Adobe is in danger of losing the developer community, if they haven’t already

August 21st, 2011

Sometimes I wonder if we’ve got Adobe all wrong. Take a look at their products. Yes, people complain about their design products, Photoshop, Fireworks, InDesign, etc, but they’re pretty much the industry standard. All the designers I work with laugh when they find out someone uses Corel Draw and Photoshop has become a verb it’s so popular. But take a look at Adobe’s developer tools. Nearly all the Flash developers I follow use programs like FDT or Flash Develop to build Flash programs, they won’t go near Adobe’s tools for their own platform. And whenever a web developer mentions they use Dreamweaver, they feel the need to defend their choice.

Now look at three of Adobe’s latest products: Flash Catalyst, Edge and Muse. There’s one common thing to all these programs, build things without coding. This all leads me to believe one thing, Adobe gets how to build programs for designers but has no idea how to build anything for the serious developer. I’m a firm believer that Flash Catalyst was a direct response to designers saying they liked Flash better back when it was more of an animation tool that allowed a bit of coding. And you know what, I’m glad they made it, I don’t know if anyone actually uses it, but it hasn’t flooded the web with Flash sites that were any worse than people were putting out there before. Edge has potential, but I think it’s going to have to have it’s animations be canvas or SVG based to really catch on. And Muse to me is just a bad idea. The code it creates is awful and really, it’s just Dreamweaver with the code view removed.

I wasn’t the least but surprised by the web development community’s reaction to Muse. I pride myself in my ability to take a design and recreate it using HTML and CSS as close as a browser will let me. I spend a lot of time communicating with the designers I work with, I let them know what’s realistic and they let me know when they think I’m just being lazy. Muse seems to me to be evidence that Adobe feels developers are neck bearded nerds that don’t care how long you spent getting that gradient just right, they’re going to ruin your design because of things like functionality. So, Adobe is giving the designer the power to make their design look exactly like they want, no more arguing with those nerds that just don’t get it. But when Adobe’s example site has 1500 lines of HTML and someone recreates it using only 105 lines when they hand code it, it shows you how much Adobe missed the mark.

There was and maybe still is a way that Adobe could have avoided the developer backlash. Dreamweaver is actually a really decent code editor, it’s just expensive and most developers don’t want to be bothered with all the extra stuff it comes with. Adobe should come out with a cheap, or even free, version of Dreamweaver that’s just a code editor. Imagine if they’d released that at the same time as Muse? Look, Microsoft has two free coding environments that are actually really good and that I actually recommend to people, Visual Web Developer and WebMatrix and both are free.

But then again, has Adobe ever made a great coding environment? Flash Builder doesn’t seem to have the greatest reputation and Dreamweaver heyday was when it was built by Macromedia. I don’t think there’s been any major changes to Dreamweaver since Adobe bought it. And really, at $399, I doubt anyone that uses Dreamweaver actually bought it on it’s own, most people probably got it because they bought one of the Creative Suites. And who’s going to pay that much for something when you can get the same thing for free or for $29.

I think Adobe is fighting to stay relevant to the web design community but they’re doing it with the risk of alienating the web development community. I like Adobe and I like a lot of their products (any time I get to use After Effect is a good day), I think they are having trouble finding their place in the evolving world of the web.

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