Meet the presenter

Carlos Evia

Carlos Evia is an associate professor and director of Professional and Technical Writing at Virginia Tech, where he also conducts research for the Centers in Human-Computer Interaction and Occupational Safety and Health. He is also a member of the DITA Technical Committee, with a special interest in the Lightweight DITA subcommittee.





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