Adobe Muse enables great Web layout, no coding required

When’s the last time you wrote PostScript code to lay out a print page?  Seems like kind of a bizarre notion, doesn’t it?

With Web design, though, coding is taken for granted, and WYSIWYG apps have come and gone many times.  But why is it, in 2011, we don’t have an InDesign-quality visual design tool for the Web?

Enter Adobe Muse. The new app (built by InDesign vets) promises to let graphic designers (especially print designers) “create websites as easily as you create layouts for print.”  It’s free for download in beta form right now. Key features:

  • Planning — Use easy-to-use sitemaps, master pages, and flexible, site-wide tools.
  • Design — Combine imagery, graphics and text almost as if you were using InDesign.
  • Interactivity — Drag and drop fully customizable widgets (nav menus, slide shows, etc.) & embed HTML code snippets.
  • Publishing — Preview in Muse, then convert to a live website hosted by Adobe or the provider of your choice.

Mashable writes, “[I]n our tests, the code that Muse outputs is clean and readable.”

Here’s the team’s vision:

And here’s a more hands-on tour of the functionality:


See Adobe TV for a comprehensive set of videos to help you get started making great stuff–and please let us know what you think.

[More coverage & perspective is on CNET.]

41 thoughts on “Adobe Muse enables great Web layout, no coding required

  1. The concept is great, but Adobe really needs to promote far better code output from a tool like this. A “View Source” on the resultant pages of this tools is mind boggling.
    I realize it’s a first release, so hopefully they’ll be cleaning it up. Adobe has a great idea for being able to let designers make simple sites without knowing code, but they shouldn’t be promoting that horrendous code output on the off chance that someone will try to learn some html/css by digging through the output of this tool.

  2. Love the AI color swatches. I miss GoLive, but this seems much more usable. Even has text-frames! I wish double-clicking paragraph-styles would open all the text options like InDesign…

    1. I can’t agree with you more, but it is outdated, is having problems and has no more support. As a designer I have been pushing Dreamweaver away as to complicated. Muse seems just what I need as a designer. What about the GoLive built Website? Can it be imported into Muse? Any suggestions?

  3. Kudos Adobe!
    It’s high time that we finally get a good web site design tool made by designers for designers.
    Everything that was made to date looked like it was done by an engineer that heard about design at the water cooler.
    This is awesome!

  4. “When’s the last time you wrote PostScript code to lay out a print page? […] But why is it, in 2011, we don’t have an InDesign-quality visual design tool for the Web?”
    I’ve made very similar statements many times. I’ll definitely be taking a close look at Muse.

  5. Love the concept. We need more tools like this. When you step back and think about, the tools we have to build sites are pretty rough.
    However, not a fan of the rental only model. I also will never install the Air runtime so the decision to build it in Air makes it a non-starter for me.
    [That’s too bad. There are good AIR apps and bad ones. There are good native apps and bad ones. Tools should be judged on their merits. All this reminds me of the tedious Cocoa-vs.-Carbon stuff. Does iTunes feel slicker and less bloated now that it’s done via Cocoa? No, of course not. But listen, we’ve beaten all that into the ground, and I don’t have it in me to do it again. My advice to you as a customer is to ask for what you want, and that can perfectly well include the observation of OS-standard conventions (i.e. tell us what you need, not how to provide it). Just try not to get religious & doctrinaire about technology choices, especially without trying the tools. –J.]
    I wish Adobe would just focus on building kick ass native apps that leverage more of the native interface elements on each platform.
    Definitely keep pushing in this space though. Lots of room for innovation still with web creation tools.

    1. Amen! The sad part is, will Adobe ever realize the lost sales due to these details. I for one will never switch to a CS suite should they ever base those apps on AIR. AIR apps never feel right.

  6. I completely agree with MikeW. This should have been a native application like InDesign itself. There are just so many small things in that interface that in their sum are quite annoying and make for a less-than-ideal user experience, especially for someone with experience in InDesign. It feels like someone made a website in Flash that looks like InDesign, and it’s incredibly frustrating at times because you expect it to work exactly like InDesign, except it doesn’t. Moreover, there are all the regular issues with non-native controls, like users not being able to leverage existing knowledge and experience in terms of how software on their platform works.
    Another problem is that this way it isn’t possible for the developers to share code between InDesign and Muse. While that may not seem important at this point in time, it may actually become relevant a few years into the future as the lines between online and print become more and more blurred and the layout capabilities of HTML and CSS evolve (better text wrap etc.) and sharing style sheets and embedding HTML in interactive publications, sharing designs and assets etc. all become even more relevant.
    That being said, the concept is great. Seems we have finally reached a point where web generators are something one would actually use.
    While it needs a bit more work (the interactive things are still a bit clumsy because you have to use predefined widgets instead of being allowed to add actions like in InDesign, there is no good way to add stuff to the header (like Google Analytics tracking code), no way to add custom JavaScript to elements, panels cannot be customized/docked, there are no containers with overflow settings, no CSS animations, no canvas and svg tools etc.), but in general, bravo! This is going to be a great version 1.0.
    Yet why are Muse and Edge two separate products? It seems only logical to add a timeline to Muse and to add behavior and CSS-based animation. Of course the difference between Edge and Muse is that the former imports existing HTML, but I think it may be a mistake that both teams use fundamentally different technologies (Muse being built with AIR and Edge in Lua and based on the After Effects interface libraries), as they won’t be able to share developments. Just my opinion, I’m sure these things were carefully evaluated internally, but I’m just wondering what the reasoning was behind these decisions.

  7. I guess the obvious question is where does Muse fit within the Adobe suite and its role alongside Dreamweaver.

  8. the shame of it is: if adobe had fixed fireworks instead of pretending to work on it, instead of retooling all their interfaces in flash for more than half a decade, and had rolled in the bits of decent functionality from muse and edge into fireworks, they *might* really have something. as it is it’s just a ploy. they know they will get more traction with a ‘new’ tool than a new version of an old tool. it will sit alongside dreamweaver just fine. which version of adobe’s crappy markup do you want? 1999 version or 2011 version? adobe, the users of your design software used to love you, but an increasing majority are really sick of you.
    see for example:

  9. I echo Pedro’s concern. Letting designers be designers is cool and long overdue. But the suite need to be less fragmented, not more. I’d much rather toggle InDesign into web design mode than use a sorta similar cloud app. I will give it a spin, however and see if there’s some brilliance to the platform I’m not grasping.
    [A) InDesign has been gaining serious HTML chops and will continue to expand them, especially in concert with Adobe’s efforts to make HTML not suck for more serious layout tasks. B) You’ve gotta know that we’re damned if we do & damned if we don’t: every time we add some richness to an existing app, people shout “Bloat! Just focus and be *simple* and don’t make me think!” –J.]
    I’m less concerned that the resulting code isn’t ideally formatted for coders to deal with under the hood, but I think the perception that the code is “mind boggling” could kill acceptance of tool very early on (witness the effect of Flash-bashing). Expert coders have more sway about web tool acceptance than non-coding designers. I do think the “nobody writes Postscript” comparison is valid, but selling that beyond very basic website implementation is going to be very challenging, to say the least.

  10. Subscription model seems dangerous in the long term. One day Muse will require newer hardware like every other app. With a traditional app you can stay in business until you are ready to upgrade hardware. If I understand this right everyone is running the current version so there could be no support for legacy hardware or way to run a previous version. How much lead time would users have when hardware requirements change?

  11. Muse looks very interesting. I started to watch the short videos about its features on Adobe TV but was put off by the 15-second commercials Adobe sold to Intel and others. I’d have thought Adobe’s first priority would be to get potential users interested in and familiar with Muse, not to derive ad revenues. That seems sadly short-sighted and misguided.
    [You’ll get no argument from me on that. –J.]

  12. While it’s great to see Adobe trying new things with regard to web development tools, since I haven’t seen anyone address it, I have to respond to the first paragraph of your post:
    “When’s the last time you wrote PostScript code to lay out a print page? Seems like kind of a bizarre notion, doesn’t it?”
    Let’s answer that question with another few:
    – When have you last had to interpret a print page with a screenreader.
    – When have you last had to make sure a print page was indexed properly in a search engine
    – When have you last had the same print page morph to respond to being seen from a distance, or as a tiny little business card, or a regular A4 sized piece of paper.
    I applaud the efforts, but please don’t pretend print and the web are similar in these important ways. As you don’t care to talk AIR vs native, Flash vs HTML5, I don’t care much for explaining the differences between print and the web (again). That’s why HTML/CSS coding isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
    [No one suggested that HTML/CSS coding is going away, and Adobe continues to offer a (if not the) leading tool for coding. It’s just a case of diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks. –J.]

    1. Second that! For what is worth I don’t see Adobe focusing on Web Developers. Modern Web2.0 Front End developers/designers are very far from what Adobe’s products offer today. (Except from PS and a little bit of Flash for picky clients)

  13. Wow, I have been playing with this all day and LOVE it so far. This is the most exciting thing I have seen from Adobe since Indesign 1.0 (although Lightroom truly rocks!) and that makes sense coming from the Indesign team after all! I am thrilled with the potential this will have, it is truly about time we had something like this. Thank you Indesign Team, thank you!! This is way too much fun.

  14. I think the need for handcrafted web content flourished because of open standards based web applications/systems. I remember that it has always been very hard or impossible for web programmers to adapt or integrate content generated from WYSIWYG apps into systems. And therefore front end programmers were born. What the world also needs besides WYSIWYG HTML/web content generators are Web App Interface creation tools. Sort of Interface Builder for the Web, what 280 North was trying to accomplish for example…

  15. Muse will definitely have its place. The code issue seems to me inevitable with any code generator (although I would so love to be proved wrong on that!). The problem isn’t in the design phase. It comes in when you have to hand a site off to the client’s webmaster to maintain, and that’s really the problem, not a religious dedication to the art of clean code. For standalone sites, such as a print designer’s own portfolio site, Muse will be a terrific tool.
    The site planning tools in Muse are first rate, however. Having a way to hand that off to Dreamweaver would be wicked cool.
    As a heavy InDesign user, I’ve been getting more and more excited by ID’s “HTML chops,” as John calls them. Right now, for all the smarts built into Muse, ID –> Dreamweaver is the more broadly practical solution.

  16. Very interested by the initial concept – and was looking forward to testing! But the fact that even Adobe’s own website to promote the ‘Features’ of Muse, was unable to render and display via Safari on Apple mobile devices (iphone etc).
    It left me thinking a lot of work was needed even before launching the ‘beta’ never mind what happens in 6-9 months of testing before it finally goes native!
    Also a one-off payment with options to upgrade dependent on hardware/system software is far more realistic an option to users.

  17. Seems like an interesting product. Unfortuneatly it’s not available for download, only for direct installing as far as I see 🙁

  18. I got excited when I first read the description of Muse feature set. I’ve wondered for the last several years why more of the features and functionality of GoLive weren’t worked into Dreamweaver. As a designer, I much prefer GoLive and while I’m not using it for websites at work on my XP box anymore, I still use it for some pro-bono sites on my Mac at home (GL CS2 still runs on Snow Leapard, that’s why I haven’t jumped to Lion.) And some of those capabilities suddenly pop up here.
    I’m looking forward to playing with it, and I think it’s a great start. Maybe a capability to switch a project/file between Muse and Dreamweaver (like the old PS/IR switch) would help for those of us who do sometimes have to work on the code.
    On the downside, I’m another guy who’s not excited about being forced into a rental-only situation.
    Looking forward to see how this develops.

  19. yet ANOTHER adobe product, please stop making so many products and just fix the old ones. I have WAY too many programs in the CS… packages. Just give us 4 good ones that we can use instead of making new ones.
    [And so when we add the requested capabilities to the existing apps, do you promise not to freak out and say, “The apps are bloated! They should be simple and do just one thing apiece!”? We are damned when we do & damned when we don’t. –J.]

  20. I echo many of the same concerns:
    – subscription (I won’t download it and look, just because of this issue)
    [Really? Would you elaborate on why you feel so strongly? –J.]
    – clean code (W3C compliance, accessibility, integration with Dreamweaver, etc.)
    – browser compliance and HTML5/CSS3 integration (are vendor-specific prefixes used?)
    – is this going to replace Dreamweaver?
    I’ve heard remarks that this is intended to ‘replace’ iWeb from Apple. I’ve also heard that it is InDesign for HTML. Both cannot be true. As a long-time Pagemaker/InDesign user, Muse cannot be near as mature as InDesign. If it is more along the lines of iWeb, I believe that better marketing be done to make that point—as it stands now, it is difficult to know what Muse is intended for. It is/was clear that Apple’s iWeb was not meant to be anything more than for a home-user to throw something online.
    I also agree with the sentiment that there are too many Adobe apps. Other than the big ‘industry’ standard apps, I have to ignore the litany of other apps/add-ons, as they are just as unclear as what their purpose is (of the CS5 suite I have, I have no clue what Fireworks, Flash Catalyst, Digital Editions, or Device Central is for—apparently they aren’t needed).
    I’m sure John will have a snarky comment to make…
    [It’s just that I’m not sure how we’re supposed to address more customer needs (which are always growing/evolving), ship fewer apps, and also streamline the apps/keep them focused. Seems like a “pick two” situation. –J.]

    1. – subscription (I won’t download it and look, just because of this issue)
      [Really? Would you elaborate on why you feel so strongly? –J.]
      Finances. I have a very tight budget. I can’t afford the subscription model. I have to save for such purchases.
      [I’m not trying to be dense, but isn’t it easier on a tight budget to pay a comparatively low monthly fee than to part with a much bigger chunk of change up front? –J.]
      I do not like the direction Adobe has taken with the subscription model, or the X.5 releases—especially when they are as feature-absent as the current 5.5 release (nothing offered in this release has an value to my workflow).
      To me, both marketing strategies have an air of bilking the end-user, beyond the already lower viewpoint many in the industry have regarding Adobe. It feels like end-profit is more important than the software or the user. It may be of value for corporations or design houses, but holds little use for the freelancer in my opinion.
      I believe there is a fine line between what “people want” and what “people need.” I felt it was a mistake (and apparently I’m not alone according to other posts in this thread) to kill GoLive, just because Dreamweaver was what the people “wanted.” GoLive was a much better product, but Adobe felt they could make more money off of Dreamweaver. Same with LiveMotion. A program that was far easier to use than Macromedia’s Flash, but tossed for $$$$.
      [You want to know why LiveMotion died? (And I know: I was one of the PMs.) It died because of the shitty job everyone but Macromedia did in terms of distributing a viable runtime for Web animation & interactivity–and yes, I’m including pre-Macromedia Adobe as the SVG Player wasn’t competitive on any level. I came here to build a Web-standards-based animation tool, and we ended up stuck targeting someone else’s proprietary runtime & format because the rest of the world (Microsoft, etc.) couldn’t get their stuff together and actually implement viable alternatives. Even now, 10+ years later, it remains difficult and costly to write a rich, purely standards-based site that runs well across browsers. (Adobe is of course trying to lower those costs via the introduction of these new tools.) –J.]
      Now a 5.5 release that added some digital publishing to InDesign (which few talk about, few seemingly use and Adobe complicated with lack of information and misinformation), and HTML5 addition to Dreamweaver. I honestly couldn’t tell you what else was added to 5.5, especially anything that would warrant the cost of the upgrade.
      Thanks for your time, and lack of snarky comments to my original post.

  21. I’m afraid you’re all deluded if you think that Adobe Muse is a good piece of software. It has no redeeming qualities. Everything it produces is terrible and anyone that says otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about!
    It’s the truth and you only have to look at the fire storm on twitter, all the blog posts saying it. This is all coming from big people in the industry.
    Muse seriously needs a rework in many many manyyyyyyy ways. Otherwise, can it!

  22. @KC: As one who’s been extremely happy with the 5.5 release, let me say that a) for heavy InDesign users, especially the huge number of us who are willy-nilly getting into ePub, because clients need us to, 5.5 is huge; b) the InDesign –> HTML output improvements are huge; c) the Premiere Pro and After Effects and Dreamweaver improvements are huge.
    I understand that you’re not part of the ePub/mobile revolution. Like many other independent designers I know, I don’t have that luxury: I have to satisfy my clients’ needs or I don’t eat. eBooks outsold physical books on Amazon last year, so Adobe’s efforts to keep up with the times are crucial. And if you think “few talk about” or use ePub, I can tell you from immediate personal experience that you’re seriously limiting your own income.
    Having moved from GoLive (and seen two businesses’ websites wrecked by careless use of it) to Dreamweaver, I would submit that there are strong reasons why Adobe needed to concentrate resources on the better platform. GoLive’s strength, and its biggest liability, was that a sloppy (read: “unwilling to learn what goes on under the hood”) user could create dreadfully broken sites with it far too easily. I saw it happen, and it was not nice. I would never to back to GoLive, frankly, any more than I’d switch to Quark Xpress.
    If 5.5 doesn’t affect your workflow, you don’t need it. For the rest of us, it was a very important and timely step forward. As for Muse, the subscription price I’ve seen mentioned is far less than my subscription. It’s the least of my considerations about the product.

  23. I think it is Adobe’s goal to make everything eventually become by subscription. Only time will tell. Get ready for more credit card debt.

  24. If one is a very picky, detailed, code-monkey (and in some ways that is a compliment) then tools like Muse will not satisfy. One look at the source code will make you say “meh, terrible code output”. But if the code still meets accessibility needs, renders properly on multiple browsers, and works on mobile devices then its is useful. Let’s see if Adobe can accomplish that.
    For the rest, Designers who really are not interested in the complexity of the code level, this is a promising tool. At the risk of sounding like one of those cranky gray-hairs who always point out that someone thought of an idea or product along time ago “back in the day” etc etc I will point out that this concept is a whole lot like Softpress’s Freeway. I first used that back in 1999 or maybe 2000. They started by making an app that looked a lot like and worked like Quark XPress (including keyboard shortcuts). They have steadily developed it and it is a pretty decent app. Doesn’t do everything, the code-monkeys will not like it, but it is work a look too in order to see what a much smaller company has managed to do in the last 10 years.

  25. I like that Adobe is thinking about new programs, but I hate to say – AIR based, Adobe GUI’s suck. I had a nightmare the other day that the CS design apps had been converted mainly to being AIR based. I can appreciate Adobe’s desire to “write once” but I use a Mac for its GUI and the touches that Apple brings. And I can appreciate MS’ GUI for windows. Why Adobe insists on developing a 3rd convention on top of these standard GUIs is beyond me. What it does remind me of is when I have looked at UNIX apps that have been ported with all the bad UI elements, or Office 6 on the Mac. Bottom line, AIR based apps never feel right and being a designer and long time Adobe and Mac user, that sucks.

  26. You cannot compare postscript with code for web design. The way postscript is written is totally irrelevant for the output of a print process: something with fixed dimensions printed on a certain defined surface.
    A web site must be accessible on very different platforms and the way code (HTML) is written is of absolute essence. The HTML of a website must be ordered in a way that is meaningful (also for humans, remember accessibility!) to understand.
    Postscript is just there for machines to process to get a certain fixed, printed outcome. We do not care how a title of an article is defined in Postscript. It has no effect on the printed outcome.
    But in HTML it really needs to be a heading and not some paragraph with some styling just simulating a heading. Web design is so much more than just creating good looking screens.
    And why keep up that artificial divide between designers and developers! A lot of web designers are simple fantastic coders. And they know damn sure why.
    Please, do not throw away semantics and accessibility because you presume wrongly that coding is a bad thing for designers. Coding is in fact the most efficient and fast way to do proper web design, to really cope with all the complexity involved. If you care to learn, it is a really magical thing, you will love it.
    Adobe Muse seems in its beta form nothing more than a prototyping tool. To do quick sketches. Even for that there are other programs that do better (Axure, etc…) and at the same time have the same limitations (no liquid design).
    Illustrator, Indesign, Photoshop and even FireWorks are all the wrong programs to do web design. (Please, Adobe, remove all these silly export-as-html features.)
    Possibly we might need a new program dedicated more towards web design. But Adobe Muse (beta) is just not good enough because it ignores some fundamental aspects of web design.
    Also I think a lot of future users will regret after a while that they didn’t even learn the HTML/CSS basics by using only Muse (no coding view). Another reason why this program is a bit disappointing.
    But, hey, it is beta, maybe, we never know, lets see how things go…

  27. I’m with Hans. It’s bad enough that Adobe Air apps are inherently unfriendly to such simple accessibility issues as increasing the size of type in menu items (not all developers are 20-year-olds with perfect vision, after all). Muse and Edge seem to take inaccessibility to a new level.
    I don’t understand why Adobe would turn loose a bunch of VISUAL designers (excellent though they may be) in a medium conceived and designed not for print, but for scalability, portability and universal access on an array of devices we haven’t even imagined yet.
    I know that the good people at Adobe have heard of graceful degradation and progressive enhancement. So why ignore the fundamentals in the creation of new products? And why now, when more browsers are finally coming into line with standards? Have you learned nothing from the decade-long effort to retrofit accessibility in Acrobat Reader (a product created for print media)? It simply doesn’t work if you don’t begin with an accessible foundation.

  28. Personally I always thought GoLive CS2 was really good! I am still using GoLive 9 on OS X Snow Leopard for some projects.
    I don’t really understand why GoLive was terminated after the Macromedia acquisition (other than politics, maybe??!!).
    Two problems with Adobe Muse:
    First, it is an AIR application. Not a native application experience. Personally I am not prepared to pay money for an application written in Air or indeed Java. I expect a native experience.
    Second, the rental model. I agree with other commenters above that this is going to put some people off.
    There is a native Mac visual HTML design tool already (if you want a code generator) and that is Softpress Freeway. Which does not have a rental model.
    It would be interesting to see a detailed feature comparison between Adobe Muse and Softpress Freeway Pro. That is something I am going to look in to.

  29. Hi,
    How are searchengines like Google and Yahoo going to find my website made with Muse but published at another server than Adobe`s? (The site is exported via “Export HTML… in the filesmenu” then pput on the webhotels server using Dreamweaver FTP.
    When I looked at the code in the “Head section” there were no “metaname tag”???????????and more.
    Am I wrong?
    I like Muse EXCEPT for one thing: The rental model.
    I miss, and this are two serious things:
    1; I can not import an HTML- site build in for ex. Dreamweaver.
    2: There is no FTP-engine.
    Best regards

  30. Adobe needs to pay attention to the comments on this page. I am extremely interested in Muse, but will NEVER pay a monthly fee for software. If Adobe comes to its senses and offers it for purchase, I will then consider Muse.

  31. I would very much like to be able to import an existing website into Muse so that I can work with it there rather than in Dreamweaver. Is there ANY way it can be done?

  32. Muse, a flexible tool for the traditional graphic designer who has clients that want a designer exterior website. No offense intended, but the web is not print or vise versa. Alas, the web isn’t that simplistic. Today’s competing website owner needs to be concerned with the behind because web noise is deafening. Then there is the front; it complements its back. The two become the tool for marketing on the web.

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