On Adobe Muse

Warning This article was written over six months ago, and may contain outdated information.

Today Adobe released a pre­view of their new WYSIWYG web­site cre­ator, Muse. Short­ly after, I had a good old moan about it on Twit­ter. Not, as you may think, because I feel threat­ened by web­site cre­ation being made easy — it’s been easy for ages, but ‘easy’ does­n’t always mean ‘good’ — but because it gets a few fun­da­men­tal things bad­ly wrong.

My code purist side reject­ed it because the markup it out­puts is hor­ren­dous; if you don’t believe me, take a look at the code for one of their exam­ple sites, ‘Lucid Syn­er­gy’. My edu­ca­tor side reject­ed it because it teach­es you noth­ing about how a web page is made; I learned to code by using Microsoft Front­Page many (many) years ago, and under­stood HTML by edit­ing the source of the doc­u­ment and tweak­ing it until I got it the way I want­ed — but Muse has no code view, so this is made very difficult.

But the real prob­lem with Adobe Muse is deep­er than that: it’s that all seman­tic sense is com­plete­ly removed from the page. There are no head­ings, no lists, all text is in p ele­ments, inline styles are applied with span rather than em/i/b, etc; this gives no struc­ture, no mean­ing, no about­ness to your page, which at the very least means penal­ties for SEO.

And worse still is that there’s no doc­u­ment flow; all the ele­ments you add to the page are posi­tioned rel­a­tive­ly to their par­ent and fol­low no par­tic­u­lar order, which is pret­ty bad for search engine spi­ders (and hence your SEO), but absolute­ly ter­ri­ble for vis­i­tors using assis­tive technology.

It’s the prod­uct of a com­pa­ny that cares only about appear­ance, and noth­ing for con­tent. As @paulrobertlloyd said on Twit­ter:

It’s not that the code Adobe Muse gen­er­ates is ugly, it’s that it’s meaningless.

The issue with the lack of seman­tic ele­ments is not insur­mount­able, it just needs some work by Adobe before the final release. The lack of doc­u­ment flow and con­tent order is more seri­ous, how­ev­er, and will need a com­plete rethink; I hope that this happens.

3 comments on
“On Adobe Muse”

  1. This is not the first time I see Adobe Muse com­pared to Front­Page. Ridicu­lous­ly enough, the gen­er­at­ed code does look pret­ty hor­ren­dous (I shud­dered why I checked out the view source). Did you notice those con­di­tion­al state­ments (“if gte IE9” and “if lt IE9”). That’s pret­ty hilar­i­ous, at this point I am think­ing why even both­er with those con­di­tion­als?!? I won­der if they are actu­al­ly seri­ous about this prod­uct, it feels like a HUGE step back.

  2. Wow! Front­page… I just nos­tal­gia’d. Last time I used Front­page was in ele­men­tary school.

  3. I think the point is being missed here. I don’t think Adobe has designed this for coders, that what DreamWeaver is for cor­rect? The point of Muse is for visu­al “artists” who don’t have the time or incli­na­tion to write and per­fect code (which is tan­ta­mount to pur­ga­to­ry for us). “Type A” peo­ple who work visu­al­ly for a liv­ing and who need/want to design their own sites to have con­trol will love this appli­ca­tion. I think this prod­uct is clos­er to GoLive which I still con­tin­ue to use. It is still on the Beta and needs a few more inclu­sions such as the abil­i­ty to see and edit the HTML, but this is a God­send for those who just want to lay it out. I just hope Adobe pur­sues it to fruition and makes it a stand alone, pur­chasable appli­ca­tion. I don’t think this will threat­en the liveli­hood of any good coder.