What considerations should be made for content maintenance when selecting a topic type?

Considerations for content maintenance when selecting a DITA topic type are crucial to ensure that documentation remains accurate, consistent, and easy to update. Here’s an overview and explanation of these considerations:

Selecting the appropriate DITA topic type is essential for effective content maintenance. Different topic types are designed for various purposes, and making the right choice can significantly impact how easily content can be updated, expanded, and kept up-to-date.

Some important considerations for content maintenance include content purpose, audience needs, content reusability, expected changes, consistency and standards, and scalability.

Content Purpose

The first consideration should be the nature and purpose of the content. Understand the primary goal of the information being documented. Is it explanatory, procedural, or reference material? Different topic types, such as “concept,” “task,” and “reference,” are tailored for specific purposes.

Audience Needs

Consider the target audience. What information do they require, and in what format? Different topic types present information differently. For example, a “concept” topic provides explanations, while a “task” topic offers step-by-step instructions. Choose a topic type that aligns with the needs and preferences of the audience.

Content Reusability

Think about whether the content might need to be reused in various contexts or projects. If content is intended for reuse, selecting a topic type with structured content and clear semantics can enhance its adaptability in different scenarios.

Expected Changes

Anticipate how frequently the content might need to change or be updated. If frequent updates are expected, choose a topic type that makes it easy to modify content without disrupting its overall structure or flow.

Consistency and Standards

Consider the need for maintaining consistency across the documentation set. Using the same topic type for similar types of content can simplify consistency efforts. However, don’t force content into a topic type if it doesn’t naturally fit.


Think about how the content might scale over time. If significant content expansion is anticipated, ensure that the selected topic type can accommodate growth without becoming unwieldy.

Example: Content Maintenance Choice

An organization is documenting a software application and needs to provide information about troubleshooting common issues. They have two options:

Option 1: Using a “Task” Topic

        <!-- Task Topic -->
            <title>Troubleshooting Common Issues</title>
                    <step>If the software freezes, try restarting your computer.</step>
                    <step>If you encounter an error message, note down the message and contact support.</step>
                    <!-- Additional troubleshooting steps -->

Option 2: Using a “Reference” Topic

        <!-- Reference Topic -->
            <title>Troubleshooting Guide</title>
                    <title>Common Software Issues</title>
                    <p>This section provides solutions to common software problems.</p>
                        <title>Freezing Issues</title>
                        <p>If the software freezes...</p>
                        <title>Error Messages</title>
                        <p>If you encounter an error message...</p>
                    <!-- Additional troubleshooting sections -->

In this example, if the organization expects frequent updates to troubleshooting information, the “Reference” topic type may be a better choice as it allows for easy expansion and reorganization of troubleshooting sections. If the content remains relatively stable, the “Task” topic type might be sufficient. The choice depends on the organization’s specific content maintenance needs.