Saturday, March 29, 2014

The curious case of Adobe Muse

I'm not sure what to think of Adobe Muse.

On one hand, it allowed me to make a website. This website, to be exact. Not easily -- and, for that matter, not without at least two moments where issues with the software quite literally frustrated me to tears -- but it at least made the task possible. For someone whose HTML knowledge stops at linking and formatting text, that's huge.

On the other, well, it frustrated me to tears at least twice. It's also unintuitive, incompatible with several other products within the Adobe Creative Cloud family, and unable to handle several next-to-crucial website features: Vector graphics, CMS integration, and a bunch more stuff I know of but don't understand well enough to explain in short terms after a colon.

For those of you unwilling to click the link I provided, here's what I ended up making:

By the way, you can visit it at You can even hire me if you want. As you can see, I'm clearly a great shill. 

To be fair, every bit of criticism in this post should be tempered with the knowledge that I'm far from a Creative Cloud guru. I'm good with Illustrator, okay with Photoshop/Fireworks/Animate CC/Premiere, and not-so-hot with everything else. 

Then again, I'm basically the kind of person Adobe designed Muse for in the first place. 

Kind of. The inability to work with Illustrator caused me some serious issues: I had to figure out how to make my logo a PNG without also making it look like pixelated garbage, for instance, a task that took nearly as long as building the rest of the site.

Then we have the above-mentioned CMS unfriendliness, which is why I'm hosting this blog here instead of under my own domain in the first place. I know how to implement it with some iFrame trickery (i.e. pasting the address in some code I also pasted), but that can apparently get you on Google's bad side, since their automated systems tend to think you're scraping other content instead of posting your own in a roundabout way. 

If anything, familiarity with other Adobe layout/design products is a double-edged sword for Muse users. The high-level concepts are the same, and so are many of the nuts-and-bolts functions. Other features aren't there, however, while others are unintuitive or completely out of sync with the rest of the platform. 

Let's take a look at a critical command in the world of Adobe: Zooming in. 

With Illustrator/Photoshop/pretty much everything else in the suite, you hit control/alt/option and scroll your mousewheel to get closer to the page or move further away. With Muse, you hit Ctrl+= or Ctrl+-.That sucks. Capital-S, boldfaced-and-italicized Sucks

For those of you rolling your eyes at me or saying something hilarious about "first world problems" or whatever, think about it like tying your shoes. You've probably been doing it one specific way your whole life, right? How would you feel if you got a new pair of shoes -- a pair that, for some reason, you desperately needed to wear in order to expand your business -- and the laces only tied up if you did it a very specific, totally unfamiliar, less efficient way than you're used to? 

Crummy. Miserable, even. You'd cuss every time you tried to do it the old-fashioned way. As someone with poor eyesight and a near-neurotic need to make sure every image and text box and colored rectangle aligns just so, I tie my proverbial new shoes maybe 40 times a day. Sometimes a lot more than that. And most of those times, I start by doing it the wrong way out of habit first. Again, that Sucks

Now for something I love. 

I'm an old-school print guy. Like I said further up, my design experience mostly comes from my time at a small-town newspaper, where uniform rectangles were encouraged and a color edition meant there was some crazy stuff going on in town. Back in those days, I would have killed for a feature like this: 

I'm sure auto-aligning like that is nothing for a professional designer (or most experienced amateurs). For everyone else, what you're looking at are boxes that tell me exactly how well the text box I'm placing line up with everything else in the immediate area. The green boxes above and below, for instance, tell me the text box sits perfectly between the line at the bottom and some text at the top. 

Here's a larger look: 

That goes a long way towards fixing my align-just-right neurosis. Though I'd be lying if I said I don't zoom in to make sure the software got it right most of the time. 

There's also a semi-decent number of built-in widgets, covering everything from lines to lightboxes to full-on presentations. Some, like the webform option, are only really useful if you host your site through Adobe's service, which I think is kind of lame. Others I really enjoy. Here's an example of the latter: 

That's my portfolio page -- which you can find at, a site you can also use to hire me  -- and I'm pretty darn happy with it. While the stock portfolio widget is fairly ugly, I was able to edit pretty much every aspect, including basic stuff like fonts and button locations all the way up to what the links look like when you mouse over them. 

And you should mouse over them, because that would mean going to my site. Which is located at and has information on how you can hire me. 

Then, finally, are the bugs. I don't care to talk about the little stuff like the menu text flickering when I scroll (which isn't function-breaking or anything, just a little annoying), but this doozy is certainly worth mentioning to my loving audience of dozen(s): 

That, awesome readers, is what my site looks like in Chrome when I load it. But only on my copy of Chrome, and then only until I change my zoom level. Even if I scroll back to the original level, the text is there, smiling back at me, ready to convince people I'm the guy for the job. And I totally am. At my site at

I can't get the issue to reproduce on my tablets, my laptop, or anyone else's computer. It doesn't even happen to me all the time. It made its first appearance about thirty seconds after I first uploaded my work to the Web, however, and that was a major problem at the time -- one of the two or so that made little tears of Internet rage well up in my eyes. 

Final impressions

I'm thrilled that Muse came included with my Creative Cloud subscription. If you saw my old site, which looked like absolute garbage, you'd understand why. It's decently intuitive and, in some ways, surprisingly powerful as desktop Web publishing platform. 

I'm not nearly as happy with some of the features (or lack thereof), especially as it pertains to Illustrator integration. I'm hoping they'll come -- I'd love full-on vector editing from within the software, or at least the ability to drag Illustrator vectors over now as I do with Photoshop -- but they aren't there as it sits. For a company that preaches and sells interplay between their powerful tools, not to mention one who sells said products to countless designers with little or no coding ability, that's what the French like to call a megabummer. 

In other words: Muse is an awesomely helpful, incredibly flawed, some-other-adjectively ambitious piece of software that lets people with limited HTML experience build decent-looking sites. The better your are at coding, the more likely you'll find it lacking, but for me it's wonderful. Just like my site, where you can...

Screw it. I'm done for the day. Leave a comment if you have questions or an answer for one of mine. 

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Wade,
    This is one place where I can inappropriately complain about something you have done that is completely unrelated to any comment (or review) of what you have just written. I'm sure there are many more. But, since I am not some cowardly cyber terrorist, I won't seek them out just yet. In fact, it is my nature to give folks the benefit of the doubt, and I hope you are about to see my point and do the right thing...

    My name is Kevin Shelley. I'm trying to promote a home business, Shelley Fitness, which you pretended to give a bad review as a way of getting back at me for apparently pulling out in front of you or something at a Target parking lot.

    Let me start by saying that, whatever it was I did, I apologize. I'm a runner, and I DO INDEED have a healthy respect for pedestrian right of way when I'm in a car, because of my experiences as a runner. If you have never made a mistake while driving, I envy you. But, despite your assumption, I was not intentionally trying to be a dick about your walk through a parking lot. I can say that with confidence, even though I do not remember the episode.

    Speaking of intentionally being a dick though...

    It is not cool to screw around with people's businesses because you are miffed at them. You could have messaged me, called me, emailed a man...and I would have a man...for my mistake.

    Instead, you did a "review" which is NOT a review, and if you're someone who can be honest with themselves, you already know that. You even admit within your inappropriate attack against a business I run to feed my family that you've had "no experience with [my] service. And the "alpha-male glare" that seems to have hurt your feelings was imaginary, I assure you. You would have found that out too, had you come at ME with your hissy. That is not how I am. Is this who you are or want to be, Mr. Wade?

    I am and want to be that I can accept responsibility for my mistakes (even if I don't actually remember the transgression...I take your word for it), and offer an apology.

    Given your use of cyber terrorism against my business as a way of cowardly attacking someone who accidentally distressed you, I'm not confident that you will be man enough to accept my apology and remove your completely unrelated "review." But, prior to pursuing any other course, I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt that you too can admit a mistake, and remove the negative review to Shelley Fitness, which was not an actual, honest use of the review feature. And did not cause you the horrid distress you suffered on that fateful day.