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Chapter Two: Benefits

The eight benefits described in this chapter were identified by the Tested teams through the process of developing their prototypes and business cases. CTG administered surveys and conducted personal interviews with all the participants to refine these findings into those categories that exhibited the highest level of consensus and impact. The quotations used within the descriptions of the benefits are taken directly from the Testbed interviews.

Information consistency

Information consistency refers to text, images, and other content remaining the same regardless of how and where they are presented. In other words, though the presentation may vary with the media, the content remains the same. This holds true whether it’s a printed publication, a Web page, mobile device, or a word processing format— to name just a few.

Ensuring this consistency frequently involves managing several different formats and multiple source documents. A change at any one point requires changes at all other points. As the number of presentation formats and source documents increase, so does the percentage of errors and inconsistencies, since the original author does not always perform the changes. Ownership of the content and responsibility for maintaining consistency can become muddied in this process. As one Webmaster explained, “They [content developers] rely on us [technical team] because we have always done this, if the text doesn’t read right, we’ll have to rewrite it ... so it falls on us.”

Consistency is critical because inaccurate, incomplete, or conflicting information on a Web site can be embarrassing at best, and at worst, lead to litigation. A public information officer considers the accuracy of information throughout the Web as the main benefit of using XML for content management: “The overall benefit would be the accuracy of information. And that’s very important for anyone, but certainly when you’re dealing with the customers that we have, that depend on the accuracy of information that we’re providing.”

XML enhances consistency in two ways:
  • XML’s ability to produce multiple HTML and PDF pages from single XML files. The management of thousands of individual Web pages is achieved via dozens of XML stylesheets (XSL) that produce those pages. This turns an overwhelming task into one that is highly manageable.
  • XML’s single-source of content (described further in the next section) ensures that the same information appears the same across a Web site because it all comes from the same source.