Adobe Muse CMS – Adding the Surreal Content Management System to Muse Sites
Adobe Muse is an excellent tool for designing websites visually, using a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor. It’s used by beginners and advanced users alike to build everything from single page layouts to large multi-page sites.
Unfortunately where Muse falls short is that it lacks a powerful Content Management System (CMS), which would enable your customers or clients to make edits to the site. Having a CMS not only makes the site faster to update, it also reduces the ongoing need for clients to ask the original designer for minor changes.
Surreal CMS – A Powerful Hosted Content Management System
Creating a dedicated CMS specifically built for Muse is no easy task, primarily due to technical limitations in Muse itself. Having researched and explored many different CMS systems, we’ve found a solution we’re very excited about: Surreal CMS. It’s a unique, flexible CMS that’s well established on the web. In fact, we were using Surreal CMS on other sites for several years before Muse came along.
Surreal is designed in such a way that it can be used with any website, regardless of how it was built or where it’s hosted. One of the biggest drawbacks of other potential CMS options for Muse is that they require site owners to use a hosting service other than Business Catalyst, which is the built-in hosting option in Muse. Surreal is fully compatible with Adobe BC, and any other host – setting up your site in Surreal is as simple as entering your FTP login information.
An Alternative to In-Browser Editing?
Bringing Muse and Surreal together is actually a very simple process. Surreal requires no software to download and install. Integration, site management, and editing are done entirely on the web right in your browser. Our team has been exploring Surreal in Muse sites for several months, and the results have been very positive. We've only scratched the surface of what we can do with Surreal, and based on your feedback we'll determine how to move forward.
Benefits: Surreal CMS in Muse
There are several aspects of Surreal that we think suit Muse users. Let’s take a look at a few unique features:
1. Flexible Hosting – Works with BC
As mentioned previously, Surreal CMS works with the Business Catalyst hosting that’s integrated into Muse, as well as web hosting services such as GoDaddy, HostGator and Bluehost. Surreal CMS can be quickly added to any site, regardless of whether it’s new or existing.
Curious where and how to log into Business Catalyst via FTP? Check out this link for details:
2. Creating Pages / Templates
Using the page template system in Surreal, your clients can create new pages on their sites based on an existing layout. Templates can be defined directly in the Surreal dashboard and renamed anything you would like. This is perfect for creating unique blog posts that exist on real individual HTML pages (without using hashbangs to simulate a unique URL).
It's important to note however that templates are not dynamic, and once a page is built from a template the structure (and Muse elements) on that page can not be changed. Only the content created in Surreal will be editable at that point.
3. Simple Inline Editing
Content edits are incredibly simple and intuitive. Just click on the page and type, add images, embed code snippets and more. One click publishes these changes live on the web.
4. Files are Stored on Your Server
Surreal is also very forward thinking. Every edit made in Surreal is published back to your own server. No files or HTML code is kept or stored by Surreal, meaning you will never be “locked in” to their service. Edits can easily be undone if needed by simply rolling back to an old version.
5. Versioning and History Tracking
All of the edits and revisions to your site are kept for six months. The Surreal activity section shows exactly which users made changes, and you can instantly roll back to older versions with a single click.
6. File Manager and Uploading
Seeing the files on your server normally requires a visit to your hosting panel or logging into an FTP Client. Having a full-featured file manager built into Surreal CMS makes uploading images easy for your clients. Privileges can be easily customized to control or limit client access to important files on the server.
7. White Labeling – Brand the Dashboard!
Something we absolutely love about Surreal is the ability to white label (brand it for your business). You can use your own logo, theme color, and even your own domain for your editing URL. Customers will never see the word "Muse," and you could potentially charge an ongoing fee for clients to use your branded CMS.
8. User Management and Permissions
Are you nervous about handing over site-editing control to non-technical clients? Extensive permissions settings allow you to define exactly what users can edit and completely unique permissions can be given to individual users on a team. Within any site, you can define what pages can be edited, and even what areas of a page are editable.
9. SEO Friendly
Text added through the Surreal editor is real static HTML text, and as a result it can be fully indexed by search engines. Surreal CMS does not make use any dynamic content.
Disadvantages: Surreal CMS in Muse
With any third party product that we integrate into Muse, there are disadvantages as well. Our testing with Surreal has been positive, but we encourage you give it a try and form your own opinion. It won't (and never will) satisfy every users functionality requests for CMS.
1. One-Way Editing
Changes made in Surreal cannot be pushed back into Muse. The only CMS capable of doing this is Adobe's own In-Browser Editing, and it's unlikely any outside CMS ever will. As outside developers, we just don't have that level of control to manipulate the Muse application itself. Trust us though; the world is a safer place this way...
2. Database Functionality
Muse sites using Surreal are still built as simple HTML files, and content remains static. While there are many areas we can extend Surreal, allowing it to do some tricky and advanced things (involving blogging, navigation, etc.), there will always be limitations. Surreal will not enable you to make complex membership systems or websites requiring tons of dynamic content.
After conducting extensive market research on what Muse users asked for in a CMS, the most common requests were surprisingly simple – the majority needed to give clients the ability to edit text, images, and create simple posts. Surreal satisfies all these needs beautifully.
If you do find yourself needing complex database functionality, we might encourage you to explore a system outside of Muse entirely. Being a forward-thinking web designer means using the right tool for the job, and you don't want to lock clients into a structure that limits their site growth.
3. Added Costs
In the world of web design, increased functionality always means increased costs. Hosting, apps, and custom integrations add up on complex sites – you wouldn't believe what it costs each month to power MuseThemes.com.
With that said, Surreal does come with a price tag ($10 / month for 5 sites or less). We can tell you from our experience that's a pretty good price point, and combined with 25% off for MuseThemes members it's a solid deal. Agencies who provide their clients with a CMS system typically charge a monthly recurring cost for it. Explore the idea of offering a maintenance or CMS contract to your clients, and you might end up making money off Surreal instead of spending.
4. Responsive Compatibility
Muse's implementation of responsive design is very complex, especially when compared to hand-coded sites. This also makes editing responsive sites in Surreal challenging, without minor tweaks to the underlying code (for example setting images to use percentage widths). This is an area where we can work with Surreal to improve Muse compatibility going forward, but in it's current form you may encounter some issues with complex responsive sites.
Feedback – What do you think?
We’ve explored Surreal deeply: editing content, publishing and republishing, even blogging. Our video tutorial for MuseThemes members covers all the main areas of integration, smart workflow, and even blog site usage examples.
Surreal CMS opens the door to a lot of possibilities, and the developers behind it are open to working closely with us to develop a tailored solution for MuseThemes members. We can also develop additional integrations, tools, and training if you find Surreal to be useful. As always, your feedback is essential to guide our direction. We’ll use your comments and experiences to help define our future plans with Surreal CMS – please feel free to post a comment below, or on our forum.
Give Surreal’s service a go by registering for a 14 day free trial, no credit card or payment information is required for signup. And if you do convert to a paid account, don't forget to redeem your discount here.
I appreciate what you guys are trying to do here. From what I can observe, there doesn’t seem to be enough differentiation from the Adobe IBE CMS. While white labeling and specific control over editable regions are nice features, the moment anything is published from Muse all Surreal edits will be wiped out. Additionally, the inline editing experience seems very similar to the that which is currently in Adobe IBE. (though IBE is more streamlined, as you don’t need to pre-define the editable regions) Surreal seems like a good solution if you were to design a site, hand-off to clients (with editing access) and then no longer be involved, though that is rarely, if ever, the case. Is seems that the disadvantages far outweigh the couple small advantages, unless I’ve missed something?
Hey Dallas – thanks for your comments. You’re right in that Surreal and IBE do have a lot of similarities re: inline editing. There are a few tricks to avoid your content from Surreal getting wiped on each publish (basically you just “roll back” to the last version available in Surreal – this restores the content but using the new Muse page file). Also we’ve heard from tons of users that IBE can be really challenging from a styling standpoint, clients are constantly wiping out styles and ending up with bare-bones text (designers having to restore the site completely to get them back). Most who attempted IBE as a client CMS ended up frustrated and ditched it…
There are certainly advantages / disadvantages to both, but from what we’re hearing from users having white labeling, user management, file / media uploader, version tracking, and potentially the ability to build new pages using Surreal’s page templates would tip the scales in Surreal’s favor.
But with all that said, our main goal with this project was to get your feedback on whether this is a product you have an interest in using with Muse. That’s why we did some training first, to get you experimenting before we dug too deep into it. Thanks again for the comment!
their pricing model doesn’t work for me because I don’t sell my design services by subscription I don’t want to have an on going cost when I finish a site.
they should have a one time fee option like: https://selector.io/pricing
One major thing you forget to talk about is SEO. Is the content crawlable as static text or pull in via ajax. Is it SEO friendly?
Hey Karim – all of the content you add through Surreal is real page content. Totally searchable, and no ajax or imitation urls being created. If you create a new page using Surreal, it’s a real separate HTML page (unlike most “blogging” systems for Muse) which is great for SEO. I briefly touched on this in video #6 about page templates and blogging. Cheers!
Think it great you doing this for people that request it but I will not be using this product. I avoid giving clients full CMS access because it just always seems to cause headaches.
Think it great you doing this for people that request it but I will not be using this product. I avoid giving clients full CMS access because it just always seems to cause headaches.
Definitely understand the concern! You may have caught this already, but the permissions settings are very extensive with Surreal. You can apply different privileges to individual users. Also, any page within a site can be made editable or not editable – even down to specific sections of a page. Cheers
Even though i understand your effort, aways trying to reach for more and more flexibility, this seems to be somthing completely out of your ecosystem.
I know you have good intentions but this can even do damage to your work since people might not understand when doin’g chages and then asking for help to the web-designer that won’t have the same content on his files creating a lot of mess we don’t need….
Keep up the good work :)
Great work guys, Thanks for working hard on this one. This will allow so many opportunities for me.. I don’t think I trust using another CMS from anybody else.. You guys are great!
Very happy you guys are doing this! However, the previous Agent CMS promoted that you can also add password protection to pages in muse. Will that be possible with the Surreal CMS?
kinda not what i had in mind for a cms, more geared towards people who want their clients to be able to make changes. I was hoping for something that will let me have a simple membership access and billing
As Peter Eller wisely pointed out this really isn’t something that should be sold to designers but to web hosts.
The can without problem add this montly cost to the hosting charges. If a customer leave they can use it for another customer.
If I as a designer create 10 sites for small companies I rather not have the hustle to keep charging them forever. Can I even remove their options if they change pass on their site and stop paying me?
In any case, I would think hard before I made that 11:th site and doubled my costs. ;)
Naah, it’s a great function but should be sold to the webbhosts (who would buy the +500 alternative). ;)
Looking forward to work with this. Thanks guys for giving it a go with a decent cms option.
Hi Guys, I can’t help but think you are missing a trick here. Muse’s biggest short-coming is its inability to create full blogging pages – at the moment this is only possible using the BC blogging module. I realise it’s early days, but this CMS doesn’t seem to add significantly more benefits than the current online editing. For me, the ability to create a fully customisable, blogging section to a site would far outweigh the minor improvements to the editing controls. I hope this helps…
The same morning that I saw your email, I got an email from a client totally bashing Adbe IBE. She hates it. But I’ve found that most of my clients who complain about it are trying to do more than what it was designed for. This client is still using an older alt-url site for phone and desktop. I haven’t had a chance to go through all the videos for Surreal, but hopefully that won’t be a problem. She does have us change her site a lot though, so I hope that the combination of me making changes, and her updating every day won’t be a big hurdle to overcome.
@Jay – thanks for the comments! Keep in mind though Surreal is a third party product, not built by MuseThemes. We wanted to present it as an option, but at the end of the day it’s not our software and we don’t have control over it.
@Barbara – that’s definitely something you would need to be careful of. Other than IBE, no CMS out there will push changes back into a Muse site – so you’ll need to find a good way to stay in sync with your clients… let us know what you think once you watch the training!
First of all, I have to tell You that You are one of the best Muse widgets providers around. (You belong to the major 3.) Almost all of Your widgets work perfecty, but as far as CMS is concerned, something new or existing would be needed that can be integrated into the whole system.
And this is the most important, it should pull content from an existing CMS or a fully featured specific online CMS.
1.) So, blogging without creating new additional pages that is an additional burden.
2.) Changing text, photos, videos are basic requirements. These alone don’t comprise a CMS. If it only consists of these kinds of functions, and if You can only write a blog by increasing the nuber of pages, then it is not the best solution.
3.) Database connectivity is also essential, because of registration systems. I know Muse is a design software, but more and more people would like to attach a registration system or store to the professionally designed sites. (I know there are other solutions to online stores, but it would also be needed.)
4.) Muse still seems to be a great software, and I would like to see it extended in the broadest way possible, but I hope we haven’t reached its limitations now.
5.) If I see it well, then Mumblr is better from many points of view, because it can pull content from an existing Blogging system. It would only need Sharing, commenting, etc.
There are 2 major widget providers besides Business Catalyst which can handle some of these requirements. I don’t name them. One of them is able to create an own blogging system with commenting, liking, etc. The other one is attached to Wordpress with its own modules which offers a lot more functionality. I know, there are still things that could be improved at these systems, but I was obliged to use both of them, because I needed those functionalities.
I think several widget providers should create database connectivity widgets for this great software.
I also think simple 3rd party providers won’t bring a solution.
As Peter Eller and Johan posed – it`s not a good option for a designer/ developer who doesn`t want to have more unwanted duties than he have to. This subscription is not a good option for me. Gene Thompson also have a good point – if you can`t give client cms and blog in one admin panel, one system – it`s not the way it supposed to be.
This is great new to me. I have been asking this from the IBE team on the prerelease site for a while now.
(rebranding, text styling etc.)
I Have a question, what happens if i need to modify the Muse file? Will you get a notice of changes and possibily to merge them in the Muse file? (sync)
Hi Yves – unfortunately Surreal changes can not be sync’d back to a Muse file. This isn’t possible with any third party CMS, only Adobe In Browser Editing. Adobe hasn’t given outside developers this ability…
Hey Steve, thanks for answering.
So what i understand would be that, if for some reason i need to re work the Muse file, i would need to collect the information on the live site and populate it inside the Muse file by hand… that would work right?
… Unless Adobe IBE becomes better ;)
(sorry for my lousy english)