My Musings

August 16, 2011

Adobe Muse – Solving the ‘last mile’ for web design

Adobe has just released a public beta of what it hopes to be the ‘last mile‘ solution for visual designers wishing to move their creations out of Photoshop and Fireworks and onto the web without having to deal with all that messy code.

Adobe Muse works in a very similar way to Adobe’s other flagship products, providing designers a blank canvas through which they can start designing page elements interactions without needing to worry about <div> tags and CSS validation*.

Muse Design Layout

“The ability to build Web sites as easily as laying out a page in InDesign is one of the most popular requests from our design customers,” Lea Hickman, vice president of Design and Web product management at Adobe, said in a statement. “Those who have tested Muse are thrilled that something this intuitive yet powerful is now available.”

Muse breaks the web design process into four steps: Plan, Design, Preview, and Publish.

Initially, you will create a high-level site map providing the framework of the site you are developing. This contains all common page elements such as logos, floor mats, and common navigation. This is also where you will develop the initial look & feel of the site.

Once this has been defined you can get down to the business of building individual sections of each page under the site map.  In this design phase you will also start to polish the visual elements that will soon make up your page.

Designers can then preview their development in-browser and once they’re comfortable, publish online.  In addition to the Web authoring software, Muse provides Adobe Web hosting for testing, staging, and reviewing Muse sites. After the development phase is completed, the designer can either convert it to a paid Adobe-hosted site, or export the site via FTP to another Web host.

“Muse was built with the print designer in mind”

“Muse was built with the print designer in mind,” said Danielle Beaumont, group product manager at Adobe. “It allows designers who are not coders to create unique, professional websites as easily as producing a layout in InDesign. This is an end-to end-solution with interactive elements like slideshows, tool tips, remote rollovers, and lightboxes….It allows the designer to do things that only a hand-coder could do.”

Potential to change the landscape

While this initial release of the software is very much an early beta, if the final product is delivered to a high enough standard this could really open up a lot of opportunities for capable, talented designers who for whatever reason have held back on shifting their skillset to the web.

The gap this could plug is obvious – website design and website development really couldn’t be more disparate areas of expertise. One requires you to be creatively minded and artistic. The other require a highly analytical view of endless lines of code and bugtest-after-bugtest. If Adobe can remove the code barrier from the equation, anyone comfortable with Photoshop will suddenly be able to build rich web experiences with only minor additional learning.

What about Dreamweaver?

One thing that does strike me as curious about Adobe’s approach here is the implicit slap in the face to their current website builder, Dreamweaver. Whilst real web developers may have shunned it as a tool for the past couple of years Dreamweaver is still a widely used WYSIWYG design tool for those less comfortable with code. So why build a brand new tool to complete when you could easily implement Muse’s design features into the existing application? Does this signal a move away from Dreamweaver for Adobe?

Availability and requirements

Muse is scheduled for commercial release in the first quarter of 2012. It will be available via subscription only at $15 per month or $180 per year. A month-to-month subscription is $20. The rationale behind offering Muse only as a subscription is that it allows Adobe to make improvements to the software more quickly and to be more responsive to user needs, browser and device compatibility issues, and design trends.

Adobe plans to update Muse on a quarterly schedule rather than the yearly, 18-month, or two-year schedule that is traditional for major software.

Muse requires a dual core Mac running OS X 10.6 or higher and Adobe AIR 2.7 or higher. The program is cross-platform. Complete system requirements are listed on Adobe’s website.

Adobe has set up a website where interested parties can download the free beta, view a gallery of Muse-created websites, and access instructional tutorials. Some 40 websites designed with Muse have already been published by Adobe’s pre-release community.

Watch the short video below for a more quick overview of Adobe’s newest offering: 



* Note: I have no idea what these things means, I have not built a webpage in a very long time.


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