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You wouldn’t write a novel to explain how to make coffee. You’d write it in a few easy steps. 

 

The DITA Task Topic Is for Completing Tasks

Aptly named, the DITA task topic presents clear steps that guide someone toward completing a — you guessed it — task. Like making coffee or baking a pie. 

If you think this is too obvious, then you understand why you should use a DITA task topic: You want someone to be able to complete a task. 

DITA task topics should be beacons of clarity and simplicity, meant to describe how to achieve a goal in as few words as possible. 

If you’ve ever looked up a recipe online, you’ve probably been frustrated by food bloggers’ rambling personal anecdotes preceding the actual recipe. When you’re only interested in how to make the dish; extraneous narrative detracts from achieving your goal. 

DITA task topics have only the details needed to complete the task. No fluff. No nonsense. Nothing peripheral. 

 

What Use Is a DITA Task Topic to You?

You want your customers and users to know how to do something. Such as use your product. 

Narrative, linear writing, such as I’m doing right now, has its place among the world of content. It tells a story, supplying information and ideas that connect to different parts in a larger tale. 

For instance, mentioning making coffee at the beginning of this article, and reminding you of it here makes linear narrative what it is. But, I digress. This style of writing doesn’t help you complete the task of making coffee. You just want the step. No more, less:

    1. Place a filter in your coffee machine
    2. Measure your desired grounds and palace them in the coffee filter
    3. Measure your desired water and fill the coffee machine’s water reservoir
    4. Start the brew cycle, wait a few minutes, then enjoy 

It’s as simple as that. 

And it’s useful because customers don’t want to sift through content to decipher an answer. They don’t want to research. They don’t want to take more than a few minutes (and that’s generous) figuring out how to do something. A DITA task topic is that fast, effective answer they’re looking for and it will hold their attention because it is immediately valuable for achieving their goal

This was a quick example. If you’re looking for the real deal, we have an actual coffee brewing guide for true coffee lovers. There you can see DITA task topics in the wild, doing exactly what they’re supposed to do. 

 

Why Using a DITA Task Topic Helps You

The easier you make things for your users, the easier you make things for yourself. 

There should be no guise in DITA task topics, nothing nebulous or unclear. Their inherent beauty is getting people to complete a task through the path of least resistance. 

Well educated users are more valuable and are more likely to remain future users. They’re also more likely to become off-the-books product evangelists for you. Human beings like talking about things they’re good at doing. When your content is the catalyst for that, you’re doing it right. 

DITA task topics are the baseline instructive DITA information type that breaks down how to do something. Your customers and users need this to be knowledgeable, proficient users.

Naturally, climbing into the minds, actions, and intentions of your users is tough. That’s the real heavy lifting of using DITA task topics properly, which we address more fully here: How to Write a Good DITA Task Topic.

While not spinning linguistic yarns, Tim enjoys a peculiar existential balance. With a refined palate for Champagne that's equally attuned to pizza, he's also a loyal champion of bees, the trees, and inseams never past the knees.
Tim Ludwig