One of the most central elements of a Flare project is the Cascading Stylesheet (CSS). This is where you define the colors, the styles and the behavior of the content in your topics. Building a powerful and flexible CSS file is not trivial, if you do not have any prior CSS knowledge. This is why many of our clients choose to let W2U either design the CSS or assist in the CSS architecture setup. The CSS model has so many features and advantages that it takes an expert to build the perfect CSS.
Although you can import all the styles you have in Word or Framemaker, it is a very good idea to let us help in order to minimize the number of styles – and thus minimize the maintenance of the CSS file. Also, the single sourcing power of Flare needs to be addressed in the CSS. Some styles are for print only, some are for online help only and others are for both formats.
Once the CSS file has been done, it can be linked into all your Flare projects so that you only have to maintain one CSS.
Flare project template
During the development phase, we identify the elements of the first Flare project which should go into our Flare project template. This template has a dual function:
- It serves as a template for new Flare projects
- It becomes the Global Project in a family of Flare projects
The Global Project Linking feature in Flare allows you to link all the shared elements in the Global Project to the child projects. For example, if you have 20 different Flare projects, you only need to maintain the shared elements in the Global Project. That’s what we call single sourcing. Examples of shared elements would be the company logo, the company address, the product variables, shared warnings, etc.
Flare topic templates
Flare builds on the concept of topic based authoring. This means that all your content is broken down into small chunks of information – the topics. A topic contains information on one subject only, it must be self-contained and able to stand alone. A topic can be presented in different ways – as online help, a page in a PDF, a page in an e-book, etc. In an online help system the topic must be able to stand alone, because the user may find it in a search and read it out of context. Basically, he does not know where the topic belongs in the structure.
This is where the topic templates come in. A topic template helps the technical communicator become more aware of what type of information he is conveying. The topic template also helps the reader because the topic structure becomes easily recognizable and easy to follow.
In technical documentation, we typically operate with three main content types:
- The conceptual topic (What is…)
- The procedural topic (How to)
- The reference topic (lookup information)
When you define a topic template for each of these content types, you have typically covered 90% of all your content! This is why topic templates are very effective. Let W2U help you build your topic templates based on our experience with hundreds of Flare projects.
Every company wants it own branding to appear in online help, PDF files, printed documentation, etc. In Flare, we use skins (for online help) and Page Layouts (for print files) to design the framework around your content. Typically, we integrate your logo, taglines, company colors, etc. in the Flare design. With the flexible and open nature of Flare, you can change almost any element in the UI of your output. So, if you have a reasonable company design guide, we can assist you in making your output shine!
Throughout the development phase, we make sure that our expectations are aligned in relation to the final output. So building prototypes of online help and PDF is very important for assuring that we are constantly on the right track. Technically, we help you build your Flare targets and use our checklist for the outputs.