Adobe released the public beta of its new website creation software, code-named Muse, on Monday.
Unlike Dreamweaver, Adobe’s flagship web development tool, Muse is for graphic designers who want to create elegant websites without having to code.
We’ve been playing with Muse for the past two weeks as part of the private beta, and we are impressed with the tool’s functionality and featureset. What differentiates Muse from some other code-free website creation tools is this: the user interface and the design paradigms mimic those from other Adobe Creative Suite applications, namely InDesign.
This was by design. Adobe says that the majority of users who identify themselves as graphic designers — i.e., not web developers or interaction designers — still primarily work with print. Muse is for these users.
A common scenario is that a graphic designer will create a website in Illustrator, Fireworks or Photoshop and then pass the flattened file off to web designers who will then do their best to code the comp.
With Muse, Adobe hopes to eliminate that coding step for users whose sites don’t need lots of dynamic content — and who want to lay out and generate the code for their site with one tool.
Check out this video to see Muse in action:
Small Footprint, Lots of Features
Perhaps the most surprising feature about Muse is that it is an Adobe Air application, rather than a full-blown native app. That means it works on Mac and PC.
I’m not particularly fond of Adobe Air on the Mac; it tends to have sub-optimal performance. But in Muse’s hands it is fast, efficient, and auto-saves frequently.
This is a public beta, so crashes will happen. When they do, you can just start the app again and resume without losing too much work.
Muse was built to take advantage of certain HTML5 and CSS3 properties and to generate semantically-correct code. We’ve heard all of that before, but in our tests, the code that Muse outputs is clean and readable.
You can add your own HTML snippets or dynamic content information to a Muse page, and the app also comes with a set of pre-defined widgets. These widgets are written in jQuery and can be modified like any other element. CSS3 transitions are also possible to create in Muse; the process is seamless.
You can preview a page locally using the built-in WebKit browser or by opening up a file in the default app on your Mac or PC. This is great for seeing exactly how something looks in a browser before publishing.
Why Not Use WordPress?
The main question that comes up with these types of tools is this: why not just use WordPress, or some similar content management system?
Adobe’s answer is another question: how many types of designers actually need a database system?
That said, Muse could easily be used to prototype content that would then be implemented into a system like WordPress. For instance, a page and section layout designed in Muse could become a new WordPress theme.
In fact, users of the private beta are already exploring these kinds of options, and Adobe is open to expanding on them.
Publishing, Pricing & Availability
Muse is available in public beta now, and Adobe has said the program will be free until its official release in early 2012. That gives designers a chance to offer their feedback.
Once Muse launches under its final name in early 2012, it will be available by subscription. This is the first Adobe product to have a subscription-only pricing scheme and it will be $15 per month with a one-year commitment or $20 per month on a month-to-month basis.
Users who want to publish their sites can choose to use Adobe Business Catalyst for their hosting needs and publish directly from Muse.
If you have hosting setup elsewhere, you can export the contents of your site as HTML and upload the corresponding files, images, HTML and CSS files to your web server.
A Muse Site
This isn’t the most beautiful site in the world — however, for less than 20 minutes of work, it’s not a bad start.
What do you think of Adobe’s new website creation tool? Graphic designers, are you interested in an InDesign-approach to layout and semantically generated code? Let us know in the comments.
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