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Define each object
When defining each object, we answer questions such as:
When we recognize that we are using an element over and over, such as a step, we are generalizing from our experience with dozens of steps. We are recognizing a category of information, a class.
Your job now is to name those classes. Later, when you start writing, you will generate instances of that class-actual objects with real content, each unique.
An object starts life as an abstract idea, so we give it a generic name. Not "How to install the frames," but "Procedure."
The name should express the meaning of the element, the point-not its format. For instance, Boldface is not a good name for an object. Emphasized Term might be OK. But we leave the actual formatting up to the template or stylesheet.
Examples of element names:
Define the function or responsibility of the object
Every object has a purpose: to answer a common question from your customers.
The function of each object is to respond to a need on the part of one of your audiences, a longing for that type of information, a request. If you wonder whether something or other is an object, ask yourself: what type of question does this object answer?
If you can figure that out, you may have stumbled on an object.
Define the components of the object
Objects can nest within objects. Your object may be a component of another object, and, in turn, your object may contain other objects.
A procedure belongs to at least one process. Inside the procedure we find objects such as an introduction, instructions, and explanations.
Here we focus on the relationship of the internal components. When describing one of these low-life objects, you need to answer questions like these:
When describing each component object, you also need to answer questions like these:
In your formal definition of objects (such as a Document Type Definition or schema) you do not generally say what other objects this one might be a component of. Once you have defined this object, you can reuse it anywhere.
On the other hand, you may find it useful to keep track of the other, larger objects that incorporate this one, because authors often like to know all the contexts in which their work may appear. For instance, it may be helpful to know that a product description appears in these larger objects:
Each class has its own set of attributes. For instance, the class Book might have attributes such as Printing, Average_Unit_Cost, Trim_Size, Printer, carrying details that the publisher wants to maintain, without showing them to the public.
You use attributes to process objects in your workflow, then, when published, to sort objects, find them, assign them to groups or individuals.
At the very least, an object must have a unique ID, in an attribute with a name such as Identifier, or Object_Number. You probably want software to assign these values automatically, so you do not accidentally give the same ID to two objects, confusing the content management system.
An informative object does not send very interesting messages. Here is a typical request from one content object to another:
To the attention of Object ID # 2231: Please display in a separate window. Thanks…Yours sincerely, Object ID 445.
Basically, objects can link to other objects, bringing them into view. In order to make your linking consistent across the site, you may want to plan linking ahead of time.
Ask questions like:
Each object should have an attribute containing a unique identifier. But if you are creating an object that links outward to other objects, you will need an additional attribute, whose value will be IDREF or IDREFs.
You may want to make up a table with all these standard linkages, just to keep track of them all.
You need enough objects to answer all your users' questions, including those from your audience. You may add a few for the convenience of your staff, and your authors. But generally, objects are content that gets displayed to the audiences.
If you'd like to use a form to collect information about an object, turn to our Visio Form for Modeling an Object (PDF).
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