Hiring Help to Script HTML -> DOCX -> InDesign
March 22, 2016 1:47 PM   Subscribe

We need to hire someone to help transform HTML/MARKDOWN text into DOCX, while following finicky instructions. Also: script the process (or at least a lot of it). But we're not sure exactly what type of worker to look for.

We have a project writing formatted text in CheckVist, an online editorial platform. We need to export that text and get it into InDesign so it can be laid out for a book and an app.

CheckVist exports to HTML or MARKDOWN, but our designer is an old-school book designer who doesn't work with coded text. He needs formatted DOCX material he can plug into InDesign, and it's a problem. FWIW InDesign's HTML import functionality is unusable here, for reasons I don't understand, and don't want to argue (per note at bottom re: questioning assumptions; let's take him at his word).

Every solution we've tried for transforming HTML to DOCX to InDesign yields artifacts, loses certain typography (e.g. Chinese calligraphs), etc. It's messier than expected.

Here's the wrinkle. He has tons of InDesign scripts, developed to compensate for previous import methods which didn't work. They require text to be a certain (slightly kooky) way, and it's a machine he now depends upon for his work. So we need the DOCX to be formatted the way he needs it (note: he's actually an amazingly good book designer; it's just that he's 1985).

There's no time for tinkering. We need someone who will quickly grok requirements and make it "just work" without a lot of back-forth. Do their own testing, and hand us something solid and meticulous. So what sort of worker do I need to look for? A designer? A lay-out person? An InDesign wizard? A publishing person?

Note: we don't want someone who'll question our requirements and push to reinvent the process - i.e. unable to constrain their Big Vision, rather than simply do the job. Is there any clever way to filter out that type?
posted by Quisp Lover to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This falls right into an overlap on the Venn diagram of my skills. I've MeFi Mailed you.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 3:02 PM on March 22, 2016

Best answer: If by chance NSAID's options don't work out for you, I would look for anyone who has expertise implementing Pandoc toolchains. Pandoc is the most obvious option for getting from HTML to DOCX whilst including finicky/1985 reqs.
posted by Doleful Creature at 7:36 PM on March 22, 2016

Best answer: NAID might be your guy, and DC's suggestion could be useful for your specific application, but to answer your question more generically (if nothing else, for posterity) you're looking for a data migration person. These are folks who take data in one wacky format and process it so it can be used in a different wacky format. Often these sources and destination are different databases, but they often work with flat files too. And since the sources and destination are usually already defined by the time the migration person is engaged, there's usually not an option to push back much.

Good luck!
posted by ochenk at 8:01 PM on March 22, 2016

Best answer: We need someone who will quickly grok requirements and make it "just work" without a lot of back-forth.

This implies you have a detailed documented set of requirements along with all the edges cases you need tested e.g. the Chinese character issue you mention. The more detailed you are about this the smoother the project will go.
posted by mmascolino at 6:44 AM on March 23, 2016

Response by poster: I've decided to fire the designer and hire someone else to grab content from CheckVist, import it into Indesign, lay it all out, and finally export HTML output from InDesign to match up to what our CMS requires. Forget all the legacy scripts and such.

The design is totally worked out. We have all style sheets finalized, plus thorough examples of every part in InDesign. The worker will grab content from CheckVist, get it into Indesign, and finally export HTML output from InDesign to match up to what the CMS dev requires.

So I guess I'd need to hire someone who's primarily an InDesign wiz (a designer?) with some modern data migration talent. Either that, or just an InDesign/layout person plus someone like NSAID to handle the front and/or back end of that workflow.

So I guess the InDesign/layout person would be a "designer", even though there's no design element to this task?
posted by Quisp Lover at 1:04 PM on March 23, 2016

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