Saturday, 24 January 2009

Barriers to DITA adoption

(A response to Tom Johnson's blog "Where I stand on DITA")

Tom Johnson has decided it's time for him to seriously evaluate DITA for his work. I completely agree with Tom's comment that DITA is perfectly suited for developing and delivering easy-to-digest chunks of information, and so, theoretically, it should be eagerly embraced by all of us jobbing tech writers who want to make our work relevant to our readers and effective for our clients.

What's missing from Tom's post is an appreciation of the barriers to adoption that still exist. As an independent consultant working mainly with small businesses I find that my clients are reluctant to commit to DITA for a number of reasons:

- they are looking for something that's very easy to use and won't require too much training;

- they are looking for something that has low initial costs and even lower ongoing maintenance costs;

- they prefer to be offered a solution that comes "straight out of the box" and won't need a lot of customisation;

- they want something their own staff - who aren't trained technical writers - will be able to work with easily;

- they are looking for a familiar brand name as that seems to be reassuring;

- sometimes, they still need to be convinced of the value of investing anything at all in improving their end user documentation!

As DITA authoring tools become more user-friendly and more readily available some of these barriers will begin to fade. I do have a particular interest in one tool becoming easier to use, but in general terms, the more DITA tools that become available, and the easier they become to use, the better for everyone.