Monday, October 03, 2016

DITA Linking Usage Survey

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A couple of weeks ago I published a survey which was intended as an overview about DITA Linking habits. A big thank you to everyone who took it. The entire set of survey results, including the answers to open questions can be found here:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-N8RJ6CJX/

Here are some comments I have about the results:
  • Most projects (including ours) seems to approach linking with a mixture between DITA 1.1 href's and DITA 1.2 keyrefs. In my opinion this is caused by a variety of factors among which the most important could be:
    • Technical writers who are not comfortable using indirection (keyrefs)
    • The project was started using href's and not all links have been converted to keyrefs
  • Almost everyvody using related links uses a relationship table to manage them. And that's good.
  • There are projects where related links, chunking and collection-type are not used at all. And I think this is not because the projects are not complex, but because the main output delivery format for those projects is PDF. In a DITA Reuse survey I opened last year there was a clear indication that PDF was still the most used output format: https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-3WSR598S/.
Although harder to quantify I usually like answers to open questions best because you get a better idea about the difficulties of linking in DITA:
  • The large set of DITA linking possibilities make the standard harder to use. Too many options, harder for writers to understand and use keyrefs or relationship tables. There seems to be a need to have a best practice involving linking and DITA.
  • Various writers have various writing styles, leading to inconsistent projects.
  • Problems with the publishing part, even when the right DITA content is used for links (for example abbreviated-form) the publishing engine might have issues which break the link in the final output.
  • Problems with link management, with having a clear idea of outbound and inbound links and their target. Problems with broken links.
  • The tools used for editing DITA sometimes hide the complexity and even the type of link which gets created. Also the tools should help the writer easier find the target content to link to.

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