Bill Erickson, a website and plugin developer, estimates it takes his team about 14 weeks to build a website. Design firm Thomas Digital asserts that a basic website takes about four to six weeks to complete. More complex sites may require anywhere between six weeks and six months.

Designing a new website can be a major undertaking.

There is a lot that goes into traditional web development. Compiling all of the requirements for each phase of the project. Research and planning and the wireframing and mockups. Multiple phases of coding and testing and copywriting.

This doesn’t even include all the time your agency spends going back and forth with the client throughout the process to make sure the website you’re building aligns with their vision.

The promise of AI website builders might seem like the perfect solution.

For those of us who feel discouraged and deterred by the oftentimes lengthy and expensive web development cycle, AI seems to be coming to the rescue.

The question will remain, is AI really a fair substitute for a process? Creativity has always been heavily driven by human creativity, collaboration, and sweat. We’ve seen how revolutionary AI has been in the home, so is it that far-fetched of an idea to think we could use it to build great websites?

AI web design tools today.

To answer this question, we’re going to look at examples of AI web design tools today and how they promise to simplify the web design promise. We’ll then compare them to web design tools that currently help us achieve scalable web design. Ultimately, though, it’s a combination of the two that will help us create the best possible workflows for web design.

In Accenture’s 2017 Technology Vision survey, 85 percent of executives have plans to adopt AI technologies within the next few years.

Why is it that AI is such a hot solution these days? AI has the ability to greatly improve the amount of data that can be processed and utilized to make smarter business decisions in a shorter amount of time.

Here are just some of the ways businesses use AI right now:

  • Advanced algorithms adapt processes to changing conditions.
  • Predictive analysis creates leaner and meaner operations.
  • Chatbots and virtual assistants handle customer-facing exchanges.
  • Smart search engines deliver relevant results right away.
  • Natural language interfaces more aptly tackle conversational inquiries.
  • Interfaces – audio and visual – provide personalized recommendations.

Should AI do all things in business?

Does it make sense to hand the reins of something like web design completely over to our technology? Or is the human touch still necessary?

In terms of data processing businesses greatly benefits from AI. Managing web design workflows is another story.

While tech experts argue that AI is the wave of the future.

Executives are flocking to AI in droves and many speculate about how large of a role it should play in business. One area in particular has become majorly problematic: customer service.

Chatbots.

Chatbots can respond to a company’s customers on its behalf, but the language used and responses given are still relatively rudimentary. There’s no warmth or real personalization when it comes to engaging with customers.

These interactions are shaped solely by data – data that businesses and their customers have fed directly into the system.

Emotion is rarely even part of the equation, unless a smart copywriter has attempted to inject it in prefab responses. These mechanical responses may not even answer the question given the specifics of the chat situation.

The same can be said for web design.

Isn’t a website the digital voice of your business? Allowing an AI website builder to shape that voice might not be the most ideal solution for you or your business. Especially if you’re hoping to use it as a tool to build relationships.

These are some of the more popular AI web design tools on the market today:

  • The Grid: Using machine learning, the Grid analyzes the content you’ve provided it, comparing your messaging and images against countless other websites it’s studied. Based on what it’s learned about your brand, it will then shape a complementary design.
  • Sacha by Firedrop: Sacha is part machine learning and part virtual assistant. After you drop your content into the AI builder, the Sacha chatbot will ask questions about what you’ve provided. Your website is then built by Sacha based on what you talk to it about. There’s no drag-and-drop builder — no CMS. It’s all done for you.
  • Wix ADI: Wix has come out with its own AI solution, too. Users simply have to answer some initial questions, and the tool configures a simple web design (no content) based on your assessed personality and style preferences.

While AI builders can code a site, pick appropriate images, and develop a great-looking color palette on your behalf, you still have to create content on your own.

There’s no telling what these kinds of sites will do in terms of SEO. How diverse each new website will actually be in terms of design? What if you and your competition utilize the same AI builder and provide that emotionless builder with similar information.

While AI web designers promise to do all the work, these tools demonstrate that the human touch is still required.

Your goal is to create a fully-loaded website that’s well-suited to your audience. You want to take a more efficient and hands-off approach?

AI website builders may be sufficient for some designers, from the DIY user to the web design agency. But is the cold AI approach best for your customers?

That said, we’ve become accustomed to unlocking efficient and scalable workflows through the use of smart tools.

Content management systems, next-generation design platforms and page builder tools already give us a number of ways to reduce the labor-intensive side of web design. It seems we don’t have to sacrifice quality or compromise on creativity in order to do so.

AI seems to be able to read through your preferences and design a website based on the information provided. However, there are other tools you can use to actually personalize web design and content based on real audience data. As you can imagine, user insights can more effectively inform how a website should be built than a client’s wish list.

These kinds of personalization tools present you with a variety of workable options rather than force you into what the AI dictates is best for you.

Optimizely is one such tool that helps businesses better develop content and design strategies based on research and experimentation.

In particular, Optimizely’s personalization module is one that can more effectively shape the on-site experience for visitors (across all devices, mind you). It will effectively drive revenue up as a result. You will garner real insights from visitors while they’re on your website and this will shape the experience to their documented activity and preferences.

Web design platforms like Duda differ from AI builders. This site provides quicker ways to complete projects and enables you to take control when you want to. Agency-friendly platforms like these, on the other hand, significantly streamline how much work designers have to do.

AI, instead, assumes control over the web design piece.

As an agency friendly platform, Duda, in particular, has a great time-saving feature – its API. It transforms the way web designers work, allowing them to instantly hook into functionalities that control permissions, content injection, and the uploading of resources. This allows you to get websites up and running much more quickly than doing everything from-scratch (and mind you, this is essentially the main promise of an AI builder).

Pre-made templates are also a huge boon to productivity.

These templates enable designers to start with a strong base design, then the builder is able to adjust the design based on where the research and feedback take it. Page and section templates can be applied site-wide so there’s no need to recreate the wheel with each new page that needs designing.

For those that argue that AI builders take away the tediousness of building and designing websites. These people should first look at what web design platforms allow them to do. The goal is to adopt more advanced functionalities and do less work, all without sacrificing control.

SEO is one of those tasks you might believe is best left in the hands of AI, as it can handle all that pesky research and analysis for you.

Truth be told, we already have a great assortment of tools to do this. MozBar is one SEO tool, in particular, that does this well.

Upon visiting your website, a quick click of the MozBar browser extension you’ve installed will assess the SEO friendliness of the current page.

The free version of the extension analyzes your content on the spot. Issues with keywords, links, or speed will be noted. The premium version of the extension gets you much more, including a full page analysis with suggestions on how to rework and optimize content for stronger search results.

In recent years, we’ve begun to see builder tools everywhere. Drag-and-drop builders. Visual frontend editors. Block-style page builders. Users no longer need to understand HTML (at a minimal) or to work in context-less editing interfaces.

The basic idea is that they make design accessible for everyone. But, do they?

Content management systems are one of the primary use cases for them (even WordPress has jumped into the fray with Gutenberg). There are other digital platforms that benefit from DIY, user-friendly builders, too. Many mobile app tools and landing page creators, for instance, make use of this technology too.

There are also email marketing platforms like MailChimp that simplify the process of building a design for a digital audience that’s professional-looking and doesn’t require coding knowledge.

MailChimp gives users a choice:

  • Use what we’ve designed based on known design best practices. As a result, you can send your emails out more quickly and conveniently than you had before.
  • Use our tool and templates as a starting point, and personalize whatever you want. Or you can build your template completely from scratch. Whatever makes the most sense for the project you’re working on.

While the emphasis is on the do-it-yourself possibilities, MailChimp provides users with a number of pre-made elements and tooltips that ease the experience of building an email from scratch.

Like other user-friendly builder tools, the goal is to simplify the process of building digital content.

This is one of the key reasons why people find themselves gravitating towards AI builders: to stop spending so much time in the build. However, what they fail to recognize is that the tradeoff with AI is strictly time. The tradeoff with DIY building solutions is the time and flexibility to be more creative with the design at hand.

When it comes to building websites, you want to devise a valuable experience for your users. That’s why AI alone won’t be able to power our web design work in the future. It’s too dehumanizing – and your target audience deserves better than that.

While AI website builders will improve scalability of design workflows, they are not the only solution for increasing efficiency and results. Many tools have already streamlined designers’ workflows and improved their output as a result.

If we’re being realistic, we’ll likely see a convergence between human and AI web designers as we move into the future.

We already use a number of AI-driven technologies to complement the work we do as humans in web design.

  • Grammarly is a smart text analyzer and editor that speeds up content creation.
  • Tools like Dynamic Yield help us study the behavior of visitors on-site, so that further A/B testing leads to improved segmentation and personalization of content.
  • Adobe Sensei can be used to study the emotional tone of a website and the responses visitors have when presented with various content experiences.

These kinds of tools are especially helpful, as they never stop working for you. AI builders tend to be one-and-done. You input your content, the design is built up around your preferences, and that’s it.

You have your site, but with AI-driven technologies that make it easier to continually test and optimize content, you can tap into the best of what AI has to offer today.

We’ve already begun to design more efficiently with tools that give us real-time personalized content, pre-made designs.. As we move into the future, AI can and should become part of these workflows.

Yoav Vilner

Yoav Vilner

CEO, startup-mentor and a blogger with ReadWrite, Huffington Post, Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, Venturebeat, CNBC and TheNextWeb.