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September 5, 2011 / carlispina

Considering Muse

My Muse Website

This is the homepage of the website I created using Adobe's Muse

I recently had an opportunity to try out the public beta release of Adobe’s new product, code-named Muse. Muse allows users to create dynamic websites without knowing any code. Instead of writing code, users instead use an interface and features similar to those found in Adobe’s InDesign to create the desired design. While the design is, for the most part, limited to the options offered by the program, some interesting design options are available, including tabs, accordions, lightbox slideshows and a variety of menus. And, it is possible to move beyond Muse’s options by inserting HTML to add third-party widgets and other sections of HTML to the website.

Overall, I found Muse very user-friendly. I was able to design a complete website (you can see the homepage above and can visit it here) in a couple of hours. It will be particularly easy for InDesign users since the interface copies many of InDesign’s features. One particularly nice feature for designers is the ability to create “Master” pages with styles and features that will be included on multiple pages. Multiple Master pages can be created for a single website and switching which Master an individual page follows is as easy as dragging the Master and dropping it on the desired page. Masters are visible on the Plan page which gives an overview of the entire website and shows how the separate webpages are connected. This makes it easy to visualize the site map of a website and also simplifies the process of changing how pages link to one another. Another nice feature of Muse is the fact that many edits will automatically cascade through the entire site during the design phase. For example, if you change the background color of a Master, all of the pages that follow that Master will automatically update. And, if you change the site map of the website, these changes will be reflected in any menus in the website. If you are interested in quickly designing a website and are more comfortable with graphic design than with coding, this product will likely be of interest.

Once a website is done, Muse makes it easy to launch the site. Users with an Adobe Business Catalyst account can publish their site quickly through a few brief steps. Users without a Business Catalyst account have the option to export their website as HTML files that can be uploaded to any server. Either option makes it quick and easy to put the finished website up online.

Despite these advantages, I found that Muse does have a few drawbacks. For users who are comfortable with web programming, it can be frustrating not to have more access to the website’s code (though in fairness, I don’t think this is the intended audience for this product). There were certain details of my site that I would have liked to alter but I was limited by Muse’s options and found that the HTML that was exported from the program was difficult to understand and modify (though it did meet the existing HTML5 standards). Also, once version 1.0 is released, Adobe plans to charge a subscription fee for the product (more information on the pricing is available on the Muse website).

Particularly while Muse is in beta, I think it is worth trying. Whether it can compete with other code-free web design options will depend on its final price, but I think it will ultimately be an attractive option for InDesign users. As a bottom line, it makes it quick and easy to design a website without working with any code. This in and of itself will make it a welcome product for many.

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