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Information Design

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Information design (also known as 'information architecture') is the study of the details of complex systems. Among these are websites, user interactions, databases, technical writing documentation, and human-computer interfaces.



DITA Tools 1 (Planning)

The IBM Information Architecture Workbench is an Eclipse-based freeware that I find marvellously handy for organising my thoughts and then committing those thoughts to DITA files. With it, I can model my ditamaps, generate DITA stub files* for the ditamap nodes, and edit the DITA files. Plus, if I draw a line from File A to File B, it gets registered in the ditamap's relationship table. All pretty neat and clean. It shows me, visually, how my topics are arranged in my book (and lets me move around files with a drag-and-drop action). It also shows me orphan files - those nodes that I created but did not link anywhere. And, I can edit the DITA attributes very easily in the Properties view.

Basu, Anindita. Writing Technically (2010). Articles>Information Design>Software>DITA


DITA Tools 2 (Authoring)

I am very comfortable with using Notepad to write in DITA. But there are times when I forget if a particular DITA tag can be used at a particular place. For example, I regularly forget if <prereq> should precede <context> or follow. At such times, an XML editor that also validates your tags as you type comes in handy. XMLmind XML Editor is one such tool and comes bundled with the DITA DTDs and schemas. Its personal edition is free to use for non-commercial purposes and is, thus, great if you want a WYSIWYG DITA editor for your learning and other personal stuff.

Basu, Anindita. Writing Technically (2010). Articles>Information Design>Software>DITA


DITA Users   (members only)

DITA Users is a membership organization that includes: individuals learning DITA; organizations moving to single-source authoring and multi-channel publishing; vendors of XML Editors and XML Content Management Systems.

DITA Users. Organizations>Information Design>Standards>DITA


DITA--A Standard for TD?   (members only)

The abbreviation DITA stands for 'Darwin Information Typing Architecture', an information architecture based on XML. DITA is not a mere reinvention of the wheel: rather, it sets the standards for known structuring requirements. The most striking feature of this architecture is the clear orientation towards a technology for structuring, which has already proved its worth in online documentation.

Closs, Sissi. tekom (2006). Articles>Information Design>XML>DITA


DITA, Metadata Maturity and the Case for Taxonomy

Many organizations have turned to component-oriented content creation to create more sophisticated knowledge products, in more languages, and at lower cost. Our research shows that organizations that use XML authoring are more mature than their peers with respect to the adoption of best practices for search and metadata. However, the use of native DITA metadata capabilities is rare, and many are also missing out on opportunities to use taxonomy for content reuse and improved content findability. This article examines the metadata capabilities within DITA (and content management systems), discusses two major benefits that can be achieved by using descriptive metadata and taxonomy, and recommends some best practices for getting started with metadata for component-oriented content.

Wlodarczyk, Paul and Stephanie Lemieux. Content Wrangler, The (2010). Articles>Information Design>Taxonomy>DITA


DITA: From the Perspective of Someone Actually Using It

In this podcast, Marlene Martineau of New Dawn Technologies explains why they adopted DITA, how they adopted it, the benefits they're experiencing, and the reasons why she'll never go back.

Martineau, Marlene. Tech Writer Voices (2008). Articles>Information Design>XML>DITA


DITA: Opportunities To Help Shape The Standard, Promote DITA Adoption, Develop Real-World Solutions

Want to get involved in the formation of one of the most important XML standards impacting content professionals? You can. And, you should. The folks at OASIS—the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards—have made it easy for just about anyone to participate.

Content Wrangler, The. Articles>Information Design>XML>DITA


DITA: What You Need To know about the Darwin Information Typing Architecture   (PDF)

The Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) is a hot topic among those who author, edit, deliver and manage content. But adopting a standard architecture is an important decision that requires up front research and knowledge of the pitfalls. Find out if DITA is right for your organization. Read this whitepaper to learn more (PDF).

Manning, Steve. Rockley Group, The (2005). Articles>Information Design>Metadata>XML



A gathering place for information about DITA.

ditamap.com. Organizations>Information Design>XML>DITA


Diverging Directions for Tech Comm: Social Media or Structured Authoring

Two powerful trends in tech comm seem to be moving in different directions: social media and structured authoring. I have used a wiki as my primary format for documentation for the past year and a half. I tried to corral a group of volunteer technical writers to edit and update the wiki, because I embraced the idea that collective intelligence beats the individual thinker in the long run. But even the most advanced wikis don’t have a structured authoring backend.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2011). Articles>Documentation>Information Design>XML


Diversity is Power for Specialized Sites

Small websites get less traffic than big ones, but they can still dominate their niches. For each question users ask, the Web delivers a different set of sites to provide the answers.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2003). Articles>Web Design>Information Design


Do Internet Users Want Deep Content or Immediate Gratification?

For a long time I have been an advocate of quality content on web sites. And now I am conducting an experiment that pitches quality content against immediate gratification.

Usborne, Nick. Excess Voice (2006). Articles>Information Design>Web Design>Writing


Do We Really Need a Site Navigation?

Whoever performed any usability tests knows, that users look straight away at the content. Users first look the pictures then at the titles then at the text. Navigation often gets completely ignored. In my seven years of conceiving websites and monitoring usablity tests I am tempted to say that navigation is useless.

Information Architects Japan (2006). Design>Web Design>Information Design


Doc or Die

This blog discusses documents and information designs “in the wild" - especially those that are exceptionally good or exceptionally bad.

Doc or Die. Resources>Documentation>Information Design>Blogs


DocBook and DITA Editors: Is Their Future Online?

Thanks to my Google News Alert service, I recently discovered some on-demand XML Editors supporing DITA. While Salesforce democratized software on-demand in the CRM market, I am still perplexed on the future of on-demand pure play software. So let's see first what makes on-demand software, also known as Saas (Software as a Service), so attractive nowadays. I see five compelling reasons.

Talbot, Fabrice. LiveTechDocs (2008). Articles>Information Design>Software>DITA


A DocBook Basics and References

DocBook is an easy-to-understand and widely used DTD. Dozens of organizations use DocBook for millions of pages of documentation, in various print and online formats, worldwide.

Walsh, Norman. dpawson.co.uk (2004). Books>Information Design>XML>DocBook


Document Analysis, Modelling, and Markup   (PDF)

Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) is an ISO standard for document publishing. SGML allows you to port your documentation from one plagorm to another easily. Another benefit is that SGML lets you write the information one time and use it in many places. After planning your SGML implementation, the first step in your implementation is to create a Document Type Definition( DTD). In order to create a DTD, you must complete several steps: identify project parameters, analyze your documents, model your document, convert your model to DTD mark up, and test your DTD.

Dimick, Sharlyn A. and Lori A. Stertzbach. STC Proceedings (1997). Articles>Information Design>SGML


Document Engineering and Information Architecture

This course introduces the discipline of Document Engineering: specifying, designing, and deploying electronic documents and information repositories that enable document-centric or information-intensive applications. These applications include web services, information supply chains, single-source publishing, composite applications/virtual enterprises/portals, and so on. Course topics include developing requirements, analyzing existing documents and information sources, conceptual modeling, identifying reusable semantic components, modeling business processes and user interactions, applying patterns to make models more robust, representing models using XML schemas, and using XML models to implement and drive applications. The syllabus contains over 20 short case study examples from different industries, with special emphasis on business-to-business, healthcare and medical informatics, and e-government.

Glushko, Robert J. University of California Berkeley (2008). Academic>Courses>Document Design>Information Design


Document Model Selection: Off-the-Shelf, Altered-to-Fit, or Bespoke?

Document Model selection is a key success factor in XML. Approaches include: adopting an existing model, modifying a model to meet your needs, and creating one to meet your needs. Advantages and disadvantages of each are discussed.

Usdin, B. Tommie. IDEAlliance (2004). Articles>Information Design>Standards>XML


Document Models and XML Vocabulary Building for Business Users

Our work presents an experiment with a modeling tool that captures domain knowledge in a fashion natural to business users while producing formal models for use in IT processes. We demonstrate the use of this tool for designing XML Schemas.

Spraregen, Susan L. and Douglas Lovell. IDEAlliance (2004). Articles>Information Design>Standards>XML


Documenting in N-Dimensional Space

As technical communicators, we are being challenged with how to structure information in a multiple dimensional space made possible with Web technology.

Albing, Bill. KeyContent.org (2005). Articles>Documentation>Information Design


Documenting Schemas   (PDF)

The issue of documenting schemas—or any machine readable language—goes beyond simple additions of comments. Thereal challengeistocreateschemasthat arereadablebothdirectlybylookingat their sourcecodeandbydocumentation extraction tools.

van der Vlist, Eric. O'Reilly and Associates (2001). Articles>Information Design>XML>Documentation


Does Online Help Need an Overall Structure?

The way I learned to write documentation was that you started work on a new project by spending a decent amount of time getting to know your subject matter. I don't mean getting to know the software, I mean getting an understanding of the environment in which the software will be used and the reason for its existence - that is: what's the real value of the software to its users and what do they want to achieve by using it?

Christie, Alistair. ITauthor (2010). Articles>Documentation>Information Design>Technical Writing


Dogmas Are Meant to be Broken: An Interview with Eric Reiss

With training in everything from stage design to Egyptology to hypertext games to web projects, Reiss has had extensive practice in finding out what makes an experience work. Could these be the principles I've been waiting for? I tracked down Reiss in Vancouver to find out.

Danzico, Liz. Boxes and Arrows (2006). Articles>Information Design>Theory>Minimalism


Doing a Content Inventory (Or, A Mind-Numbingly Detailed Odyssey Through Your Web Site)

I've spent the last year working with clients on a variety of information architecture and design problems. One of the most strikingly consistent issues, however, has been how many of these companies still haven't developed content management systems. I've spoken with enterprises in the Fortune 100 who find themselves sitting on top of 6 years' worth of Web content trapped in static HTML files. They know they need to get this stuff into database and redesign their site into a template-driven system. But their first question is inevitably, 'So, uh, where do we start?' If you're in a similar situation, your first step is to take stock of what you've got. This process, known as a content inventory, is a relatively straightforward process of clicking through your Web site and recording what you find. We've developed a simple Excel spreadsheet to help you structure your findings, and some tips on how to get through it. Start at your home page. Identify the major sections of your site. For example, at adaptivepath.com, we've divided our site into these sections: team, services, workshops, publications, and contact. If I were doing an inventory of this site, I'd start with one of those sections, click in, and see what's linked from it. For each page that I visit, I'd record the information specified in the columns of the spreadsheet. I'd follow every link and navigate as far as I could through the site, making sure to gather data about every possible page on the site.

Veen, Jeffrey. Adaptive Path (2002). Design>Information Design>Web Design



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