It is generally agreed among non-programmers that Macromedia Dreamweaver and Macromedia Flash, more than almost any other software products, brought the production of quality, functional websites within reach of non-programmers and changed the way the Internet looked, felt, and sounded.
Dreamweaver came into being in the 90s and delivered the ability for someone armed only with an imagination, and minimal HTML programming skills, to produce working, good-looking, HTML pages. Dreamweaver was the first program to offer a real WYSIWYG experience for web page developers. Since then, Macromedia has expanded its presence in the web development world with the Macromedia Studio, which includes four separate components: (1) Dreamweaver, (2) Flash, the program that offers a visual dimension to web pages and their components, (3) Fireworks, a web photo management software package, (4) and Freehand, a graphic designer’s tool.
Even though the dialup connections and slow servers of the mid and late 90s barely (or didn’t at all) support the larger files; and the search engines refused to recognize pages built in Flash, the Macromedia folks decided to let the technology catch up with them rather than reducing the functionality of their products. It paid off handsomely, with a generous market share.
While Dreamweaver was doing its thing in Internet and web development, graphics and type-software-giant Adobe was doing its thing, continuing to develop page layout, photo, font, and print media tools. Adobe made a foray into the web page creation business with GoLive, a direct competitor to Dreamweaver. Adobe also was heavy into video, video editing and presentation. If someone could think it, they could create it with a tool from either or both of the companies.
Now everybody is working and living in the same tent, so to speak. Adobe and Macromedia became one company this past year. On the fifth of December in 2005 the acquisition of Macromedia by Adobe was completed. As the next few months play out, the Macromedia brand will assimilate into the Adobe world. This raises a few questions for Macromedia users.
Jen Taylor has been Senior Product Manager at Macromedia Dreamweaver for the past four years, and she’s excited about the future of the new software company. We asked her about the future for Dreamweaver and Flash users.
PeC: What do you think the future holds for the Macromedia brand now that it is part of Adobe?
We have actually folded the Macromedia brand into the Adobe brand. For example, Dreamweaver will be come Adobe Dreamweaver. The product will continue to exist and we will continue to develop it. Macromedia has always been good at helping ecommerce users create their presence and image on line, now as part of Adobe we can help our users extend their reach to create great material not only on the web but in print and video—video we think is very interesting.
PeC: When will we start to see the brand name changes and a different look in packaging?
You’ll see that take place in the packaging, online and in our advertising over the next few months. Some of it is already in place, such as the website URL. Everything forwards to adobe.com.
PeC: What does the acquisition by Adobe bring to the table for the Macromedia brand?
It’s all about a better customer experience. As I said Macromedia has been good at helping customers with their online experience. We did a lot of Flash and digital video, but combining that with Digital Video Suit from Adobe, you can create incredible, mind-blowing video content. We think video is going to be a huge part of the web experience in the future.
PeC: There are a number of duplications in the two software lines. For example, Freehand and Illustrator have been competitors for a long time. Then there is Dreamweaver and GoLive. Will we see some of the brands disappear or merge into one package?
Actually I would anticipate all of the Macromedia products to continue. We will continue to maintain and develop and offer Freehand and Dreamweaver. One of the things we did as part of this acquisition was conduct a lot of research into how customers work and how customers deliver their experience. And Freehand and Illustrator, for example, both fill a need in the marketplace and offer something we’ve learned different customers want or need.
PeC: Of course, Dreamweaver is your “baby” so to speak. For a lot of us it has been the flagship for Macromedia. In your continued development of the package, are there some new things in the works that you can talk about?
Well I can’t talk specifically about our plans, but I can talk about our goals of improving on what Dreamweaver was always good at and that was to take complex and difficult technology and make it approachable and accessible. As you probably know, in the new Version 8, that we just released, we added the ability to integrate more dynamic data and blogs into web pages, with XML coding, and in general giving the user more control over the content of the web page. Of course, easily adding video to the site is an important aspect. With Dreamweaver and Flash together it is much easier to create a great page with attractive content. We’ll continue to develop the products along those lines.
PeC: A lot of ecommerce merchants have built their sites with the Macromedia products. Is ecommerce something that gets a lot of attention in your development plans for Dreamweaver and the other products?
We spend a lot of time talking about ecommerce and to ecommerce vendors. We spend a lot of time with customers, sitting down with them and watching them work. eCommerce people are a large part of that research. What we realized is that developing a market is a key issue for them. Security is a key issue for them. You know a lot of these people are new to the web. They don’t create databases and applications. Keeping the codes functional and secure in the pages that Dreamweaver creates is a critical factor for us. Also we want to help merchants create a branded experience, helping merchants differentiate themselves and create a great experience for their customers, in terms of the interface they present. We want to support the ecommerce vendors and listen to what they say, so that they find our products useful.
PeC: Do you use focus groups and solicit input from ecommerce customers?
Yes. For example on the website for Dreamweaver there is a “wish list” where people can post things they would like to see in the software. We read every one of those wishes. If you’re a registered user you can logon and post reactions, questions, or problems. Our people respond to each and every one of those. We spend a lot of time talking to customers, we pack our bags and go out into the field and meet with users to find out how they work and what works or doesn’t work for them What works for you might work for some of the small ecommerce sellers. For example, you have a portion of the Macromedia site called the “forum”.
PeC: Is that a useful tool when viewed from a customer service standpoint—that is, learning what the customers are talking about?
You know, customers are the inspiration for the brand. The forums tell us pretty well what’s working and what’s not working. It’s an important tool in learning not only what the problem is, but oftentimes how to solve it. While Dreamweaver and Flash are great tools, in the past we have had some issues with building sites that loaded too slowly.
PeC: Even with the faster connections that more people have today, it can still be a problem. Is that something you’re working on?
With the release of the new Flash 8 and the Flash 8 player we’ve added a ton of optimization tools. With Flash Video you can actually incorporate a video in a Flash file and it is very lightweight and easy to distribute.
PeC: Meaning easier to download?
Yes. We realize that great experiences make for great sites, but we want to make sure as we move into new technologies that we’re thinking about that speed.
PeC: It sounds like you see video on the ‘Net as the way of the future.
I can tell you that as a company we’re excited about the future and look forward to continuing to inspire our customers to create great things. You know we’re watching the next generation of the web come to light now. At Adobe, we spend a lot of time thinking about user experiences and the new technology is coming in products like Flash and Dreamweaver 8 that really allow people to create great user experiences and otherwise differentiate themselves. We’re very exited about the combination of Macromedia Flash and Flash Video in conjunction with the Adobe video products. One of the things we say is “a picture is worth a thousand words and a video is worth a thousand pictures.” We’re starting to see the next generation of the Internet with more video and more dynamic and exciting sites.