Website builder Wix has just announced the release of a system it has dubbed “Artificial Design Intelligence” — or “ADI” for short — that it’s marketing as “The Future of Website Building”. Wix ADI claims to be an AI-driven service that not only designs your site for you, it will even gather your content. Wix refers to it as the first AI website builder to reach the market — which discounts The Grid (still in restricted beta after its announcement back in 2014). There’s been a creeping awareness amongst The Grid’s early adopters (those people who paid up front, sight unseen) that The Grid’s marketing may have over-promised a tad. Certainly the extended beta period has run on and on, despite substantial funding, with mixed reviews and no end in sight. It seems inevitable that the release of Wix ADI will revive the blog-hysteria that AI has made designers obsolete; however the fear is as unfounded now as it was the last time. Wix have not created an AI. Wix have adopted the term artificial intelligence because it suits their marketing. When AI arrives, it will be heralded as an integral part of NASA’s first Mars mission, or introduced by IBM as a way to interpret big data; it will not be knocked up, in just two years, as a template vendor’s side project. AI, as developed by Wix, and The Grid, and (one presumes) several other bandwagon jumpers who haven’t announced their version yet, is no more artificial intelligence than robots on an automated assembly line constitute skilled craftsmen. Like The Grid, Wix ADI is marketed at small businesses that cannot afford the services of a web designer. They’re not taking a shot at the web design industry (although naturally, they would if they could). Most small businesses don’t understand the term “dynamic template” so “AI” gives them a better picture of what they’re buying into. You, as a web designer, need not be fooled. Wix ADI doesn’t need AI, it needs clairvoyance, because it generates a site based on just five questions, and one of those is “What’s your name?”. The other questions are: “What will the website be used for?”, “Do you need any special features or capabilities?” “Where is the business located?”, and “What design style do you want?”. From the answer to these questions Wix’s Nir Zohar believes Wix ADI will produce a professional standard site:
Each is custom-made, designed as if by a pro and absolutely unique. There are billions of different options, so your site will not look anything like the next guy’s
Once you’ve answered the five basic questions, the process works like this: Wix ADI creates ‘structures’ which are basically your content, it then edits out anything that wouldn’t make sense to a human (how it knows is unclear), then you pick one of a few hundred themes. And there’s the key: you pick out a theme. Wix ADI is an elaborate template browser. So how good is it? Well, we’ll have to wait and see, because although it will be rolling out to Wix users in the next couple of months, it isn’t available globally just yet. Wix have released one site: jesskellytrainer.com has been designed by Wix ADI, and it’s not too bad; the design is uninspiring, the code has a few obvious fails, and the SEO is atrocious, but I’m certain I’ve seen worse sites that cost a lot more. Although a price point has yet to be announced, one of Wix’s main selling points is cheapness, so it’s safe to assume they’ll be keeping it affordable. For clients looking to spend under $100 on a site, it’s an ideal option. It’s unlikely to provide competition for freelancers or agencies, although a few PSD to WordPress services may be getting hot under the collar. As a designer it’s difficult to accept automation when it is perceived as a devaluation of design, but we should actually be celebrating releases like Wix ADI because they highlight they extra value designers bring to clients. And Wix should be applauded for bringing a product to market — actually getting any product to sign-off is an achievement. It’s not AI, not even close, but it looks likely to make picking a template easier, and for some businesses, that’s the limit of the help they want.
Ben Moss is Senior Editor at WebdesignerDepot. He’s designed and coded work for award-winning startups, and global names including IBM, UBS, and the FBI. One of these days he’ll run a sub-4hr marathon. Say hi on Twitter.