After a long wait of over one and a half years, I recently received my The Grid beta activation. Naturally, I dived into the app, ready to explore the possibilities of the AI website builder.
The Grid came to be known by its advert campaigns and soon became an Internet sensation, with top technology experts talking about it. The Grid is an artificial intelligence based website builder. Unlike with other website builders, The Grid uses the content provided to it to design websites by itself. Usually, a website is designed first - which is a tedious task by itself - and then content is layed into the design. The Grid aims to simplify this process significantly by introducing an 'artificially intelligent web designer computer' that'll use elements such as faces and colours from pictures, layout design options and font options to design a website without much user intervention. I've explained The Grid in a previous article which you should definitely read if you want to learn more about it.
Anyways, my first experience with The Grid hasn't been jaw-dropping. I'd like to warn you first that The Grid is still in beta testing and a lot of improvements are yet to arrive sooner than later. However, after a few hours using the tool, I wondered if AI built websites made any sense at all.
The Grid beta signup is really simple and both the web and mobile apps are well designed, least to say. After the signup, you are greeted with an option to create a new website, which is as easy as giving it a name and a URL (you can use your own domains; I used www.technonerds.xyz). Immediately I felt the loss of control over how the website would look - you are expected to provide the site with a picture whose colours you want to use in the website. All design elements are controlled using sliders with small previews giving you an idea of how your website would look, which might sound cool but just aren't as satisfactory as setting your own fonts or laying out elements on a clean theme. This lack of control over design alarmed me at first.
My first post, which was 'Hello World' with a Technonerds cover picture, didn't come out so well on the website. The Grid requires you to have high quality pictures to take full advantage of the screen estate. This can be a challenge when you want to share a picture from social media. However, the posting experience is again quiet simple - click the share button and post to The Grid, and the AI manages everything else. The Grid almost eliminates the need of itself being in between you and your website.
I'm very unsatisfied by how www.technonerds.xyz looks right now. After playing around with all possible settings on The Grid, I've come to the conclusion that it cannot even come close to, let alone replace, a human website designer. The AI has a lot to learn about layouts, colour matching and overall theming of the website. It has to correct mistakes in alignment, text backgrounds and picture handling. A website designed on The Grid just isn't professional enough to be proudly shared with the rest of the world.
On the other hand, I see a lot of potential. The Grid is an excellent tool for collating articles on a particular topic or making a photo gallery. The websites produced are extremely responsive and intuitive, although not beautiful enough. I've been following The Grid team on twitter and I've seen them improve their product over the last few months. If The Grid is made to understand how humans interpret fonts and colours, it will do a much better job at producing quality websites.
Until now, all of The Grid websites I've seen look extremely similar, which shouldn't be the case eventually. Variety is a key attribute in web design, and The Grid must adapt to the kind of content being thrown at it. The company claims that https://thegrid.io is made using the same AI too, and it is the best I've seen out of the tool. If all of The Grid websites are capable of such amazing design (as thegrid.io), the AI website builder will have an amazing future.
It is too early to judge The Grid though. As for now, this AI website builder doesn't make practical sense, but I wouldn't be surprised to see future website being built using this very tool.
I'm looking forward to be a regular The Grid user, and I'm waiting to see how the AI will improve over the coming months in beta testing. I'll publish another article about my experience with the tool once it is ready for the general public.