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Big question: what do you think of Adobe Edge?

Last week, Adobe pushed out the second preview version of Edge, a web animation tool that generates the code for you. There’s been some controversy over its use of div-based animation instead of canvas or SVG, but Adobe wants us all to remember that this is just a taster …

Trent Walton
paravelinc.com

Edge is obviously a fantastic discussion starter.

I can recognise the value in releasing a preview version of the product, but also applaud Rob Hawkes for his concern that we don’t go too far down the wrong path, “creating headaches for the developer community for years”.

I don’t see myself using Edge for client work in the immediate future, but I look forward to not having to build animations in a text editor.

Trent is founder of Paravel

Paul Lloyd
clearleft.com

I’m reluctant to invest in any new Adobe product, regardless of suitability, when much of the company’s existing software has become overpriced, feature-laden and buggy.

I’d much rather support independent developers, who aren’t only leading the charge in this area but are closer to the community and more receptive to feedback. We desperately need strong competition in the marketplace before Adobe will produce great software again.

Paul is a designer at Clearleft

Gavin Elliott
gavinelliott.co.uk

Whenever Adobe does anything, I’m always cautious about its approach. And while it can say it’s a preview version, it could do the industry a favour and release something that’s more suitable at the time. We need tools to push the industry forwards consistently.

Me, personally, I’m keeping a close eye on Animatable. All of these tools will be progressing quickly over the coming months, so we’ll be able to see which one is better suited in due course. Either way, I won’t be jumping at Edge in the near future.

Gavin is organising The Industry Conference for 2012

Chris Coyier
chriscoyier.net

Empty divs used for nothing but styling were non-semantic and a bad idea before CSS animations, and they’re a bad idea now. Let’s say you want to make a little 300px square scene with a lake and the sun and a boat rowing along. Zero functionality. I even think Flash is a better choice than a bunch of empty divs.

Chris is a web designer working at Wufoo

Andy Hume
clearleft.com

In general, I’ve been a little sceptical about doing serious and complex animation with the DOM and CSS. After all, technologies such as canvas and WebGL are designed for doing exactly that. They are true graphics APIs, which people with graphics programming experience can bend to do incredible things. Things that you couldn’t do, and wouldn’t want to do, with CSS animation.

Having said that, I’m starting to think there’s a place for some types of CSS animation. To begin with, it’s something that can work cross-browser today (if you fall back to JS-based animation, rather than CSS), which can’t quite be said for canvas and SVG yet. And, secondly, it opens the door to people with DOM and CSS skills to do some surprisingly effective animation, without having to learn complex graphics APIs to make use of canvas.

The final point worth making is that I think a lot of the movement around CSS animation (in particular Adobe’s new Edge product) is being driven by the need for advertisers to get animated banner ads into places where Flash isn’t available these days – particularly on certain mobile devices.

Andy is a developer at Clearleft

Jonathan Smiley
zurb.com

It’s nice to see Adobe playing to its strengths (powerful tools) rather than hammering on the glorious future of mobile Flash. There’s still a way to go, as the discussion so far has made clear, but as a first cut, Edge looks pretty solid. No doubt, like all the brand’s other tools, it will grow and adapt to the available technology over time – like SVG and canvas. I’m optimistic.

Jonathan is a design lead at ZURB

Chris Mills
dev.opera.com

My opinion is that Edge is a bit of an abuse of web standards and best practices, and isn’t the best way to do things going forward.

I’d even go so far as to say that Flash is a better solution for some of the uses of Edge, over badly used markup and script.

Chris educates on open standards for Opera

Andy Budd
clearleft.com

Adobe Edge, Animatable … What the hell? Seriously, I really don’t get what people are thinking at the moment. The web standards crowd spent years fighting against unnecessary Flash animations, only to come out with our own half-arsed animation tools. This really does feel like the sins of our fathers. I mean, how is rotating and tweening a bunch of divs any more helpful or meaningful than animating in Flash? The only difference is that one required a plug-in (which 90 per cent of the planet had anyway) and was about 100 times more powerful.

It seems to me that we’re simply jumping on the animation bandwagon because we can, and are in serious risk of backtracking on all the great advances in usability we’ve had over the last few years. Every new portfolio site is now going to spin, shake or animate just because it can. Whoopee! Next we’ll all be doing 3D in the browser and trying to design HTML5 games. Oh, no, wait, we’re already there. I think I’m having a flashback and am in need of a bit of a lie down. Wake me up when 1998 is over. I didn’t like it much the first time around, so I’m pretty sure it’s going to suck now.

Andy is managing director of Clearleft

Mark Kirby
mark-kirby.co.uk

I always prefer to use handcrafted code to create the fastest and most efficient products. I would consider using Edge, which generates the code for you, for prototyping, and perhaps to work out more complex aspects of animations. If anyone decides to use Edge for production code, I would recommend a full inspection of the output first, along with thorough testing on a range of browsers and devices, including mobile.

Mark develops mobile sites and apps for Ribot

Nathan Smith
sonspring.com

Honestly, I don’t see myself using Edge, simply because I don’t trust design apps that output code, especially when writing it myself is typically less time consuming than debugging an app’s generated code. Adobe products are trending more in that direction: design without knowing code (see also Adobe Muse). I’m sure it’s an ever-growing market, but I feel like the company’s gradually drifted away from catering to people who do design and development for a living, opting instead to focus more on hobbyists.

The one Adobe app I do use on a regular basis, Fireworks, still feels like a second-class citizen (since Adobe acquired Macromedia). Fireworks is still 32-bit on OS X, whereas other CS5 apps are 64-bit. To me, that’s the Adobe app best-suited to professional web designers. I hope it’s not left to languish.

That said, I’m not really bothered that Edge outputs div-based code rather than using SVG or canvas. For the app’s target market – those that want results but don’t understand or care about code – it totally makes sense. Support for SVG and canvas is non-existent in IE8 and below, a not-insignificant portion of the browser market. There’s a lot to be said for something that ‘just works’ without IE code forking. While it would be nice if Edge output professional-grade code, it isn’t an app that will be used by professionals in their day-to-day work.

To end on a positive note: the process of building websites will always be hacky, because we’re crafting user interfaces in a language intended for documents (HTML). I applaud Adobe’s efforts in lowering the barrier for entry. I think anything that helps people get started in web design and development is a good thing, even if the generated code is a little rough around the edges.

Nathan created the 960 Grid System

Shane S Mielke
shanemielke.com

Until Edge releases additional features and support for canvas, it will struggle to find a foothold as a tool used in serious, professional frontend development environments. It suffers because the industry is divided between super-rich Flash experiences and traditional informational websites that have minimal animation requirements and are geared towards content and accessibility. The traditional sites that comprise the majority of the web rarely require complex timeline animation, and typically only need basic interaction hovers handled by CSS and jQuery. There just isn’t a huge need to be doing complex HTML animations on most sites, and Edge and other tools aren’t yet compelling enough for people to find reasons to try them.

Shane is designer and creative director at 2Advanced

Paddy Keane
akqa.com

I think it’s great that Adobe is embracing HTML and coming up with tools to help add richer experiences to it. Whether its current implementation is HTML4 or 5 is a little irrelevant to us at this stage – performance is king. Adobe is taking the right approach in allowing itself to make everything it can animatable. We’re sure it will then dive in and work on individual elements such as canvas over time (bear in mind that there are already some very good libraries out there for this, such as EaselJS). Having said that, we haven’t used timelines to create animations in a long time, bar video production; most of our animation tends to be done through code, with optional video effects. This raises the question of who this tool is going to be useful for. I’m presuming Edge will be integrated with Adobe’s other new offering, Muse. There’s great potential for creating some pretty slick content quickly. Whether we can use it for the more complex projects we tend to work on is a different matter – let’s hope people have fun with it!

Paddy is associate creative development director at AKQA

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