On March 26, Adobe announced that it was ending development of its WYSIWYG, code-free web design application, Muse. At the same time, they also announced the end of life for Business Catalyst, their “all-in-one business website and online marketing solution.” Neither of these comes as a great shock to me. They are both proprietary solutions in an open source world.

For those unaware, Muse was conceived about a eight years ago as a way to design websites with no need for coding expertise. It was developed by a team made up primarily of individuals that worked on InDesign. I even heard it referred to as InDesign for the web. Business Catalyst is, as mentioned above, a one stop shop for creating and hosting websites.

My brief history with Muse

As a frustrated Dreamweaver user, and given the promise of WYSIWYG web design, I looked at Muse early on and like so many version one applications, it was pretty much junk. Text was rasterized and the mark up was absolutely horrible. I just didn’t see any need for it at the time but I kept an eye on it. As time went on, web fonts replaced rasterized type and third party developers such as MuseThemes jumped in to provide widgets and templates to add capabilities such as slideshows, contact forms and other interactive features. Around three years ago, I decided to give it a closer look. A client with a very small budget contacted me about doing a site for a small business. I thought it would be a great time to get a deeper understanding of Muse and provide the client with a site for a smaller than normal fee. I saw it as a win-win at the time.

Now? Well, not so much.

The positives were apparent fairly quickly. It was indeed very “InDesign-like.” Creating text frames, formatting text, adding images was a piece of cake. There were even master pages for elements that needed to appear on all pages such as menus. There were a number of plugins available which I took advantage of for a slideshow and an accordion panel. But the only way to create a mobile version was really nothing but a hack that required a second layout for the phone. That is not responsive and means making changes twice.

Not long after I did that site, an effort was made to add responsive capabilities. I won’t claim to have spent a lot of time exploring them but from what I saw, it was just too much work, adjusting breakpoints and such. Beyond telling you that I decided right then and there that I didn’t see much personal need for such a tool, it was painfully apparent that it was far to limited in capabilities for a professional to rely on. I also knew that Dreamweaver wasn’t going to cut it for me, either. I’d done quite a few sites using it and while I know my way around HTML and CSS, I’m not a developer.

So, what was I to do?

I got my first taste of WordPress in 2013 when I decided to create this blog. I found a free theme, a cheap GoDaddy hosting account and I was on my way…or so I thought. While I found it fairly easy to get my arms around, when interest in WordPress-based websites from clients began to increase, one of the things I happily discovered was that I didn’t know a fraction of the power that WordPress had. I got busy watching courses on Lynda.com and YouTube. In 2016, I gave myself a crash course in WordPress by redesigning my own site.

Why WordPress?

I looked at the usual suspects; Wix, Squarespace, and similar “drag and drop” online solutions but I didn’t want to be trapped into a proprietary system. For years WordPress was primarily a blogging platform but it’s become so much more. It’s open source (FREE!) and portable so it can be hosted almost anywhere. It’s easy to maintain and update, and is supported by tens of thousands of developers making it practically limitless in capability. Themes and plugins are highly affordable and the better ones are updated constantly. If you find one that isn’t working for you it’s more than likely that a different one will do the job.

Of course, with great power comes a bit of a learning curve. But honestly, it didn’t take me very long to get comfortable with it. There’s an entire community of WordPress users and developers out there and it’s not hard to find someone to point you in the right direction. Which pretty much brings me to the point of this post.

Don’t get stuck, again!

If you’re a Muse or Business Catalyst user, I feel your pain. It wasn’t that long ago that Adobe pretty much killed Digital Publishing Suite, something I had invested a great deal of time and effort into. There’s a lot of anger out there toward Adobe but that anger isn’t going to solve anything. The web is an open source platform and you should be looking for open source tools. That’s why I’ve been singing the praises of WordPress and highly recommend that you consider it for the next version of your site.

If you’re looking for assistance moving in that direction, I invite you to contact me or leave a comment.

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