Are there best practices for testing and validating DITA specializations?

Best practices for testing and validating DITA specializations are crucial to ensuring that customized DITA content meets quality and compliance standards. Here’s a comprehensive approach to this process:

Definition: Testing and validation in the context of DITA specializations involve the systematic assessment of customizations and content structures introduced through specialization to ensure they are compliant with DITA standards and organization-specific requirements.

Conceptual Overview: DITA specializations allow organizations to tailor their content to specific needs. However, it’s essential to validate these customizations to avoid rendering issues, data inconsistencies, and non-compliance with established standards. Best practices for testing and validation aim to identify and address such issues proactively.

Testing: To test DITA specializations, organizations typically follow these practices:

  1. Unit Testing: Content authors conduct unit testing by creating and validating individual DITA topics. This includes checking elements, attributes, and relationships defined in the specialization.
  2. Integration Testing: Specialized topics are integrated and tested within a larger document set to ensure consistency and proper rendering in context.
  3. Output Testing: Test outputs in various formats (e.g., PDF, HTML, or others) to ensure that the specializations are correctly reflected in the final content rendering.

Validation: Validation involves confirming that the customizations adhere to DITA standards and organization-specific rules. Common practices include:

  1. Using DTDs or Schemas: Employ DTDs or XML Schemas to define and validate the custom elements and attributes within the specialization.
  2. XML Validation Tools: Utilize XML validation tools and authoring environments that check DITA content for compliance with DTDs or Schemas and report errors or warnings.
  3. Custom Validation Rules: Create custom validation rules tailored to the organization’s requirements. These rules can be enforced using validation tools or scripts.


Consider a DITA specialization for software documentation introducing a custom element <custom-command> to describe software commands. Testing and validation would involve creating sample topics containing this element, ensuring the output is accurate, and using XML validation tools to confirm compliance with the DTD or Schema defined for the specialization.

<!-- Custom DITA specialization element for software commands -->
<!ELEMENT custom-command (command-name, description)>
<!ELEMENT command-name (#PCDATA)>
<!ELEMENT description (#PCDATA)>