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Are robots taking over? Not yet……

Last year Fast Co Design questioned ‘Can you replace a human designer with artificial intelligence?‘ At the weekend we were granted our long awaited beta access to AI web builder ‘The Grid’ so set about seeking our own answer. In summary, there is a long, long, long way to go!

Lets take a quick step back and talk a little about The Grid and the hype that has surrounded it for the last 18 months.

Way back in 2014 The Grid launched a pre-order campaign for a platform that promised beautiful artificially designed websites that anyone, regardless of web design and development knowledge, could design.

We were hooked.

The pre launch video looked incredible and I’m sure we weren’t the only web design company left more than a little worried about what was on the horizon.

By the end of the first quarter 2015, 50,000 people had paid $95 for the privilege to try the platform. Given the speed with which the web design world changes we started planning for the inevitable change.

Fast forward to this weekend. Access approved we dived in. It’s worth saying that we really, really want this to work. We love technology that challenges the norm, even if that technology is going to put us out of a job!

So, it is with a mixture of relief and disappointment that our initial ‘play’ yielded some very ordinary results. Very. Ordinary.

The Grid is very simple to use. Probably too simple. In a time where we’re able to create our own personal ‘brand story’ through a wide variety of social channels, they may have dumbed down the design settings to the point where control over the presentation of design is tough to manage.

As an experiment we rebuilt the Start Digital site using the same visual elements used to build the original site. In the settings we selected our brand colours and moved every setting bar to the middle – pretty safe right?

The results? If we’re being polite then they’re interesting. If we’re being honest then they’re pretty awful. View the site here.

The Grid Perth

So is the grid a better designer than us? Design is subjective – what looks great to one doesn’t to another. However, there are certain ‘guides’ that should always be considered. The Grid’s AI does appear to understand this but it’s almost trying to be too clever. Image filters, arty layouts and lots of white space sounds interesting but The Grid doesn’t pull it off – yet.

With all the hype and that incredible video maybe we were expecting too much?  The Grid is still in beta so many of these issues could be addressed upon full launch but there is a long way to go. Fear not web designers, you still have a job. That being said the horse has bolted and it’s inevitable that the web design space will continue to evolve and move more towards intelligent tech. Watch this space!

The Grid design settings