Adobe Muse offers code-free interactive Web design

Adobe has unveiled Muse, a new Web design program that lets print-oriented graphic designers create and publish standards-based websites without having to write code or work within restrictive templates.

The software, which employs Web standards such as HTML 5,CSS3, and JavaScript, is being released as a publicbeta under the code name, Muse. The program will beavailable from Adobe’s website as a free previewuntil the first quarter of 2012.

Muse is a freeform tool targeted to graphic designers andartists whose work has thus far appeared only in print, but who want tocreate interactive websiteswithout having to deal with code.

Adobe envisions the Muse designer as someone who spends most of theirtime working in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. Creative proswill be able to use their current skills to combine images, graphics,and text in a process that is similar to working with InDesign.

“Muse was built with the print designer in mind,” said DanielleBeaumont, group product manager at Adobe. “It allows designers who arenot coders to create unique, professional websites as easily asproducing a layout in InDesign. This is an end-to end-solution withinteractive elements like slideshows, tool tips, remote rollovers, andlightboxes….It allows the designer to do things that only ahand-coder could do.”

Design hybrid In an authoring environment looks like a cross between InDesign, Fireworks, and Dreamweaver, Muse provides alibrary of fully customizable, pre-coded widgets for creatinginteractive site elements. These drag-and-drop widgets let you createlightboxes, accordion panels, and navigation menus, among other things.Such interactivity can be visually designed without having to hand offthe site to a team of professional Web coders. Muse automaticallygenerates all HTML, CSS, and scripting for the design, and allows usersto publish from within the program.

Muse also features easy-to-use sitemaps, master pages, and flexibletools to make planning a site layout fast and intuitive.

In addition, Muse lets users embed commercially available code fromplaces like Facebook, YouTube, and Google Maps to extend Musecapabilities beyond the application’s widget library. Thisfunctionality, which Adobe calls “arbitrary HTML embedding” lets userspaste code from the clipboard onto the Muse canvas. The program caninterpret the code as a map or video or Facebook Like button, forexample.

While Adobe hopes that sites created with Muse will work well ontablets and mobile phones, there is no formal support for such devicesfor the launch. The company says that after the commercial version isreleased, it will explore ways to let users customize sites for variousplatforms and devices. Muse does not build dynamic database drivensites.

In addition to the Web authoring software, Muse provides Adobe Webhosting for testing, staging, and reviewing Muse sites. After thedevelopment phase is completed, the designer can either convert it to apaid Adobe-hosted site, or export the site via FTP to another Web host.

“This is a creative app that lets you begin with a blank canvas. Wewant people to walk in and plan, design, preview, and publish theirsite all in one streamlined effort. Published sites can be hosted onAdobe’s hosting platform, or any other third-party hosting platform byway of FTP upload,” Beaumont said.

Content Management System roadmap While there’s no requirement to use Adobe’s hosting service for thefeatures offered in the current version of Muse, Adobe is planning toadd CMS-based features such as blogs, contact forms, FAQs, and shoppingcarts to Muse in future versions, and those elements will require thesites to be hosted on the Adobe Business Catalyst platform. That’sbecause such CMS-based services will require specific back-end supportand integration between Muse and the back end server.

“Adobe realizes that in addition to the static design features thatMuse will offer in its initial release, websites are moving toCMS-driven features…Over time, Adobe would like to leverage the AdobeBusiness Catalyst CMS feature set to deliver additional functionalityabove and beyond the static feature set we are demonstrating today,”Beaumont said. “At that time, Muse users could choose to use thesedynamic features which would only work on the Business Catalystplatform.”

Business Catalyst is Adobe’s business platform featuring e-mailmarketing, customer response management, eCommerce, forums, andanalytics. Over time, Muse will highlight more Business Catalystfunctionality, but users will also be able to create non-CMS sites thatcan be hosted anywhere.

Availability and requirements Muse is scheduled for commercial release in the first quarter of 2012.It will be available via subscription only at $15 per month or $180 peryear. A month-to-month subscription is $20. The rationale behindoffering Muse only as a subscription is that it allows Adobe to makeimprovements to the software more quickly and to be more responsive touser needs, browser and device compatibility issues, and design trends.

Adobe plans to update Muse on a quarterly schedule rather than theyearly, 18-month, or two-year schedule that is traditional for majorsoftware.

Muse requires a dual core Mac running OS X 10.6 or higher and Adobe AIR2.7 or higher. The program is cross-platform. Complete systemrequirements are listed on Adobe’s website.

Adobe has set up a website where interested parties can download the freebeta, viewa gallery of Muse-created websites, and access instructionaltutorials. Some 40 websites designed with Muse have already beenpublished by Adobe’s pre-release community.

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