The DITA task topic was made for a reason, let’s make sure you’re writing your tasks with the best practices in mind.
What Is a DITA Task Topic?
A task topic is a DITA content component built for clear, concise, step-by-step instructions.
I like food, and recipe instructions are a prime example of a DITA task topic. Step-by-step instructions to guide you through assembling a dish for a meal. Apply these step-by-step instructions to something like product assembly and you’ve got something more industry-applicable, yet the idea remains constant. Tell the user all the things they need to do to successfully complete a procedure.
Why Are DITA Task Topics Valuable?
A clearly articulated DITA task topic that communicates step-by-step instructions is a user’s best friend.
Rather than sprawling narrative content that your users need to extract instructions from, DITA task topics remove anything extraneous to completing the task at hand. In a pinch, users are looking for quick, clear answers to a problem. They want an answer to the question, “How do I…?”
DITA task topics provide the framework for this, but it’s a different type of writing for most content creators.
Making appropriate use of the DITA task topic requires two things: understanding the activity you’re documenting, and a firm grasp of knowing how to write good tasks.
How Will DITA Task Topics Be Valuable to My Business?
Concise content that helps customers easily achieve a goal is valuable. You’re investing your time in making their lives easier. An educated customer is a more valuable one, and much more likely to remain one in the future.
You may be thinking that writing a good task is pretty straightforward. You’d be half right. It’s deceptively difficult to be concise, use simplified language, and eliminate presumptions! These three things are vital to good task writing.
- Banish your presumptions about what you think users know. Don’t develop content that assumes aspects of a product, instructions, etc. are known by a user. This happens more often than you think and is the death of writing good tasks. Each step must be free of logical leaps that might lose someone trying to complete the task you’re instructing them on. Write as though you’re explaining to a child, and presume nothing.
- Simplicity is key. The software development processes of your product may be deeply complex, but it’s your job to present them in an accessible manner. Good task writing is often marred by over-explaining, over-complexifying, and overwhelming readers with too much information that they really don’t need at that moment. Provide only the information necessary to achieve the goal of your task.
- Keep it concise. I’ve used this example before and will use it again. A DITA task topic is like a recipe. When you want to cook a meal, you want the recipe steps, not the anecdotal backdrop of why that dish is sentimental to the blogger whose recipe you’ve come across. Your information and context should only be vital to completing the task.
We’ve got a lovely Coffee Brewing Guide that shows several step-by-step ways to brew the perfect cup of coffee. We like to think it’s a great example of task topics with one goal: a magical mug of coffee.
Alternatively, you can learn more about DITA task topics here: The DITA Task Topic: Why You Should Use It.
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