We’re nearly two decades into the 21st century and we’ve still to see the robo-pocalypse much-prophesied by popular culture since the golden age of sci-fi.
But whilst the doom-laden futures of The Terminator, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Bladerunner will, with any luck, forever be the preserve of screenwriters and authors, artificial intelligence is playing an ever-greater part in our everyday lives.
Siri and Alexa are obvious examples, as we turn to voice-enabled gadgets to help manage our lives, but you’ll also find AI design in smartphone cameras, predictive thermostats and, in the not-too-distant-future, AI-powered interactive ads.
So, where else will AI become an integral tool in our lives? As a brand engagement agency, we wanted to explore how artificial intelligence might play a part in how we help our clients deliver brand experiences – and we discovered that one of the biggest influences will be within website design and user experience.
Artificial design intelligence
In theory, artificial design intelligence is technology that will use machine learning to make websites on its own. The human element is based around desired inputs and then AI design takes over, creating a design in a time that once would have seemed inconceivable.
Currently, people have two broad options when it comes to building a website: build via an off-the-peg template, such as Squarespace, or getting a custom-made website designed and built by a professional team. Both options have their benefits and pitfalls – template-sites are cheaper but provide less functionality, whilst custom-built sites are endlessly flexible provided you have deep enough pockets.
Artificial design intelligence attempts to provide another way – a website that isn’t built by a professional or by you. Sound impossible? Not according to template web-build champs Wix. Here’s how they put it:
“Wix artificial design intelligence algorithm is the stuff computer science dreams are made of, with results that are anything but robotic. Anyone will be able to use Wix ADI to create stunning, unique websites instantly that will set a new standard in web design.”
This can be done by asking the site owner a few simple questions and, by learning about their needs, Wix’s algorithm will choose from billions of permutations to create a unique website in minutes.
Except Wix might be jumping the gun a bit. The technology is lagging some way behind the theory, as early pioneers like Grid found out (a dead social media feed and a website that – well, see for yourself – attests to a company that tried sprinting before it could crawl.) So whilst the idea is there, and companies like Wix are certainly building towards this future, there’s still a way to go before we get there.
Bookmark – AI-driven design
Despite the false start seen by companies like Grid, it is inevitable that AI will play a big role in how websites are designed and built. One of the leaders in the field is Bookmark, a web-building company that uses AI, machine learning and good ol’ human creativity to build ‘smart websites’.
Bookmark have created AiDA, an AI design assistant that boasts an ability to build a website in under two minutes. All you need to do is enter your site’s name and your industry and AiDA gets to work designing and building a unique website. And if you don’t love the result, no problem, you can ask AiDA to have another go – after all, it only takes a few seconds…
Once you’re happy with the result, all that’s left is to edit your images and crack on with the copy. Eventually, AI-design site builders like Bookmark will also have their say here, too, as their technology will be able to track visitors, understand their preferences and tailor content accordingly.
Of course, AI-generated sites as delivered by companies such as Bookmark don’t yet offer the same degree of functionality, flexibility, branding options and SEO capabilities that a fully developed site brings. But as artificial design intelligence becomes more advanced, you can expect companies like Bookmark, Wix and Squarespace to improve their offering in these areas.
The end of creativity?
So, if machines can design websites in a matter of minutes, surely this spells the end for creative designers?
Why? Because a lot of design isn’t creative. Instead, designers spend lots of time creating and following rules – rules that machine-learning can map and follow in a fraction of the time.
But far from making us redundant, the promise of AI-driven design is to free us up to spend more time on the bits that we meat-and-bone humans were meant to do… the creative bits, the beautiful bits, the fun bits.
And the theory that applies to AI-driven design also applies to other marketing disciplines. From copywriting to web development, design to photography, AI tools will help remove the formulaic disciplines, the arduous and the tedious, so we can get on with the interesting jobs we get out of bed for.
This will indeed be a warning shot to run-of-the-mill creatives who aren’t able or willing to push their creativity. But those who are less process-oriented and are fuelled by creativity will find a willing ally in AI, seeing it as integral to doing a brilliant job as their MacBook, 50-megapixel camera or word processor is.
Machines help us be less machine-like
This is the beauty – and often ironically overlooked – of machine learning and artificial intelligence: the use of AI-driven design and technology removes the machine-like elements of our lives so we can focus on being more creative, more inventive, more human.
As Garry Kasparov, the world’s greatest ever chess player (who lost to a machine way back in 1997) put it, “Using computers for the more menial aspects of reasoning will free us, elevating our cognition toward creativity, curiosity, beauty, and joy.”