When I think of Adobe, the first things that come to mind are Flash, and Acrobat—or more precisely the Reader utility used to view the PDF documents created by Acrobat. When I think of creating content with Adobe Creative Cloud, I think of PhotoShop and Illustrator. I was not aware that Adobe even had a dedicated product for designing websites, and was surprised to find that Adobe Muse is among the suite of tools available with a Creative Cloud subscription.
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Muse is the new kid on the block when it comes to the tools in Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite. It has been around for less than two years, but Adobe has iterated major revisions roughly every three months—making significant strides in features and performance over a relatively short period of time.
My experience with tools that make Web design simple enough for those who aren’t professional graphic designers or developers to do it has been questionable. When Microsoft first introduced FrontPage, it seemed to put Web design in the hands of the masses, but it quickly became relatively easy to identify a site that was developed in FrontPage at a glance. It was almost a running joke. One thing that stands out to me about Adobe Muse is that sites designed with Muse are not immediately obvious.
I spoke with Dani Beaumont, an Adobe product manager responsible for Muse. She explained that Muse was developed to mimic the feel and experience of InDesign—Adobe’s page layout and desktop publishing tool. Muse uses conventions and tools that designers accustomed to InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop will find familiar. It is that familiarity, coupled with professional Web design tools and support from the broader Adobe Muse community that make this tool so powerful.
The community is a win-win for Adobe and Adobe customers. By facilitating the community and providing a forum for users to share and collaborate, Adobe fosters good will from the users, and helps to make the product better without having to dedicate additional Adobe resources. For users, knowing that there are resources available, such as Web design templates, and that there are experts in the community willing to help guide new users and provide assistance makes Adobe Muse much less daunting and increases the odds that the end result will be worth it.
Ali Pordeli is one of the more ardent supporters of the Adobe Muse community. He is a graphic designer and animator who has developed a wide variety of Web design templates that he makes available to the community, and he is more than willing to lend a helping hand. I spoke with Pordeli, and he explained to me that he began as an Adobe Flash developer, and was disappointed at the fate of Flash as the Web has evolved. He fell in love with Muse the first time he saw it.
Pordeli explained that the tools in Muse are fairly easy to use—especially for anyone familiar with any of the rest of the Adobe Creative Cloud tools—and that it is very easy to change elements of the project. He appreciates how simple it is to incorporate advanced Web design techniques like scroll effects without having to be a professional developer, or understand the code behind it.
There are plenty of other Web design platforms out there. One that comes to mind immediately is Weebly. The primary difference is that you can use Weebly for free, while Adobe Muse is only available as a part of the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. To be fair to Muse, though, there are fees associated with Weebly for more advanced sites that include multimedia elements or integrate e-commerce capabilities.
Weebly Business costs $25 per month, which is half the monthly cost of a Creative Cloud subscription. Weebly is strictly for websites, though, whereas the Creative Cloud subscription includes access to Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, Premiere Pro and other Adobe tools. Which one is a better value for you depends entirely on what you want out of your website, and whether or not you will get any value out of the additional investment in Creative Cloud.