Why is structured content important?

By | January 20, 2023

In the realm of technical documentation, structure is key. It is essential for the information to be organized in a consistent and logical manner, so that readers may easily find the knowledge they seek. Furthermore, structure allows for automated processing and repurposing of the information, thus reducing the time and effort required to create and maintain documentation.

In the dawn of the age of computers, the Standard Generalized Markup Language, or SGML, was developed. SGML provided a means of defining the structure of documents through the use of tags, similar to the Hypertext Markup Language, or HTML. However, SGML proved to be a complex and difficult language, leading to the creation of a simpler and more flexible standard: the Extensible Markup Language, or XML.

XML, first introduced in the late 1990s, is a more user-friendly variation of SGML. It utilizes a set of predefined tags to define the structure of the document, making it easier to create and process. Additionally, it allows for the creation of custom tags, making it a versatile language.

One of the most widely used standards in technical documentation is DocBook, which is an XML-based standard for the creation of technical documents. DocBook provides a set of predefined tags for various types of information, such as chapters, sections, and paragraphs. Furthermore, DocBook allows for the creation of custom tags, making it a versatile option for technical documentation.

Another popular standard for technical documentation is DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture). DITA, an XML-based standard, is designed for creating and managing modular technical documentation. It allows for the creation of reusable content, such as topic-based documentation, thus making the creation and maintenance of documentation more efficient.

Information Mapping is a method that utilizes a visual approach to organize information. It breaks down information into small, logical chunks, making it easy to find and understand. Furthermore, Structured Technical English or STE, is a controlled language standard for technical documentation which provides a set of rules for writing technical documentation to increase understandability and readability.

In summary, structure is vital for technical documentation. Standards such as SGML, XML, DocBook, DITA, Information Mapping and STE have evolved over time to make the creation and maintenance of technical documentation more efficient and effective. We must continue to strive for structure and organization in our documentation, for it is the key to unlocking the boundless knowledge that lies within.

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