A Short Review of Adobe Muse

museJust 8 days after its official release, I have the unique opportunity to “rant” about an Adobe software, one that is very new, has no preceding version, an innovation of Adobe labs, a tiny little program, called Muse. I was lucky enough to find it way ahead of others, and to test the final release instead of a shaky beta.

So, what is Muse? Well, according to Adobe itself, “Adobe Muse software enables designers to create websites without writing code. Planning, designing, and publishing original HTML pages is as easy as creating layouts for print. With master pages, built-in tools for interactivity, and access to over 400 web fonts served by the Adobe Typekit service, it’s a snap to produce distinctive, professional websites.” You might say, well, this sounds a lot like Dreamweaver, why do we need something that does exactly the same? Actually, those were my own thoughts as well. As it turns out, Dreamweaver does not and should not be compared to Muse. I have used and tested Dreamweaver in the past, and the experience is very different. While Adobe and some designers state that you can make a full website with Dreamweaver and never even look at the code, I pretty much have my doubts about that, not to mention the quality of the resulting website. Now, in comparison to that Muse really is a software that takes code out of the design process. For the most part at least…

Adobe Muse unlike most of the other Adobe programs is really small. Just a few megabytes, and installs in a few seconds. Running on Adobe Air, means it’s cross-platform, so worrying about whether it works on Windows or Mac is out of the question. First impression: looks like every other Adobe program. That was promising since it also meant a very steep learning curve. Kudos to the guys from Adobe for keeping the general idea behind all of their software the same. Consistency is good! It took me less than 30 minutes to consider myself proficient enough to actually build a website. 18 hours later I had a 7 page website finished, up and running, working in all the major browsers, bug-free (as far as I know, and was able to test).

What happened during those 18 hours? Except the few (around 6 or 7) Muse crashes, everything worked more or less like a charm. Steps were pretty straight-forward: design the structure of the pages, then design a master page (could call it template), then populate and edit the pages themselves. If you have a really good artistic eye, you really can go nuts and build an impressive functional layout in a very short time. The options for each element you create are not unlimited, but enough to end up in one way or another with the website you wanted. Now about the options, they work, but (and this is probably because of Adobe Air) the entire program seems to be a tiny bit unresponsive, a bit sluggish if you may. However, after getting used to it, things will work as intended. All you need is just a quarter of a second more patience than usual. Now, about those crashes. Unfortunately those can be frustrating. Still, it didn’t really cripple my workflow. It has a very smart recovery engine built in, so everything I was doing up to the last millisecond, was recovered after every crash. No work was lost whatsoever. Pretty impressive for such a small program.

Adobe says, and I mentioned this myself that Muse takes the code out of the design process. Yeah, that’s a white lie actually. You can’t entirely eliminate code from the design process, and here’s why. The moment you need to add a YouTube video, you need to add the embed code into the HTML object window. That’s code. You might also need to edit that, because of iframe conflicts that can occur between the menu bar and the video. Then you might want to include the Google Api for website translation, that’s another snippet of code. Maybe a “mailto:” line of code, or even a music player or other widgets. Bottom line, knowing absolutely nothing about code (html, css, some php and javascript or jquery) will prove to be unfortunate. The code generated by Muse is … not bad. Some designers say it’s great code, others say it’s horrible. I would rather say it’s nor here, nor there. Testing with W3C a few errors did pop up, most of those not really errors and not even caused by Muse itself, so nothing to be overly worried about.

Is there space for improvement? Yes. Absolutely. One very important element is entirely missing (or at least I never found it), and that’s the “form” element. Every website needs a contact page. It’s just how things work in real life. Unfortunately Muse does not come with a form option, element or widget. This took me to Dreamweaver after I exported the site as HTML (really nice export btw), and just out of curiosity loaded the entire site into Dreamweaver. Unfortunate surprise: it just doesn’t work. For some reason the website in Dreamweaver (CS5.5) will look horrible and very hard to edit. However I am not the person that just gives up and tried to build a form in Dreamweaver anyway. The result was… well, disappointing. So, one more thing to improve is maybe Muse – Dreamweaver compatibility.

All in all, it’s a good piece of software, but it begs improvement. Does the job well, though you have to be careful and check it twice every time you decide to save, things can go nuts if you edit an element without caring about the ripple effects it can produce throughout the site. The workflow is definitely a clean one, and being organised while developing a website is something that Muse very much relies on. The learning curve is extremely steep, something that makes Muse stand out from the crowd of other more or less similar programs. It’s a design software, and it really does what it promises, with the occasional non-lethal crashes. To be quite honest, I am happy I tried it out, and anyone that is at least a little bit interested in web-development, should give it a try too.


13 responses to “A Short Review of Adobe Muse

  1. Good review, but you keep mis-using the phrase “steep learning curve” when I think you are meaning to say that it is NOT a steep learning curve. As in it is NOT too difficult to learn, it is easy.

    • I have to agree and not to agree with you on that. The metaphor “steep learning curve” is one of the most controversial ones. Perhaps in the future I should avoid it completely since it can be interpreted both ways. The meaning I was familiar with refers to it being easy, as in the learning curve getting quickly to the top, whih means it’s a short process. I also remember David Malan from Harvard University using the same metaphor the same way. So I guess we’re both right. πŸ™‚ (you can investigate, if you wish, I know I did). Anyhow, thanks for reading and liking the review, and feel welcome to point out an other potential errors in the future.

    • Well… good question. First of all it doesn’t really matter what the hosting company is. WordPress seems to run just fine even on free hosting services as well like 000webhost. The code that Muse generates can be simple and darn complicated as well. Since it generated very nice but quite basic websites it is simple in its nature, but once you start looking and the code it generated, you will have no idea what’s what. To be quite honest, I think it generates a lot of redundant code, too many classes, too many id’s in the markup and the CSS, and they are anything but descriptive. There is also the fact that Muse generates an entire website, includind metadata in the head and other stuff which you might need to edit later on for proper adaptation to WordPress. I’d say Muse is great as a simple website generator tool, but if you’re then hoping to go into the code and edit it, forget it, you’ll have no idea what’s what, and it will just crash, just like it did when I ported it to Dreamweaver. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but rather that it’s not worth the trouble. BUT to strictly answer your question, the method would be taking the HTML code and the CSS and copying it into your WordPress template. You do have to know though, that Muse creates a CSS file for each page separately, so take that into account as well.

      • i do not at this point have any experience with dreamweaver. i do take the course this coming semester. i have a client that has designed his whole website in photoshop. i though maybe it easier to take it into adobe muse but he wants widgets that muse does not offer. i am stuck.

      • Yeah. I feel you. πŸ™‚ Clients and their widgets… While I do urge you to just write your own code (HTML + CSS), you could sit down and learn Dreamweaver in under 5 days, and not wait until next semester. Here’s what I’d do (actually did in the past). Do version 1 of the website in Dreamweaver to get the hang of it, even if it’s just for yourself, then start writing some HTML of your own. Then add some CSS to it while actually applying the design your client made in Photoshop. Finally take CouchCMS and give it a web-admin panel. I did it. It works and I had a very happy client. If you’re not yet good at HTML and CSS here are 2 links to get you started: https://bitbits.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/the-best-free-html5-css3-course/
        I very much hope that these will help you. Also as someone mentioned here, you can also try Sitegrinder, though to be honest if you want to really get into web development and design, you’ll do the smart thing and learn to code by hand. If you’re really into it, shouldn’t take more than 2-3 weeks to get basics and some details as well. Once you have the basics, things will flow like the Orinoco. About a month ago I did the code by hand for an entire website in 4 days! You can do that too, if you study hard enough for a few weeks. Good luck and don’t hesitate to come back with further questions. πŸ™‚

  2. I’m a professional web developer/designer, and have been playing around with Muse for a couple of days. Just for the record, Muse is definitely not a professional-level web development platform. It’s passible for making small, uncomplicated, static brochure-type sites β€” especially for those uninterested in diving into coding.

    For anything more than a modest, simple site, however, it’s deficiencies really show through. It’s no good at all for dynamic sites running out of databases and needing to be integrated with a server-side language. As mentioned in the review, it’s not even much good for simple forms, let alone tying those forms into a database.

    As for the quality of the code that it writes, it mostly validates to W3C standards, but it’s still clunky and uses lots of miscellaneous hacks to achieve the same ends that better-written code could have achieved more efficiently. It’s sort of like a short story where the punctuation and grammar are correct, but the story is still not well-written. If you need to integrate php or write custom jQuery/Javascipts, you’ll be out of luck with Muse.

    So just to summarize my take on Muse, if you’re not a professional website designer but you’re familiar with other Adobe software and just need to get a simple, small site up, it’ll work out okay if your goals are modest. On the other hand, if you have aspirations of becoming a pro at web design and development, Muse isn’t the place to start β€” skip it altogether and learn to write HTML/CSS instead.

  3. Pingback: Working Adobe Muse |·

  4. seems like adobe went back and reinvented older concepts tried and failed by others
    this is a web site builder for newbies and amateurs and it’s not cheap either
    adobe are nasty as always and i don’t get all those who fall for their clumsy over sized products as they do to with all Apple shit

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