You may already know about the new software from Adobe, a web design platform called Muse that allows graphic designers with minimal web experience to create modern, fully functional sites without ever having to code HTML. Released this May, Muse makes web design a breeze for those of us who are not quite ready to learn how to hand-code one of the new web languages like CSS, PHP, or HTML5. Instead, using an interface similar to Adobe InDesign, Muse lets you design a full graphic layout of master and sub-pages and then export (surprisingly clean) HTML code instantly.
So far, I am really impressed with the simple interface and potential to create high-quality, professional sites in such a short time. Although there is some real concern about the industry implications of this type of software (and some heavy-handed criticism), with the official launch of Muse I expect we will see many examples in the near future of just how much that average designers can do with this software.
Many amateur designers will be able to get into the web game with this software, a significant step up from it’s unofficial predecessor, Apple’s iWeb. It will be interesting to see how web creation will evolve as a result. Here are a few tips to help a first timer make the most of the official Muse release.
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Build Custom Objects in Photoshop
One critical element to building fresh websites on any platform is using custom text and graphics. Take the time to learn the basics in Photoshop if you don’t know how already. It is surprisingly simple to create text-based graphics and headers using a combination of photography and text. Create headers with subtle color gradients or bold drop shadows using the “Blending Options” in Photoshop.
Incorporate high-quality photography into a header or build a graphic logo that you can employ on every sub-page. By taking the time initially to build a custom site, you can create something great the first time and avoid the time-consuming and tedious process of trying to retrofit or redesign the site with more modern elements down the road.
Embed Add-Ons for more Functionality
If you simply stick with the default design options on Muse, your site is going to feel a little superficial and look similar to many other ‘basic’ sites that are sure to be launched in the upcoming months. Do whatever you can to make your site as functional and interactive as possible. The goal is to connect with potential customers. Consider embedding extra items like feedback forms, mailing-list sign-ups, comment sections, even discussion forums to engage your page viewers and keep them there as long as possible.
New sites like Nabble let you incorporate just about any add-on to your website by generating HTML code that you can paste into Muse as an HTML object. Using these powerful third-party apps allows you to integrate elements that surpass the functional limitations of Muse and ultimately make excellent use of this powerful technology.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization is critically important to any new site. Muse allows you to include extensive Metadata within your site, so be sure and take the time to add pertinent tags in every possible location. Use relevant keywords in the description of each page (under page options), but also include a sentence or two about your site.
This is what appears in your description on search results, and it should grab attention. For every image on your site, include detailed descriptions and keywords within the image description field. And of course, include high-quality original copy on every page of your site (as opposed to system fonts that export as an image).
Free to Try
At least for the time being, Adobe Muse is free to try for 30 days. If you have ever thought about trying to design a website or blog, it’s an opportunity worth looking at. With this software you could theoretically create several legitimate sites in the month-long trial period, even without prior web design experience. After that, Muse operates as a subscription service at $14.99 per month for an annual subscription or $24.99 if you are just paying monthly.
If this seems expensive, keep in mind that the full release of Dreamweaver was $399 and for a fraction of that price you can have the entire package at your fingertips. Although there is a lot of controversy about this new pricing scheme by Adobe (and your inability to purchase a FULL software license), it may still be more cost-effective to only pay for a month at a time if you do not anticipating making many updates to your site.
One Final Thought
Media criticism aside, anyone who wants to get into web design should take a serious look at Muse. You may be surprised at just what you are able to create. Have fun with your designs, and take the time to make something professional and unique that will get you noticed!