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Beyond Schemas: Planning Your XML Model by Jennifer Thompson

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Identifying Structure

Once you have identified how and where your users want to find the information needed to complete their tasks, you must consider how to structure it. Providing your information in a structured way makes it easier for users to find the same information efficiently and consistently every time for different subjects.

When you first learned how to write a letter, your teacher most likely explained that every letter has a standard structure that includes a date, address, greeting, body, and salutation. The structure for a letter is different than the structure you would use for a recipe that includes ingredients, preparation instructions, and a result. Each of those types of information contains different structures than a user guide. User guides typically provide solutions for how to do some task with your product, some kind of background information about the product, or even some specifications about the product.

In order to identify structure in your information, you must conduct an internal analysis of your information. Identifying structure does not mean that you identify the different heading styles, list styles, and paragraph styles. Identifying structure based on formatting is referred to as syntactic structure. These pieces of your information are only aesthetics and formatting that you can change to match your users' wants.

An information analysis must focus on the content of the information—i.e., the semantic structure. What is the information trying to ...

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