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Posted on March 16th, 2009 by Tom Arah

A nice chat with Adobe about Dreamweaver

Following my recent post, I’m Sorry but Dreamweaver is Dying and the ensuing online discussions/abuse, I was summoned for a chat with the headmaster – Devin Fernandez, senior product manager for the web products at Adobe.

Dreamweaver cs4

Based on my core argument – that the future of web design lies with content management systems (cms) rather than Dreamweaver – I was expecting an uncomfortable time. Thankfully Devin is far too nice for that. More than that he seemed genuinely pleased to have had a debate opened up and a chance to hear what the community is thinking about Dreamweaver and the future of web design…

Naturally Devin hopes and believes that Dreamweaver is going to remain central to future web workflows and was keen to stress that the program is always evolving. As such we chatted about some of the introductions in the latest Dreamweaver CS4 such as the HTML table-based Ajax handling, the new compound file support and advanced CSS navigation.

To my mind, Dreamweaver CS4’s HTML table-based Ajax handling is simultaneously over-complicated and underpowered and is a good example of the web 2.0 wall that Dreamweaver is hitting in the static HTML page context. However (as I pointed out in my review) the other two features are certainly significant advances and show Dreamweaver moving forwards from the old model of the simple standalone HTML page to embrace today’s more complex compound reality. 

Moreover, as Devin pointed out, these features prove especially useful in the cms context where the compound page is the norm and drilling down to find and edit CSS rules a nightmare. In short Devin made the case that Dreamweaver has a lot to offer cms-based users and doesn’t see cms as an either/or alternative but rather as a partner it can work with, just as it does with the Ajax frameworks.

Without making any explicit commitments, Devin also made it clear that Dreamweaver users can expect further developments when it comes to integration with the big three frameworks:- WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. In particular, knowing I’m a Drupal fan, he recommended that I check out the work Chris Charlton is doing with his Dreamweaver Drupal extension that integrates the Drupal API directly into Dreamweaver. 

We also discussed just how important the mission of bringing good design to cms is. I couldn’t agree more. Some people seemed to think that I was arguing that we should rip out today’s websites and replace them with blogs. That is absolutely not the case. The goal must be to produce truly attractive cms sites that look as if they were hand-crafted in Dreamweaver but with all the web 2.0 functionality – commenting, voting, rss feeds, in-browser content contribution, optimal tag-based navigation, scalability – that static HTML inherently can’t deliver. 

This design mission is crucial but I’m not convinced that Dreamweaver is necessarily central to it. Or even necessary at all for the average user. At the moment the general standard of cms design is beyond dreadful but that’s because the design potential of cms hasn’t begun to be grasped by its user base which is still primarily made up of developers. 

This is most immediately evident when it comes to theming. The ability to quickly explore hundreds of attractive high quality themes is a massive strength but incredibly most cms users still stick with the unbelievably ugly default theme. This is a travesty. If the average cms user spent just one day exploring the themes available, the design quality of their work would take off and the design reputation of cms with it. Indeed by piggy-backing off the work of leading designers, and so ensuring site-wide consistency and best practice and avoiding unhelpful design excesses, a themed cms site can embarrass many hand-crafted static sites. It might even validate!

Off-the-shelf cms themes will take most sites most of the way to where they want to go. Devin argued that Dreamweaver is the essential tool that cms users need to go the extra distance and get exactly the results they want. I’m sure that Dreamweaver does play this key role for the majority of theme developers and also for most of the module developers creating the cms logic. As many of the comments from developers on my original article pointed out, the cms frameworks that I’m talking about simply wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Dreamweaver. 

That’s true and a major reason to be grateful to Dreamweaver and to wish it well. However the numbers involved creating the cms framework is inherently small compared to the numbers using it. That’s the point: the module or theme creator does the hard work and generously donates it so that end users don’t have to. For the cms end user I’d argue that a 5% role for Dreamweaver is a very different role to today’s 100%. Will cms-based designers prove willing to pay $hundreds for a support tool when the cms itself, in which they do 95% of their work, is free? 

In any case, despite its undoubted power, I’m not convinced that Dreamweaver will necessarily prove the best tool for the average designer wanting to extend their cms handling. In fact Dreamweaver’s all-round power and the associated complexity becomes more of a drawback than an advantage. For tweaking a theme’s CSS, for example, a lightweight dedicated approach makes more sense – something like Chris Pederick’s excellent and free Web Developer add-on for Firefox which works live in the browser. 

In the longer term I believe that an end-to-end, high-quality design solution will be provided in the browser and largely by the cms frameworks themselves. Already image handling and wysiwyg editing have improved out of all recognition. And, using advanced modules such as Drupal’s excellent Panels (which lets you break up your layout to break out from blog-style listings) and the stunning Views 2 (which lets you pull out any content based on any criteria to drop into those panels), you can produce beautiful sites based on completely custom designs that give no indication that they were produced with a cms apart from their additional web 2.0 functionality. And the design capabilities of the cms frameworks are only going to get better. 

So where does all this leave Dreamweaver? 

Working with the web’s constantly changing open standards has always been Dreamweaver’s greatest strength and, from the chat with Devin, it’s clear that Adobe is well aware of the rise of the cms frameworks and of what they can do. It will certainly be interesting to see what future releases come up with in terms of support for cms. Moving to truly dedicated support will represent a step-change and help unleash the next generation of content management systems.

And as the content management systems get more powerful, more attractive and more usable they will attract more developers and designers who will come to appreciate the enormous benefits of building on the work of others rather than trying to do everything themselves. Moreover, as some of these developers and designers put something back into the communal pool of high quality logic and design, the arguments for joining up to the cms project become more and more compelling. A standalone user can already, with a lot of effort, use today’s cms frameworks to produce a site that looks and acts as if had been built by a massive team of design and development talent (which in a way it has). Over time the results possible and the ease of use with which they can be achieved will rise dramatically. The potential is extraordinary. 

Both Devin and I agree that the cms frameworks are going to get more powerful and that Dreamweaver will play an important role in this. However we differ over how this is likely to play out and the implications. My argument is that the cms frameworks are completely different to the Ajax frameworks because they represent a far more fundamental shift; a shift that will redefine how future designers and developers go about creating the website itself – the role that Dreamweaver currently fills.

Dreamweaver has been the central player behind the page-based web and the custom-made application-based web. I believe that it will also play a major part in creating the content management systems that will come to replace it as the web’s main driving force.

Tom Arah

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16 Responses to “ A nice chat with Adobe about Dreamweaver ”

  1. A nice chat with Adobe about Dreamweaver - PC Pro | CMS Software News Says:
    March 16th, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    [...] A nice chat with Adobe about DreamweaverPC Pro, UKWithout making any explicit commitments, Devin also made it clear that Dreamweaver users can expect further developments when it comes to integration with the big three frameworks:- WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. In particular, knowing I’ma Drupal fan, …Press Release : JSFToolbox 3.0 for Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 Now Available PressReleasePoint (press release)all 2 news articles [...]

     
  2. A nice chat with Adobe about Dreamweaver - PC Pro | MoVa Media Co, Ltd Says:
    March 16th, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    [...] A nice chat with Adobe about DreamweaverPC Pro, UKWithout making any explicit commitments, Devin also made it clear that Dreamweaver users can expect further developments when it comes to integration with the big three frameworks:- WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. In particular, knowing I’ma Drupal fan, …Press Release : JSFToolbox 3.0 for Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 Now Available PressReleasePoint (press release)all 2 news articles [...]

     
  3. I’m sorry but Dreamweaver is dying | PC Pro blog Says:
    March 17th, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    [...] Adobe has a slightly different take on things and I’ve now added a follow-up post based on a chat with Devin Fernandez, senior product manager for the web products at [...]

     
  4. Stephanie Sullivan Says:
    March 19th, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    I’d just like you to clarify something for me. You said:
    “That’s the point: the module or theme creator does the hard work and generously donates it so that end users don’t have to.”

    So essentially, you’re saying that designers should donate the designs they create — hours of work — for others to use free. And that you, the developer should then be paid to create the client’s website? So exactly how do designers make money in this “new web?” Just wondering…

    I’d also like to clarify one point, Dreamweaver CS4 gives you the ability to manipulate your ajax interactions in real time within Dreamweaver (and to find & easily edit dynamically changing CSS classes by freezing the code). If you have a server set up on your computer, all the better. It’s not “HTML table-based” at all.

    I believe you’re confusing two things that don’t have to work together. Spry gives you the ability to dump your data into an HTML recordset and display it in a table (if it’s tabular data) or any other way you’d like to display it as well (div/ul/etc). If javascript is not available, your data/content that would normally be accessed using your sexy ajax interaction is still available to every user. THAT’S what makes HTML datasets wonderful, they’re accessible. But they’re not at all necessary to utilize DW’s ajax-editing-within-the-program’s functionality. That’s available for all ajax applications/interactions by nature.

    Hope that helps. :)

     
  5. Gregq Says:
    March 19th, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Um… “To my mind, Dreamweaver CS4’s HTML table-based Ajax handling is simultaneously over-complicated and underpowered and is a good example of the web 2.0 wall that Dreamweaver is hitting in the static HTML page context.”

    You obviously don’t understand what this is even about. There is something called progressive enhancement, in which no user agent is left behind, that allows you to provide “cool” Ajax interfaces/effects, while still providing complete access to content for others (and that content can be beautifully designed as well). Dreamweaver and the Spry Framework are the ONLY tools currently available to address this in a visual, “not-to-geeky” way – while still providing the underlying code for any intermediate/advanced user that wants it.

    No other framework does it this easy – and NO CMS (to my knowledge) can handle this – and very definitely NOT in a visual manner.

    Finally, while we all agree that dynamically driven sites are definitely interesting, the beauty of the web is that it’s not a “one-size-fits-all” world.

     
  6. Tom Arah Says:
    March 20th, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Stephanie / Greg: I do understand what the new Ajax handling is about and that the HTML-table based approach is in addition to server side handling. It’s a good example of Adobe doing its best to ensure that static publishers aren’t left behind, but it’s a hopeless battle. With the best will in the world static publishing has been left behind and Adobe can’t help – how do you do RSS, on-the-fly navigation, end user content contribution etc?

    And yes cms can do similar stuff but in a scalable way – combine Drupal, CCK, Views and some of the Views output modules and you can pull out any content and present it via tabs, carousels, accordions etc .

    Regarding Stephanie’s point about the give-it-away-for-free cms philosophy. The point is that everyone gains so much from the pool that they want to chip in and help others – it’s not compulsory.

    And while you are piggybacking off all this work, and so can take your own much further, I can assure you that choosing the themes and modules that you need and creating the site framework, tagging etc to pull it all together is very much a full-time professional job for which you will charge (more because you are providing your clients with so much more).

    I’m not talking about a one-size-fits-all at all – every site is different and needs to be individually designed. I’m arguing that that design is better done in a cms rather than in Dreamweaver.

     
  7. Jason Says:
    March 21st, 2009 at 7:20 am

    Very well written, I can’t agree more. Dreamweaver is a tool for static content, that has a few tools for basic dynamic content. But the web has changed very quickly. Dreamweaver is fundamentally not wired to provide the immersive, interactive experience that a web framework or cms offers. It’s actually a myth that Dreamweaver is somehow more designer friendly. If you get as far with DW that you’re actually understanding the HTML and CSS it produces (which you need to if you’re doing any real web design), moving to a CMS, while a bit of a transition, is really not that painful.

    I agree about the in browser experience. Once you’ve tried the web dev toolbar or Firebug, you’ll see why this is true…and how it’s actually more designer friendly than Dreamweaver ever was Yes, it can evolve. I see things like some CSS aids for beginners and image handling. Already, you have inline content editing with Joomla and Drupal. If this were ajaxified (no wait everytime you click the edit button), it would be another great step. So you’re right. How will DW even fit into this unless they become like a CMS?

     
  8. Tommi Luhtanen Says:
    March 28th, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Good points, one and all.

    I agree that DreamWeaver is an aging app and lot of its current features really should go the way of the dodo. However, there’s no denying that it shines as a WYSIWYG editor and CSS handling and reviewing is fabulous in the CS4 version. What other app comes even close? (Golive being gone)

    And there are other points as well. Read on.

    I make part of my income training people to understand, design and ultimately develop their web sites. From that experience I conclude that a huge number of people (who call themselves professional, BTW) struggle with the first part. Without that there really cannot be the second and the third.
    Here’s where DreamWeaver CS4 is great (as stated before in this thread). Build a simple site from the templates provided, adding some AJAX and using DreamWeaver’s very nice template structure, and one will very soon understand what web site design and development is about.
    After this you can begin planning & specing your site and choose the right CMS for it, etc.

    I also believe that DreamWeaver needs to incorporate the three major CMSs somehow. Adobe, in my opinion, should not try to develop a CMS of its own. DreamWeaver should be a designer/developer front end to a CMS. That is the dream I’ve woven for myself, anyway. : )

    Stephanie, love the book BTW. Hope to see you soon in Finland.

    -Tommi

     
  9. anonymous Says:
    April 7th, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Hello Tom “The Internet Troll” Arah,

    You are an idiot and a waste of skin. You are a terrorist to the internet world. Have a nice day.

     
  10. Keith Says:
    April 20th, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    “I’m not talking about a one-size-fits-all at all – every site is different and needs to be individually designed. I’m arguing that that design is better done in a cms rather than in Dreamweaver.”

    My understanding of using a CMS is that the majority of them have to be tied to a database of some sort for it to work, which for some people that would just be another thing to have to keep up with. For the few sites I have done for people, they had no use for anything more than static HTML pages to just inform people about their business and how to contact them. They had no interest in anything more complicated, nor did they want to budget in having to have someone constantly install update patches to the CMS or deal with an error in a database that would give a dreaded “Can not connect to database” page. They don’t wish to deal with getting feedback from customers on their website through comments or postings, but instead are happy to see their customers walk through the front door of their physical business or to drop them a quick email. Personally I see myself creating static HTML pages for many years to come yet if I stay living in the area that I live now. And for me Dreamweaver will continue to be the tool that I use to create them for the most part.

    It is great that the web is moving forward with Web 2.0 and even 3.0, but you have to remember that you are going to have many people that just want to stay in the 1.0 web world. Eventually they may wish to move forward, but for most part the extras that make up interactivity of Web 2.0 is just unneeded to them.

     
  11. daniel Says:
    April 21st, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    You’ve set it Keith.
    There’s still people reading books, painting for pleasure, waisting money in busniess cards or moving to the shop to buy greeting ones.

    Estatic page demand will remain or even increase. Web 2.0 and 3.0 will just create additional oportunities in the web. A complete master designer should had worked on all of them if possible.

     
  12. Jason Says:
    May 1st, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    “For the few sites I have done for people, they had no use for anything more than static HTML pages to just inform people about their business and how to contact them.”

    Until they realize a) what a dynamic website can do for their business or b) their competition realizes before they do, and they have to scramble to regain their footing. Look around, it’s happening very quickly as we speak. When the wheel came out, I’m sure there were a few skeptics then too.

    The problem many Dreamweaver users face is that they have a disease ;) They’re too used to the way they do things to see around the bend. Here’s another good article on the subject by another converted Dreamweaver user: http://www.cmsexpo.net/newsroom/87-updates/436-buh-bye-dreamweaver.html

    Concrete5 (www.concrete5.org) – a new open source CMS, is worth keeping an eye on. It’s very focused on ease of use. Just like I prodded at in my comment above, it offers inline ajax content editing. Not just articles, but blocks/modules as well. It’s still new and there aren’t many add-ons yet (and the few good ones are commercial – one license per site), but it seems like the right evolutionary direction.

    I’m a big believer in empowering and making things easier. IMO, Dreamweaver is not doing that and when compared to some of the newer alternatives… it’s really missing the boat. I believe that’s what Tom is trying to say.

    Give these alternatives a try before forming such strong opinions people. You’ll have to spend more than a few hours to learn a CMS, but once you do learn… that’s when things get much easier.

     
  13. Keith Says:
    May 28th, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    It isn’t that I don’t want to try using CMS as an alternative to a static site. I have looked into both WordPress and Joomla to some level, I just haven’t found a use for using either of them for projects that I have completed so far. That said I do have a possible client coming up that has mentioned the desire to update his own site’s content where I am planning on recommending that we use WordPress for his site. I just don’t view CMS systems as becoming the only way to build a web site. I look at CMS as a tool to be used when it is necessary just like Flash.

    The article that you linked makes mention of “If they can use Microsoft Word, they could use this CMS.” The problem is what do you do when faced with a client that is unable to handle using a CMS system and is going to continue to come to you to update their site. Granted I can see that argument that then it will make your job easier because you are using the CMS for updating yourself and would prefer that way, but what happens when something goes wrong. You are installing a security patch, upgrading it to the newer version of the CMS or a database gets corrupted and the site crashes. Now who do you charge the time it is going to take you to straighten it out. Do you charge the client who really didn’t need the CMS in the first place because a static HTML site would have worked? Do you eat the cost because you felt it would be easier on you for updating it? For me I would end up eating the cost because I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to charge the client knowing that I didn’t need to use it.

    I know that I keep going back to just because it is there to use doesn’t mean that it is always the best option for every scenario, but it is true. If a client ask me for one or I think that that is the best option for them then I would use one. But if the client is not interested in updating their own content, isn’t planning on regularly updating their site, or just wants a static site then why not just build them a static site using Dreamweaver. I have much the same feeling of Flash sites. I feel that they have certain niches that they fit in, but for the most part I would never recommend one. If someone asks me for one and they are bound and determined that they want one though, then I’ll build them one.

    Thank you for the heads up on the Concrete5 project. I had not heard about that one yet. I am planning on checking it out though.

     
  14. Jordan Clark Says:
    November 8th, 2009 at 3:44 am

    The most logical path for Adobe to take (or any developer of web design software, for that matter), is to move away from the “traditional” desktop application, and to migrate towards a browser-based web application (easier said than done, I know…)

    This way, they can have the best of both worlds.

     
  15. web design for beginners Says:
    April 21st, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    web design for beginners…

    I found A nice chat with Adobe about Dreamweaver | PC Pro blog interesting although it wasn’t really what I was looking for today. I wanted more information on web design for beginners but this gave me some pointers to think about. Perhaps I need to…

     
  16. Dreamweaver CS5: back from the dead? | PC Pro blog Says:
    May 12th, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    [...] why, when Devin Fernandez, senior product manager for the web products at Adobe responded to my post promising that Dreamweaver CS5 would adapt, I remained unconvinced. Essentially I couldn’t [...]

     

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