The benefits of a topic-based architecture

Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) Version 1.2

Topics enable the development of usable and reusable content.

While DITA does not require the use of any particular writing practice, the DITA architecture is designed to support authoring, managing, and processing of content that is designed to be reused. Although DITA provides significant value even when reuse is not a primary requirement, the full value of DITA is realized when content is authored with reuse in mind. To develop topic-based information means creating units of standalone information that are meaningful with little or no surrounding context.

By organizing content into topics that are written to be reusable, authors can achieve several goals:

  • Content is readable when accessed from an index or search, not just when read in sequence as part of an extended narrative. Since most readers do not read technical and business-related information from beginning to end, topic-oriented information design ensures that each unit of information can be read independently.
  • Content can be organized differently for online and print delivery. Authors can create task flows and concept hierarchies for online delivery and create a print-oriented hierarchy to support a narrative content flow.
  • Content can be reused in different collections. Since a topic is written to support random access (as by search), it should also be understandable when included as part of various product deliverables. Topics permit authors to refactor information as needed, including only the topics that apply to each unique scenario.
  • Content is more manageable in topic form whether managed as individual files in a traditional file system or as objects in a content management system.
  • Content authored in topics can be translated and updated more efficiently and less expensively than information authored in larger or more sequential units.
  • Content authored in topics can be filtered more efficiently, encouraging the assembly and deployment of information subsets from shared information repositories.

Topics written for reuse should be small enough to provide opportunities for reuse but large enough to be coherently authored and read. Since each topic is written to address a single subject, authors can organize a set of topics logically and achieve an acceptable narrative content flow.