Muse: creating websites à la InDesign

For starters: I don’t have much knowledge about SEO, HTML5, CSS and Javascript, but I want to be able to create a website in a way that’s familiair to me. Adobe created a kind of crossbreed between my favorite application InDesign and Dreamweaver (which I’ve used a few times but’s too complicated for me). A WYSIWYG editor especially for designers/DTP folks like me. To get a nice result without too much hassle. It’s called Muse, that’s it’s current codename, and is (still) a public beta.

After starting up Muse, you get a bunch of questions about you new site and it brings you in a planning enviroment. Maybe you’ve seen something familiar in DW or GoLive (remember that Adoeb puppy? ). The big advantage of this planboard is the way it helps you plan your site and structure of it without actually creating the pages. Muse is using this structure to control and adjust (automaticlly) you pages and their relation to eachother. So now it’s time to creat some stuff!

Muse works with “Masters” and if you are an experienced InDesign user this will make you smile already. Really? Yeah, really, just like you use Masterpages in your InDesign layout, you can create and use different Masters for you Muse site. Muse doesn’t come with any template at all. It’s your party and you are in control of your design and the way it’s going to look. The widgets allow you to implement some “difficult” elements (navigation, slideshows, menus) on your pages. Just plain drag ’n drop and style those items to your liking.

Meanwhile just realize how many lines of code you’ve encountered so far. Lovely isn’t it? Adjusting backgroundcolor, getting a favicon. It’s all a matter of pushing some buttons and you’re done. If you get stuck on some matters, just remember my all time favorite advice.

Typhography is handled nicely by Muse. I can hear the big question in your head already and yes it’s true. You can really see the influence of the InDesign team into the development and features of Muse. You can work with Character- and Paragraphstyles. Just like you’re used to in InDesign. Using a non-web-safe font? Muse converts your text into graphics but you’ll still be able to adjust or correct it in your original .muse file, easy right?!

The clear mix of web & print, like it’s done in Muse, si een pretty big step made by Adobe. But in what direction? Good or bad? Well that depends. A few webtechnical stuff isn’t available or possible (yet) with the use of Muse. For instance the layout, fully scalable vertically but Muse loves those fixed dimensions like we had for ages.

That’s something that with all the different screensizes (smartphone, tablets, laptops and desktops) we come across these days can be a pain in the … The code created by Muse isn’t all that “mean and clean” but hey, i’m a graphic designer, I don’t care. It just works, in fact it works with all “web-standars compliant” browsers. So that means no Internet Explo[s]d[/s]rer 6 but indeed all HTML5 browsers on a variaty of mobile devices. For me as an designer, Muse just works behind the scenes to generate that HTML5, CSS and Javascript in the right order.

Is Muse The Holy Grail of Web&Print combined? No it’s not but let me generalize a bit: graphic designers hate code. A (simple) GREP code for InDesign can already be too much. I want tools, panels and stuff to click on to get a result. I want to see what it will look like or behave when I press a button! On the other side there are these (web)developers. A User Interface? For what? My code does everything and it also considers variable width, fonts and sizes, which device, which browser etc. And you know what, both are right. So what about Muse, why not use Dreamweaver? No for most grpahic (as in print) designers even Dreamweaver is a bridge too far. How about a new or improved export in InDesignto, yeah to what? Already you can export to Dreamweaver and/or ePub which converts your stuff into XHTML and CSS. To get the complex matters from within InDesign to web you’ll be dealing with a lot of warnings, queries and imperfections, you’ll have the chance people won’t use InDesign anymore. After all nobody is happy using a monsterous mammothtankerapplication that’s become to complicated and too slow too handle. Hell, it isn’t easy as it is to get your publication on a tablet!

Now what? Well Adobe isn’t going to give you a free ride (of course). As long Muse is in public beta they will but early 2012, the fun will be “over”. Just looking back into history, do some calculation and Adobe will probably introduce Creative Suite 6 early 2012. [s]I don’t know if Muse will be a separate application, part of a Designer Premium or maybe a plugin for InDesign[/s]. It’s already clear Muse (or perhaps under another name) will only be available as a subscription application only. More pricing details (also on BC) are found on the Muse website. Until then you can work with Muse for free and if you like it you can use (buy) Adobe’s Business Catalyst service to host your Muse sites. Remember Muse is still beta, I think that it will grow and perhaps in the (near) future you can integratie your WordPress/Joomla with Muse.

Download Muse and see for yourself, don’t forget to watch the Learn and Showcase pages of the Muse-website. Here you’ll find examples, video’s and tutorialfiles. After all, you know my credo right? 😉 Give yourself some time to get familiar with this new development. The experienced InDesign user will definitly “feel at home”!

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