Information Developer for TraxTronix

  • 34 years old, single
  • BS in Technical Communication, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)
  • Proficient in FrameMaker, Robohelp, Photoshop, and Dreamweaver
  • Has worked for 3 different Chicago-area companies since graduating from UIC
  • Has accounts on FaceBook and Flikr
  • Senior member of STC but not active in chapter or SIGs

“I’m seeing a lot about DITA in the publications and conferences, and I’m afraid my current skills might be dating me.”

Randy got into technical writing because he had excellent writing skills and an ability to learn technical topics. He taught himself the emerging tools of technical writing, desktop publishing and help authoring, the same way he learned about the products he documented: He read what there was to read and played with it until he got it. Eventually he learned HTML and can edit web pages and cascading style sheets, although he considers himself to be a traditional writer in the sense of producing PDFs and CHMs using the standard tools of the trade.

Randy is a little nervous as his company is talking about delivering XML-based documentation and using a structured writing standard like DITA. Their main motivation seems to be to re-engineer the translation process because they plan to increase the number of target languages. Randy has been using FrameMaker and RoboHelp for a long time and feels he is losing his tool and technology edge. And although he is comfortable with HTML, this thing called XML seems a little vague and abstract to him.

Key Attributes

  • Strong information design skills
  • Likes making complex things easy to understand
  • Takes a lot of satisfaction from being the office FrameMaker expert
  • Not afraid of learning new things


  • Interviews SMEs
  • Works with software QA releases and prototypes to learn how they work
  • Designs an information strategy to support new product releases
  • Handles the more technical topics
  • Guides junior writers

Informational Needs/Goals

  • Needs to understand what DITA is, e.g., is it just a standard or is it a collection of tools and templates.
  • Needs to be able to “play with it” to understand it. Wants to know how to download it and try it
  • Needs some guidance about “what a technical communicator should be able to do with DITA”

Scenario of Use: Randy Green

  1. Randy navigates to the STC Website and clicks on a link to the Body of Knowledge. He lands on the Technical Communication Knowledge Portal and looks at his various navigation choices. He clicks on the topic called “Tool Knowledge” and navigates to a second navigation page, one that has links grouped by types of tools. He scrolls and finds “DITA” in a group called “XML Tools.” [Had he looked in the group called “Structured Writing Tools” he would have found DITA there as well.

  2. Randy clicks the DITA link and jumps to an overview page for DITA. The overview page gives a concise, introductory description of DITA. (See the Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin_Information_Typing_Architecture to get a feel of what level of detail he might encounter.)

  3. Randy sees a section on additional resources that has links to the OASIS DITA page, DITA forums, and a list of books (with links to Amazon.com for more information on each). He also sees links to recommended articles on DITA. Each of these links has a comment area where previous visitors have rated and commented on the usefulness of the link.

  4. Randy sees a section called “Training and Downloads,” which has an “STC members” label on the link, which he clicks, expecting to find that he will need to log in. Sure enough: A page appears explaining that the “Training and Downloads” section is only available STC members, and there’s a log-in form asking for member number or user name and password.

  5. Randy logs in. On the page that comes up, he finds links to vendor sites that offer trial DITA editor downloads with free tutorials, as well as links to seminars, webinars, and workshops that deal with DITA.

  6. Randy decides to take advantage of a vendor download and tutorials to start getting some hands-on familiarity. [Because Randy takes this link from the STC site, STC receives advertising revenue from the vendor.]

  7. Randy bookmarks the page in case he wants to return and see what formal training is available.

The thought process of the scenario of use for Randy seems to be typical of someone new to the terminology and tools for the technique of structured writing or single-sourcing using such tools as DITA and XML.  Randy could use several other areas within the STC BoK to find additional information about DITA and structured writing.  An online forum or discussion board could be useful for Randy.  He could post his questions or requests for additional information using an online forum. 


Other types of related research or sub-topics related to Randy’s search on the STC BoK could be the translation, globalization, and localization topics.  With the possibility of his company expanding and requiring translation of existing documentation or products, Randy needs to be aware of the subsequent work that could result from the company expanding its reach.

In evaluating this scenario of use for Randy, it is notable that Randy is only able to access the area on the STC BoK for STC members because it requires a membership number for access.  The use of the STC BoK by non-members of STC would have to stop at the Training and Downloads page when trying to access tool downloads and related training materials.  While understanding the need to restrict downloads for tools and related training materials, restricting access to this information could result in frustrated users.  It might be beneficial to the BoK to provide links to pages that would be free as well as the restricted pages.  If it is possible to create pages for STC members and non-members, the accessibility to the information would push the BoK to the top of the list for research sites used by technical communicators or others.