New Portfolio using Flare

For those of you who are interested, buy today I released a new version of my online work portfolio. The content is pretty similar to the old portfolio, however there is a totally new layout and the back end is completely different.

I’ve migrated my entire portfolio site to use MadCap Flare. I know that Flare is usually considered a help authoring tool, and an online portfolio doesn’t really fit into the category of help, but I decided Flare was the best tool for my project because I wanted the following:

  • Multiple outputs. An online portfolio is great, but the truth is that often times when I need to present my portfolio, I am going to want to be able to provide it in a hard-copy version. Since my source files are in Flare, I can create one target that publishes my portfolio to my website and another target that publishes it to a Word or Framemaker document.
  • Output conditions. Ideally a portfolio is customized for a specific situation. Since my source content is in Flare, if I want to create a customized version of my portfolio for a particular audience, it is as simple as adding conditions to my topics, and creating a new target. In addition, if I don’t want to include links to my resume or writing samples, I can create one output type that excludes this information, and another output type that includes it. I can publish the limited-info version on my website, but publish the full-information version to a CD that I can give to people.
  • Resume single sourcing. This part isn’t complete yet, but I realized that on my old portfolio site, I had several different versions of my resume that I was always updating to keep them current. That was kind of a pain, plus I had to keep all versions of my resume behind a “locked door” so-to-speak, as to keep private information private. With Flare, I’ll be able to create one version of my resume, conditionally exclude private information for the website, and create as many outputs as I need–all from the single file.

You’ll notice that my new site doesn’t have the frameset that is a standard part of Frame’s WebHelp output. I didn’t need the frameset because I don’t need the same functionality as I would for a help system. I could have modified my Flare skin so that the tool bar was only 1 px high and the sidebar was hidden by default, but that still loaded the site in a frameset, which I didn’t really like, so I set up HTTP redirection to take you directly to the topic page.

If you are interested in how I created the layout, I did all the layout in a Master Page. The layout is entirely CSS-based (as opposed to using tables for layout) which makes the site more accessible and standardized. (If you know how, try disabling the attached style sheets to see what I mean.) The images were all added to the style sheet, but I ended up inserting the banner image into the template’s HTML file so I could do an image map (which makes the words on the right side of the image links to the various sections).

In the end, I’m pleased with the new site. It gives me the flexibility to publish my portfolio in multiple media types with slightly different content for each target while maintaining only a single source for all my documents. Flare was a great choice for this project, even if it is an unconventional use for the tool.

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