When Microsoft released FrontPage back in 1997 many people thought that the web design industry would suffer because all of the sudden anyone could use this software to create a pretty decent looking website without having to know HTML.

Of course CSS, PHP, MySQL, Python, Ruby on Rails, etc. all changed the game for the WYSIWYG editors. If you wanted a dynamic, data driven web site you needed to hire a developer.

And with everything being “Web 2.0”, static websites just lost their appeal to many.

So in a world of rapid application development where software “writes itself” it was only a matter of time before something hit the market that would promise to make the development of interactive, feature-rich sites without the need to write any code.

And is it any wonder that such a product would come from Adobe?

Code named Muse, the application’s basic idea is to allow web developers to:

  • Plan web development projects
  • Add customizable widgets to a web page
  • Create rich navigation menus
  • Embed code snippets from Google Maps, Facebook, Yahoo!, etc.
  • Easily change the layout, graphics and text of the web site without making code changes

Oh, and encompasses drag and drop features as well.

What this means for web developers

To those who didn’t live through the earlier days of the web, back when HTML was hand written all the time, may not remember when WYSIWYG tools were going to ruin the web design industry. After all, who would pay thousands of dollars for a professional web designer when they could buy a program for 99 dollars at Office Depot that would allow them to create “professionally looking websites”?

Well those of us that are old enough to remember those days could tell you that while products like Dreamweaver and Expression Web may have made the design of web sites easier, they certainly didn’t ruin the industry.

The same can be said of Muse. It is certainly a tool that will make web development easier and more accessible to other people, it will in no way replace a person who knows how to code websites rich with interactive components.

Where Muse comes up lacking

To me, I see Muse as a product similar to Contribute. Dreamweaver was always the workhorse for web designers and developers while Contribute served as the preferred choice for amateurs. It introduced people to the world of web design, and its simple drag and drop, click and type web pages could be created, edited and published in minutes. But they were nothing spectacular.

And people who took web sites seriously quickly found themselves outgrowing Contribute’s restrictive environment.

Muse will suffer the same fate. Many people will rely on it, and Muse will be a great tool to introduce people to web development; but those who want more than a foundation will find that the environment is far too controlling.

So as Muse moves out of beta and gets a permanent name we will start to see some really funky things going on with web site widgets and scrolling nav bars but don’t fret. Those of us who still fire up the text editor for a little hand coding from time to time will continue to create web projects worthy of our visitors.

Want to see Muse in action? Check out Adobe’s Muse showcase and let us know what you think of Muse…

By Jeff
Jeff is a freelance writer and the editor of Developer Drive. He writes on web development topics with a focus on web application security. In his spare time he coaches youth football and works as a technology coordinator for the Palm Beach County school district.
  • This is the constant promise from software vendors… They make more and more advenced tools that promise that you don’t need developpers nor designers anymore to make your software.
    Each time, this promise reveal to be false. This is not because you can create a basic dynamic website that instantly you’ll become a top designer, a user experience expert and that you’ll be able to embed all the business logic while managing the technical constraints.
    For that you need designers, utilisability experts and developpers. Even if a graphical or automated tool prove to be more effective for some tasks, this is still software development and you still need professionnals to do it.

    The gains in productivity for such tool help you achieve the same results as before faster. But this is true to the whole sector. This mean that to stay competitive, you need to do more. Better design, more feature while having better usability. In the end, software and websites cost increase faster than productivity and require more and more skills.

    • You hit my points spot on Nicolas, the title of this article was meant to be sarcastic. While tools like Muse may help move things along, you are always going to need people who know web site development when the drag and drop tools don’t work and when people want to get away from that cookie cutter look that these tools churn out.

  • Tools like this will never replace a developer/designer. Muse is just like an advanced dreamweaver or a frontpage you can make basic pages with no programming experience if you want something more advanced then you need a developer to create it. If you want something custom and unique to your website you need a developer to create it.

    Developers and designers can also give you expert advice to progress your website muse will not be able to advise you.

    When new langauges/standards come out such as HTML5 and CSS3 muse will take longer to catch up and will need a upgrade to use them most likely at a cost to the user.

  • Jkshaver

    Great post! I previewed Muse just the other day and was this question came to mind. You provide a great perspective here.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comments. While the title of the article was meant to be sarcastic it unfortunately says too much about how businesses view these out of the box solutions. I am sure that there are many out there who think that they can use Muse as cheaper substitute only to find out later that software can’t replace the skills of a good developer.

    Nicolas and Paul both said it best, software will never be able to replace a designer/developer because there are too many variables that go into creating a functional website.

  • HORSES FOR COURSES
    Muse will not ever replace talented, creative and experienced developers and designers who will continue to wow us with their skill and dexterity and will push the boundaries of the web ever further. Muse will however (in the right hands) give Mrs Jones down the road a good looking website at a price she can afford for her part time stay at home cake baking hobby.
    Muse is not a replacement for anything, it’s another tool and should be used accordingly. I for one applaud it and will use it…. where appropriate.

  • Mailman

    I’ve always said CMS like wordpress, Joomla, etc was the problem and cost the most web jobs. They are what armatures flock to.

    • Anonymous

      These apps certainly make it easier for amatuers but there are many developers out there who specialize in creating outstanding sites built on these platforms.

      I think many web jobs are out there for people who have to come in and clean up a site. Companies need to spend more time weighing the costs of starting with a pro from the very beginning vs hiring someone and then hiring a pro later on to fix the site.

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