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Musings on Using Adobe Muse for Website Creation

I’ve written about creating a website using WordPress(.org), not once, but twice, because it is awesome. It is free, and about as easy to use as it gets. WordPress truly facilitates an easily-found, dynamic website, with its SEO-friendly CMS and many plug-ins. Then, there are a lot of fairly customizable themes, many of which are free. And, there’s a great community of support, to which you might turn, whenever you need it.
And then, there’s Adobe Muse. When I read Mashable’s news about this beta that allows you to create a website without writing code, I was excited.
Please (please, please) note that you absolutely can create a website using WordPress without knowing how to code, at all. However, certain functions would be challenging, many impossible even, without having at least a decent grasp of HTML. My hope was (yes, was) that Muse would improve upon what a lawyer with no time to learn HTML (or CSS, or Javascript, …) could make his or her website do.
It doesn’t. But it absolutely does improve upon what that same lawyer could make his or her website look like, which, at least initially, might warrant its use.
Although I would seriously recommend using for a simple, temporary, placeholder website, if you are in a hurry to launch, Muse may very well get you there faster than WordPress. The base of the interface is the webpage that you are designing, and the entire website is displayed as an org chart. I can’t think of a more intuitive starting point. Unfortunately, that’s more or less the ending point for intuition’s role in operating Muse, as well.
I know it’s still in beta, but, as an example, to put a image on your webpage in Muse, you click on the File menu, and then choose Place. I never thought to go there (thanks for the help, Google). But, once it’s there, you have almost infinitely more artistic flexibility in where you can position the image. And, as you drag that image wherever you please, grid lines appear (and disappear, in various colors), which help you align those images in a variety of ways; the grid lines indicate when a series of images are equidistant from one another, centered vertically, centered horizontally, etc. Incredibly useful. Positioning images in WordPress is essentially restricted, and thus frustrating.
Despite the improvement in creative freedom, Muse can become just as frustrating as you try to edit those images. For example, the image frame editing toolbar is permanently located below the menu toolbar, but the rest of the image editing options appear in a side panel when that image is selected (see here). An additional layer of frustration evolves as you try to add functionality with images, or Muse’s version of widgets.
Similarly, creating a header in Muse is much like doing so in any program an ordinary person might feel comfortable with, like Paint or PowerPoint, even, but with wonkier controls. In WordPress, you need to have a separate file containing your entire header image, and it must meet certain pixel requirements, which may vary by theme; and then, you need to know to navigate from the dashboard to Appearance > Header, where it can be uploaded.
Simply put, Muse is not a content management system, as WordPress is, though in the future it might integrate those capabilities. Now, at least, it seems to me, that if you want to organize a lot of content with fairly restrictive, but perfectly logical, parameters, use WordPress (don’t even think about using Adobe Muse). Conversely, if you want to creatively design an original website, use Adobe Muse (don’t even think about using WordPress).
Ultimately, as to ease of use, it’s nearly a wash between Muse and WordPress. The two are intuitive in entirely distinct realms, and pose a fairly considerable learning curves where they are not intuitive. Both can be supplemented with knowledge of HTML and more complicated code; but code is not a prerequisite for website creation using either program.