How Adobe Dominated The Web Design Industry And Then Led it Astray?

Posted on April 24, 2012 by

How Adobe Got There?
Adobe is a company that helps to spark creativity with its many useful design tools. Among WYSIWYG developers, Adobe has a long and sordid history. The company has tried hard to revolutionize the industry, but often it got less than desirable results. The company continues to believe that there’s plenty of room for improvement in web design software, as we still see the company releasing new projects and software almost each year.

It all started in 1994, when Adobe realized that the Internet could be the next big thing after personal computers. Just like any big businesses, it bought up a competitor, instead spending precious time on R&D. PageMill was bought from Seneca and after the version 3.0, it received fairly positive feedbacks from the industry. To help defend themselves from Macromedia products, Adobe decided to purchase a firm, a company called GoLive System, which developed CyberStudio, a WYSIWYG editor and Adobe gave it a different name, the Adobe GoLive.

Early users of GoLive reported one fundamental conceptual flaw; the software is only decent for creating static, simple webpages. When web designers wanted to add a few dynamic elements, the UI became clunkier, inefficient and to certain extent, an all around nightmare. GoLive was also criticized for its messy outputs. Despite these flaws, Adobe GoLive was available through 2007 and it was pulled from Creative Suite when Adobe released CS2.

In the 1990’s, Macromedia was a huge name in the industry, after it purchased Backstage, which eventually evolved into Dreamweaver and FutureSplash, which became Flash. No one needs to be reminded how the web was changed forever by Flash. Initially seeming like a hero, it’s lately being marked by Apple and other companies as a villain, especially after the arrival of HTML5. But, overall it made the web a more dynamic, more interactive and richer user experience. In short, Dreamweaver ousted Adobe GoLive from the top position in web design industry, as many professionals favored its friendlier workflow. Heavy lifting tasks like database and scripting integration was supposedly much easier, causing major corporations with complex sites to favor Macromedia.

In 2005, Adobe bought Macromedia to end the competition once and for all. Adobe has spent a lot of money into developing Macromedia’s superior technology, but seven years later, in 2012, the result of the acquisition is still a bit mixed. Flash is slowly being abandoned, but Dreamweaver is still the web editor to beat. It is difficult to know how many web designers still use Dreamweaver, but by using Builtwith service, there are upwards of more than 4 millions websites using the tool. Obviously, Dremweaver still has a significant impact on the web deign industry. Although, scornful and rude criticism of Dreamweaver are present, they are actually also spewed towards WYSIWYG tools in general. To be fair, web developers will take on a massive task to code a large website by hand alone; Dreamweaver and other WYSIWYG tools still help web designers and developers to tackle complex layouts and codes.

However, only a few web design professionals are still willing to consider Dreamweaver as the pinnacle of web design technology. Instead, they seem to simply accept that Dreamweaver is the best solution they have at the moment while they eagerly await for the prophesied “Dreamweaver killer”.

Fireworks, was also once a rock star tool in the industry, which combines some elements of web design and Photoshop. Many experts consider, Fireworks is merely what Photoshop might look like if it was developed with web design in mind.

It’s still difficult to figure out what the future of web design industry would be like. Last year, Adobe abandoned the Project Rome, it was based on some solid ideas with significantly lower learning curve compared to the Dreamweaver. But unfortunately, it could only export Flash-based websites, instead of those based on CSS and HTML. Unfortunately, the web design industry has put Flash on par with the trouble itself and consequently Project ROme had nothing to merit from delivering Flash-based implementation.

Last year, Adobe launched the Muse, which was the latest in a long series of promises to allow web designers to work without the smallest amount of code involved. Official videos on YouTube make some pretty ambitious claims about revolutionizing the web design industry and we have heard this kind of promise before. As of March 2012, the Beta 7.01 has been released. The community spoke out in unison as soon as the Muse was released. Experts in the industry pointed out that Muse has a few fatal flaws, such as horrible typography, non-semantic code output and strictly fixed layout. But once you give it a shot, it’s easy to notice that Muse is a good combination between Photoshop and Project Rome. Muse could be an attempt to revive Project Rome under a different name, by removing Flash elements and adding some Photoshop goodness.

For any web designer, it’s a little frustrating to see how Adobe went through so much to bring better web design technology to the industry. It is definitely a significant problem and it is still today. It seems, Adobe needs to take more time to explore current practices. They need to leverage the immense number of Photoshop users and offer easier solution. Many newer web designers are still too intimidated by complex code and Adobe needs to help them to succeed in their careers with as little pain as possible. The Internet is a living breathing thing and it is built for interaction. The basic idea behind its invention is to provide an interactive virtual world for everyone to use.

How Adobe Gets it Wrong?
When web designers do their job, behavior and functionality is every bit as important as the external aesthetic. They should think how a website needs to function and let it defines the website’s visuals, not the other way around. Many WYSIWYG tools have it backwards, which unconsciously encourage users to create more static design infused with less interaction. Using these tools, many web designers will forever fail to develop rich web content that world needs.

Adobe sometimes misunderstands current trends in web design industry. Lately, many print designers are transitioning or expanding its operation into the web design field, but unfortunately, they sometimes feel like a group of people that are looked down upon. If new web designers despise your solutions, then odds are they will be abandoned gradually.

WYSIWYG tools shouldn’t be considered as a way to avoid learning code, instead they should be able to teach new designers on how to code with as little pain as possible. Tools like CSSEdit and Flux offers a straightforward way to create and add style to web pages without relying too much on codes. Visual controls in these tools revolve entirely around CSS and designers who are new to coding can gain more understand of how CSS works.

Adobe can’t keep using the argument that non-coder designers won’t know the differences, as coders will spread the words that current Adobe’s products are not up to par. Rapidweaver, CSSEdit and Flux are web developer friendly tools and they offer clean workflow. Instead of giving non-coder designers shortcut into the industry, Adobe should consider how to deliver a solution that can empower them into real web developers.

Talking about WYSIWYG tools in web design is a bit difficult. Many veterans look down upon them, which immediately alienates non-coders who are bound to it due to the lack of viable alternatives. Some hardcore coders in the web design industry act like pretentious snobs and they should feel guilty of this attitude. They shouldn’t indirectly intimidate inexperienced designers; instead they should help non-coders into the fold by providing assistance. That said, many WYSIWYG tools, including those released by Apple, still get professionals so fired up. Some of these tools are so far off the mark that they disgust dedicated web designers.

Adobe still has a special place in web designers’ heart and it should try to help create solutions instead of creating more problems. Adobe may need to get together with highly respected experts in the industry to come with user-friendly tools that can meet their lofty standards. It also needs to slow down in its mad dash for grabbing more market share and defines traits of proper web designers. This would help new web designers to integrate themselves in the industry instead of making them feel unwanted by the rest.

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