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Creative Spotlight: Macaw Founder Tom Giannattasio

Creative Market September 2, 2021 · 5 min read

Macaw took the web design community by storm when its Kickstarter project raised $275,000 (over three times the original target). With its recent 1.0 release, Macaw is now ready for action as a stable, impressive, and incredibly easy way to build websites. So what makes Macaw so great? Read through our discussion with its founder and CEO Tom Giannattasio to find out the answer.

Exclusive Offer: $50 Off Macaw!

Tom not only took the time to answer all our questions, he also hooked us up with an exclusive offer code that will get you $50 off of your purchase of Macaw! How cool is that? Just use the code CREATIVEMARKET on checkout.

Interview With Tom Giannattasio

First off, why did you create Macaw? Were existing web design tools not good enough?

Tom: I was tired of working in the awkward space between Photoshop and SublimeText. I wanted a tool that let me work visually and handled the monotonous task of writing HTML and CSS for me. In short: I wanted a true web design tool.

That’s a tall order. How did you go about building a team to tackle the project?

Tom: I didn’t really set out to build a team first. I started by experimenting. Once I had a proof of concept built, I started sharing it with friends. We all saw the need for a tool like this and we decided to go after it together. My cofounder, Adam Christ, and I worked on it for about a year before deciding to run a Kickstarter campaign. Our backers became a big part of the team.
new macaw features

Who is your intended audience?

Tom: Designers. More specifically web designers who want to work directly with their medium but don’t want to be bogged down with the chore of hand-coding. That turns out to be a rather wide spectrum, from students new to the web to pros in agencies and on product teams.

It sounds promising, but how is Macaw different than all the other WYSIWYG web design apps out there?

Tom: There are two things that separate Macaw from the crowd: ease of use and code quality. Most WYSIWYG editors have a terribly clunky workflow. We set out to make a fluid environment that allows you to freely move elements as if you were using Photoshop. Abstractions were used to map intended behavior to the interface without the need to understand all of the CSS properties behind that behavior. The result is a faster and more intuitive workflow.
We also thought it was time that a design tool learned to code. Why can’t we build algorithms that think more like humans? Instead of ignoring the craft, we embraced it. Our coding engine, Alchemy, uses the same logic and best practices that a seasoned developer uses to auto-generate code at an unmatched level of quality.
macaw layout

How does Macaw simplify responsive web design?

Tom: Macaw’s canvas works just like a browser window. It can be resized and elements will flow as they would in the browser. Percentage-based widths are the default, so fluid design happens naturally. Breakpoints can be added anywhere, and the layout can be modified for each. Macaw will handle the gritty details of writing the media queries, clean up unnecessary properties and publish everything needed to make your design work on any device.
grid-setting-up

What problems did you encounter when trying to make Macaw truly useful and how did you tackle them?

Tom: One of the largest challenges was converting a design to semantic HTML and succinct CSS that a developer wouldn’t cringe at. We had to develop some pretty complex algorithms to make the tool think like a developer. There are decades of best practices that we took into consideration. This was by far the most difficult piece of the puzzle, mainly because there was nothing to work off of. We had to invent everything.

How has Macaw’s official release improved over the beta that many of us tried?

Tom: A lot has improved since beta and that’s all thanks to our awesome early adopters. We completely rewrote the layout engine to allow a cleaner workflow and added a ton of highly requested features. We have a lot of additional features coming in the next few weeks as well. So, keep an eye out for those!

What’s the coolest site you’ve seen that was built with Macaw?

Tom: There’s a responsive redesign for a popular skate/surf brand being done in Macaw. It’s a brand we grew up with and it’s awesome to see it inside Macaw!

Final Question: What’s next for Macaw?

Tom: We’ll soon be introducing two of the most requested features. Display toggling will allow you to manipulate the visibility of elements on each breakpoint and states let you modify an element’s properties for focus, active or hover events. We’ve also made drastic improvements to the speed and precision of our layout engine.
new macaw features

Thanks Tom!

We’d like to extend a huge thank you to Tom for taking the time to answer our questions. It’s really great to get a glimpse of the thought and effort that goes into such an awesome web design tool. Don’t forget to check out Macaw for yourself and be sure to use our exclusive CREATIVEMARKET discount code for $50 off.

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9 Comments
  • Wow! This looks amazing! Thanks for sharing. 8 years ago
  • Thanks for sharing :) Amazing project! 8 years ago
  • I see something like this the first time. Looks stunning, will play the trial version! 8 years ago
  • I always cringe when I see the so called 'new wave' of design IDE's extolling the merits of the WYSIWYG methodology. The Web != DTP 8 years ago
  • You can cringe, but this is a far better web design tool than Photoshop. Photoshop is tedious when doing responsive layouts. So much of the web is more than just how it looks, but also about how it moves and feels. I use a similar tool to put together prototypes quickly, then send it off to developers to fully implement. The final product is a lot closer because they can see the exact result I want. 8 years ago
  • @Seth Kiehl Who cares about Photoshop, not me ??? My point is about the tools we use to build the web and keeping them away from proprietary models of thinking. The Web still != DTP 8 years ago
  • This is amazing! can't wait to try it out 8 years ago
  • Sweet jesus, did Macaw pay you to write this article? Surely you did not try the software yourself before writing this. Macaw is a far cry from stable by any metric. The app is so buggy that it is unusable and incremental updates have fixed nothing and irritated much of their community who payed good money for a stable product. The team is hard at work attempting to release an actual stable version which will be released as 1.1, but there is yet to be any official ETA and all versions released as 1.0.x are pretty much useless. I fully support the project and hope it finally becomes stable, but writing deliberately misleading crap like this just to plug a company is deceitful at best and really shames this website's credibility. Also, the coupon code posted above actually costs $20 more than using promo code "LEARN". 8 years ago
  • @Rob Davids Not a paid post, just digging into topics that I find interesting. I have used Macaw quite a bit! I'm a hand-coder who typically hates WYSIWYGs with a passion. Macaw is genuinely different. I really enjoy using it and am thoroughly impressed by the work that Tom and his team are doing. 8 years ago