Will Websites Built By AI Put Web Designers and Developers Out Of Business?

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been making progress in recent years. We see self-driving cars being tested more and more with success. Neural networks are learning more and more, and how to do more and more. At the same time, automation and AI are threatening to replace jobs. I think many people assumed, for a long time, the website designer and website developer were safe. But recent developments have caused many to question this.

I recently tested out one of these AI Web Design services. As it stands right now, it gets some of the placement of copy or images wrong for me. It also created some very interesting copy, however, based on my website (before my recent refresh of the site last night).  I have to say, despite its faults, it was quite capable and might save quite a bit of time in the design process.

So at this point, I was a little worried at first. I know the tendency of things to improve. AI might not be ready for prime time. But give it 10 or 20 years and it would replace the web designer, right? Not necessarily.

Some are going to want something that’s easy to get along with and fast, sure. AI isn’t going to defend its design choices. AI will present it, and if the client doesn’t like it, it will have no problems coming up with a different design quickly. And it’s very possible that the business using this service won’t have to pay extra for that redesign. This will make things easy for the business. And they don’t have to deal with a human that has emotions, has to eat, has to pay rent or a mortgage, and has bills to pay. It’s a win for the business.

Or so some might think. The fact is, AI will always lack certain things:

1. Heart

AI doesn’t have a heart. It doesn’t have emotions. Therefore, AI can never understand what really motivates the users of a website to do what you want them to do. Yes, it might make the decisions based on pre-existing data, and that’s certainly part of what I do as well. But on top of that, a web designer or web developer will test out your website with real people. AI could theoretically do this and make changes quickly. But your site would have to be launched already. And also does AI really understand the goals of your website in the first place? That brings me to the second thing it will lack…

2. A True Understanding Of Your Business’ Needs

Now it’s possible you could have the same need of many other business owners. If so, that’s great. AI might do the job for you. Whether it can do the job as well as a human being that understands emotion and truly understands what motivates people is a different story. But it can do the job, right? But let’s say you have a slightly different need. You have an idea – we’ll just call it the next Facebook, though it might be totally different from that. Will AI even know to create that for you? Probably not! This is something that will probably need to be done from scratch – or at least with a content management system and template/theme of some sort if you’re not starting from scratch.

3. Creativity To Make Your Business The Next Big Thing

AI is going to be very robotic and formulaic in its design. And for many businesses, there’s a formula that works. Then there’s the Steve Jobs’ of the world – business owners that dare to think differently. The formula might work for the grocery or retail store. The formula might work for the plumbing business. But when you have an idea that’s out of the box, you’re likely going to confuse AI. AI cannot work with you because it does not understand you.

So is AI Taking Over Website Design?

Maybe. But I don’t think it is in a way that necessarily hurts website designers and developers. Websites like Wix and Squarespace have come along and been great for those who need a website quickly and cheaply, but there’s still a need for those of us who can provide more than those sites. Also, a designer or developer can do the smart thing and take advantage of such services. I’m actually experimenting with a similar such service called Duda, and am thinking of possible plans using such a service.

I see AI as more of a technology that will greatly assist website designers and developers, if we’re smart about it. We don’t have to let it replace us. We can use AI as a tool to make our jobs easier, and free us up to take care of other tasks that clients may want done. And in this case, I think it’s also important for us designers and developers to communicate the value that they’re getting from their website, and to price accordingly.

That’s not to say that I don’t have concerns about AI and automation, because I totally do. Not to get to political, but when automation starts replacing jobs (and it already has started), we’re going to need a universal basic income. Of course some would say “people who lose their jobs should be re-trained to maintain the bots”. However, you’re not going to need that many people to do maintenance on the bots. The majority of people will still be out of the job even after retraining. So a universal basic income is going to be needed in order for capitalism to continue to work, because capitalism requires people to spend their money on goods and services. If people don’t have money, capitalism fails.

I think good designers and developers are going to find ways to use artificial intelligence as a tool to assist in the day-to-day tasks. There are going to be some businesses that will use AI as a cost-cutting measure. But without universal basic income, this will ultimately backfire on the businesses and humankind in general. But it’s important for the designer and developer to adapt, and understand how AI can be used, and to understand how to communicate the value of hiring the human website designer and developer over the AI.

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash