Detail of Muse's working screen.
Adobe’s just released a beta of a cute new design tool for the web aimed squarely at you guys who aren’t interested in coding, called Muse. It touts itself as “code-free website building,” but I wouldn’t really go that far. It’s more like websites for designers who don’t care about code. The code itself is deeply lacking.
I ran an initial test of the product this morning, without looking at tutorials or docs, to see how easy it would be to get into as the typical designer who simply refuses to read any sort of instructions. It’s pretty simple, but the underlying code’s a little bit of a car crash, and it’s not really the tool for a studio who wants to bill themselves as a business who can do a truly 360° look at a brand, from print to web to tablet to mobile. If you hide the code and structure from the designer, there’s an inherent dumbness that happens to the site without the technical knowledge behind it to power content, strategy and construction. For example, this garbled mess, below, from Adobe’s own showcase:
incorrectly specs typefaces like Futura, Century Gothic and AppleGothic in its paragraphs without an embedding service like TypeKit, and in incorrect syntax. It’s output incorrectly straight from Muse. It should actually look more like this:
As my partner mentioned in his Twitter feed earlier today, it used to be that you could argue, “learn HTML if you want a site; it’s simple.” Then HTML (formerly HTML5) happened. Sitebuilding is just not something the layperson can up and learn any more.
I would argue that to do it well, you needed to actually focus on it full-time. I would even argue that designers who are just now getting into the web should transition out of whatever other medium they work in, especially if it’s print. The web’s a totally different world with completely different priorities than print designers can’t easily get their heads around.
If sitebuilding isn’t a priority to you, and you want to simply build a little website for a little business that doesn’t need a lot of editability built in, this is great for you. Say your pal has a cupcake shop and just wants a little five-pager to use as a simple outpost on the web. You can use Muse to define global styling in master pages, work out a basic pageflow in a visual flowchart, and edit pages one by one.
Muse is downloadable and usable for free until its formal launch in 2012. Upon its launch, it’s going to be at the low end of the pricing spectrum on a subscription basis. If you need to buy it from month to month, it’s $20 per month. If you buy it as a yearly subscription, it’s $180, or $15 monthly.