Is AI the Next Frontier for Web Design?
Technology is prone to promising us incredible innovations. Yet a closer look at the reality can just as often make those promises seem a little less than credible.
The latest claim to echo across the design world: artificial intelligence (AI) will design your next website. But are we really on the edge of turning web development and UX design over to the machines? That’s today’s topic.
The Design Platform Promise and AI
Even in 2016, development of a professional website is work. Depending on your project specs and design resources, you can plan on a development schedule of weeks or even months, not hours. Cost is also a factor, with a professionally designed site costing easily into four figures.
The promise of being able to whip up a beautiful, functional, and effective site in a matter of minutes — and for a fraction of the cost — sounds too good to be true. And it is. But that doesn’t stop consumer-friendly web development platforms from making the claim. The latest angle is that AI will do it all for you.
Wix Artificial Design Intelligence
Take Wix, a ten-year-old cloud-based web development platform that lets users create HTML5 desktop and mobile sites with a drag-and-drop interface. In early June, the company unveiled Wix ADI, a website builder that promises to minimize users’ time, design, and content challenges.
The first issue with Wix’s claim is that it’s more accurately an automation tool. UX design is crowdsourced from millions of user data points — not the computer brain of a sentient AI.
Ben Kepes at Network World laments this reality, noting that just because something is useful doesn’t mean it warrants a catchy buzzword like AI. Kepes explains:
AI is when a system not only performs manual tasks but can, over time, learn from its own actions and the response to those actions and continuously improve what it does. While Wix makes it easier to design a website, it seems to do it through a series of questions and answers and a matrix, albeit a complex one, which defines outcomes based on the answers to those questions.
The Grid, AlexaSite, and “Why Web Design Is Dead”
However, Wix is far from alone in its recent AI design claims. Kai Brunner writes in TechCrunch this month about a slew of similar design automation happenings.
Take San Francisco startup The Grid, which bills its website builder platform as “AI websites that build themselves.” Brunner notes of the project, which is similar to Wix ADI, that:
The Grid’s layout engine has alleviated a significant portion of the design labor, but the main ingredient of the outcome is still human: enjoyment and emotion.
Another project, AlexaSite, won TechCrunch’s Disrupt NY 2016 Hackathon for its voice-activated design interface. That project was impressive enough for Brunner to wonder if designers’ days were numbered. After all, if you can edit a design with a voice, a lot of the technical barriers to web design are erased.
Furthermore, there’s no question that tech advancements have already changed web design and development and will continue to do so. Designer Sergio Nouvel published the provocatively titled “Why Web Design is Dead” in UX Magazine this month, yet concluded the piece by admitting that UX design still has a healthy future ahead. As Brunner summed it up:
We cannot automate the process of imagining what we want to experience.
It’s true. We’ve come a long way, but our machine overlords aren’t ready to interview for your design assistant opening just yet.
Why Your Next Site Update Won’t Be Done by AI
To be sure, the design tools we have today are great. Automation, voice command, and drag-and-drop options all expand the possibility of owning a little slice of the world wide web to more people than ever before. That’s a good thing.
However, for the time being, we still need web developers and UX designers. These aren’t just folks that move objects around the screen. They’re professionals, with a deep understanding of aesthetics, industry standards, user behavior, and technology. They’re the ones who are helping website owners like you imagine everything that their site could be — and then building it. Need a great team of designers to help you imagine and build your next website upgrade? Call us at 313-338-9515 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how Kaleidico’s full-service digital marketing agency can help you reach your web design, SEO, and content marketing goals.