Let’s make one thing clear from the start. Despite how it’s often presented, AI (Artificial Intelligence) is not an upcoming topic – it’s a current one.
If you’ve used an Alexa, Siri or Google Home, you’ve felt the benefit – and occasional frustration. If you’ve succumbed to buying a ‘recommended’ upsell online, you’ve felt the effect – as has your bank balance.
AI gets a bad rep. You’ve no doubt seen headlines about how AI poses a threat to various different professions, web design included.
And it’s true: AI has had and will continue to have, a profound impact on the design industry. But by the end of this article, we hope you’ll realize that AI can work as a web designer’s best friend, rather than a rival.
Let’s take a look at four of the main ways AI is impacting web design:
1. AI has made design faster
Historically, if you wanted to build a website, you needed to know how to code. And if you wanted to build a good-looking website, you needed to know how to code really well. Any web developer will tell you that themes, plugins, and widgets will only take you so far.
Learning to code is essentially like learning a new language.
After my first Spanish class, I could barely say ‘Hola, me llamo Hannah. Tengo 14 años.’
And after my first Codecademy class, I’d made a picture of a bear (with a caption) appear on a blank page.
It’s no wonder that building a website has traditionally been a long and expensive process.
All this started to change with the introduction of website builders. At first, these were fairly crude tools, creating websites that were largely unreadable (to Google at least). Over the years, however, they have become a viable equivalent to custom-built websites. Any John Doe can drag and drop their way to a beautiful, functional website in just a few hours.
And better still, ADI – Artificial Design Intelligence – can turn a few hours into just a few minutes. With a few questions about the type of website you need, an ADI builder is able to create a fit-for-purpose website by ‘learning’ what’s standard across each industry.
The first totally ADI builder – Molly, by The Grid – basically flopped when it was first launched back in 2014. It was just too simplistic. Since then, many website builders – including Wix and GoDaddy – have developed robust ADI options, although these are generally used in tandem with some personalization from the user.
In short, ADI has already sped up the process of design and will continue to do so. Web design trends come and go, but even for this reason alone, AI is here to stay. We’re not yet at the point where websites can ‘design themselves’, as Molly first promised – but we’re perhaps not far off.
2. AI has made live chat commonplace
Younger generations hate picking up the phone – ‘Millennial call phobia’ is 100% real – so it’s no wonder that live chat is proving an increasingly big hit with customers. Indeed, 41% of consumers actually say it’s their preferred method of customer support.
But there’s a problem.
Live chat is – like phone support – labor-intensive. And unless you want to pay someone to stay around the clock, it’s limited to office hours – something customer queries certainly are not.
Chatbots continually ‘learn’ from previous conversations, using NLP (Natural Language Processing) to form replies in the most human way possible – and they’re scarily good at it.
Chatbots have made instant messaging a viable option for many small businesses, so expect to see this woven into many more designs going forward – and not just for flagging issues or questions, either.
Dulux, a well-known paint company, uses a chatbot to guide the user to their perfect paint color.
When used in this way, chatbots can work as an alternative navigation method for users who need a little more ‘hand-holding’.
3. AI has made the design more data-driven
AI-powered tools can, by their very nature, process (and act on) data far quicker than a human can, meaning improvements to your website can be delivered as fast as possible.
I’m talking specifically about CRO, which stands for Conversion Rate Optimization. An improved conversion rate means that a greater proportion of the people who land on your website perform the desired action – whether that’s buying a product, filling in a form, or simply reading more articles.
A CRO specialist (of the human variety) will improve the conversion rate of a website by:
- Analyzing the site’s performance by looking at its key metrics, and trying to find weak spots (e.g. pages with high user intent, such as a product page, which are under-performing)
- Creating a hypothesis of what they could change to improve this (e.g. changing the ‘Buy now’ button from black to red to evoke a sense of urgency)
- Testing this change by setting up an A/B test (where half of the users see the original version of the page(s), and half see the updated version) until the test has reached ‘statistical significance’ – usually between a couple of weeks and a few months, depending on traffic levels
Now imagine there was an AI tool available to take care of the time-intensive elements, such as the setting up of the tests, and the analysis of the results.
AI CRO tools like Evolv can run over 10 tests at once on your site, constantly ensuring – in that robotic, no-capacity-for-human-error kind of way – that none of them overlap. When the tests reach statistical significance, they’ll then simply implement the changes that have yielded a positive uplift.
In this way, designs are constantly evolving in a way they simply weren’t five years ago, and we’re only expecting these iterations to become more frequent.
4. AI has made the design more personal
Let’s imagine you’ve just finished a really gripping Netflix series. You’re feeling sad, perhaps a little nostalgic, and ready for your next big viewing project – but there are 32,600 hours of content to choose from. Where do you even begin?
Netflix is smart. It knows that with great choice comes the greater risk of ‘choice paralysis’, and it has a neat solution: personalized recommendations.
In fact, Netflix’s ‘Because you watched…’ carousels (automatically generated using what’s known as an ‘AI learning algorithm’) account for a staggering 80% of all watched content.
It’s the same technology that leads you to purchase random products on Amazon because ‘Customers who viewed this item also viewed’, or because there was a compelling ‘Frequently bought together’ combo.
The fact of the matter is, personalization through AI works. And not only does it work, but it’s easy to apply to an eCommerce site by using one of the many emerging apps and plugins.
With this in mind, expect to see a lot more eerily accurate recommendations cropping up when browsing.
In fact, looking further forward, it’s totally possible that AI could be used to generate a completely personalized website for each user who lands on it. The future of personalization is bright, whether you like it or not.
Wrapping it up
Thanks for sticking with me as we’ve explored the key ways that AI is impacting design. In a nutshell, AI has made:
- Design faster
- Live chat commonplace
- Data-driven design
- Design more personal
AI has already become a big part of the web design industry, and its role will only get bigger.
As well as the four areas we’ve explored, there’s potential for some really ground-breaking stuff to arrive in the next few years.
We’ve touched briefly on the very real possibility that one day, each site will automatically tailor itself to us. And who knows – maybe Voice User Interfaces could become the new website norm?
One thing’s for sure: it’s an exciting time to be in the design.