The end for web design, not quite
Update: Again I was notified by a friend “have you checked this out” a new product PageCloud read more at the end of this post
Recently a friend notified me to thegrid.io’s new AI product “a website that designs itself”, in a bid to alert me I might one day be out of a job, instead of template’s there are filters and they claim it can automatically work out the content and how best to display it no matter what you throw at it. More interesting to me was the ecommerce offering although not yet available till late 2015 claiming to “just work” you won’t need to know or do anything in relation to hosting, SSL certificates etc.. past this there aren’t any details on this just yet.
Now I have to admit I haven’t used their product or tested them other than the markup produced for any of this article as there’s no free trial. But I did look at the source code for thegrid.io’s website, the website itself claims to be built by this and anyone could in theory have the same layout filters.
I put it through Google’s Pagespeed tool to analyse some of the markup produced that’s mostly a pass on this, from the user experience POV and it would be a bit picky to complain about some of the speed optimisations as almost any site I’ve put in here Google claims can be optimised further.
what about Schema?, on this front the site doesn’t deliver as there was no Schema data where there could have been, precision coding from a computer? clearly not.
All the images seem to be background images, I couldn’t find one ALT tag that’s a few points off your SEO rank and some keywords lost.
General markup review
I counted 23 H1 tags that can’t be a good thing, isn’t the AI smart enough to know there shouldn’t be so many? Matt Cutts says if your page is full of H1’s it’s not a great idea it’s fine if your using this in sections but many are so close together I can’t see this as a positive ranking factor other elements are like this too.
Most of the page is chock full of inline CSS and JS, ok this is perfectly valid but I can’t help thinking this could have been organised a bit better and is one of the things flagged on the Google Pagespeed test
This is just the tip of the iceberg an in-depth review might reveal more problems.
Next is the question of wether you can really replace creativity with computers? Time and time again i’ve tried it myself a client chooses a template they like and try to punch and squash it into their brand and it rarely ever works, by the time you’ve spent the countless hours amending it, you may as well have designed it from scratch. At the same time providing a much richer brand experience.
I get the feeling this is how the AI would work, it can work out what a YouTube link is or someone’s face but can it decide properly on how to use it and where to place it so your really back to changing your brand and content to fit the template.
How many layout filters are available? There has to be a limit, your site is going to look exactly like someone else’s. One of the great things about web design is the freedom to create a unique feel and look for your brand not some generic repeated computer generated layouts. At least with a template you can make it your own.
I believe that websites are not getting any simpler to make.
people are now starting to realise you can’t spend $8 a month and expect your website to work for you, investing much more in your online business is the way forward.
It’s actually getting harder to get the balance right between functional design, content strategy, creative and code structure and for that you need experienced professionals.
In the end I think this product is aimed at amateurs and business people who really don’t understand the online space, thus giving them a quick solution.
In comes PageCloud
Yep it’s the end again, since my post thegrid.io has failed to launch and a new rival has appeared with a debut video at TechCrunch’s Disruptors seminar with a tagline “the web is about to change forever”.
Now as a developer it’s hard not to scoff at the words some of these companies use, from the video which is all there is at the moment PageCloud does look a bit different in it’s approach but these tools already exist. I can already copy and paste from photoshop into gmail for example so calling the copy/paste feature a world first seems a bit over the top.
That said it looks like a great product but in terms of changing the web industry for professionals that simply isn’t going to happen anytime soon.