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How is AI Shaping the Future of Customer-Centric Web Design?

Designers and AIs will become more like collaborators, working side by side to create relevant and engaging experiences that keep customers coming back for more.

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Photo by Free-Photos on Pixabay

In the early days of the world wide web, developers coded static websites using HTML and CSS from scratch. These websites displayed the same information to all visitors and were non-interactive. 

Then came dynamic websites, which introduced interactivity and personalization to the user experience. But this evolution has also made websites harder and more time-consuming to build. 

Today’s developers and designers must learn to use numerous tools to build fast, easy-to-use, cross-platform websites. And these programming languages, frameworks, design systems, and best practices keep growing by the day. 

Website development has become too complicated for any one person or team to scale, which is why companies have started to rely on artificial intelligence. 

Some of these technologies, like artificial design intelligence (ADI), haven’t fully matured yet, but they’ve already proven themselves useful enough in automating routine parts of the website building process. 

While some industry professionals dismiss AI as a party trick, others fear it will replace their jobs in the coming years. Both of these perspectives are too extreme. Instead, developers and designers should see AI as valuable assistants. 

Artificial intelligence can even master creative processes, including making visual art or logos, writing poetry, creating videos for Youtube, composing music, and taking photographs. There are many ways you can use AI in customer-centric web design, such as:

  • Automating routine design work.
  • Generating hundreds of variations for each design.
  • Making websites more searchable.
  • Improving the user experience with personalization. 
  • Testing each design to optimize the website.

The rise of artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is any program that can make decisions or perform human actions. AI abilities include reasoning, planning, learning, communication, perception, and creativity. 

Smartphones, robotic vacuum cleaners, autopilot in planes and cars, search engines, and social networks all use artificial intelligence. 

But developing your own AI is too research-and capital-intensive for most, which is why we rely on tech giants and startups for these tools. 

They provide services and plugins that empower SMB’s to integrate machine learning, image recognition, natural language processing, and more cutting-edge AI into their websites.  

One fascinating use case for AI is generating web designs. We refer to AI systems that do this as artificial design intelligence (ADI). I’ll dive deeper into ADI in the section below on user interfaces.

AI and web design

You would imagine web designers sitting around all day, dreaming up new ways to improve the user experience. But they spend most of their time-solving implementation problems.

Resizing icons, comparing fonts, cropping photos, and generating color schemes are all menial tasks that could be automated (or at the very least sped up) with AI. Or have you imagined making a Youtube thumbnail? Nowadays, you can easily make thumbnails with a YouTube thumbnail downloader

Adobe is one company leading the charge with Sensei. This AI augments human creativity by adding various functions to Adobe’s Creative Cloud that can make users more efficient. 

Take its Content-Aware Fill, for example. It samples pixel data from one part of an image and uses it to fill in another part. One example use case is removing skin imperfections from a portrait image on your website.

The predictive nature of AI can also be used to conduct a workflow analysis. For example, a tool like Frevvo uses AI to automate processes, streamlining business operations.

But even more groundbreaking, Airbnb has been working on an AI that can convert paper sketches and wireframes into working code. According to Airbnb’s Design Technologist Benjamin Wilkins, “the time required to test an idea should be zero.” 

So, what does this have to do with customer-centric web design? Well, these advancements will free up designers to spend more time strategizing on user experience and less time slogging through the prototyping process. 

The true purpose of AI in web design is automating routine work.

How is AI shaping web design?

Now that you have a better idea of why we leverage AI in web design, let’s explore specific use cases.

Optimizing user interfaces

Designing a new website or redesigning an existing one takes a lot of time and effort, and it used to take a lot longer before AI was in the picture. 

Traditionally, a designer would have to:

  1. Sketch ideas out.
  2. Choose the best one.
  3. Develop a wireframe.
  4. Send it over to a developer who translates it into code.
  5. (If it’s a redesign) A/B test it against the original.

But artificial design intelligence (ADI) can accelerate web design because it can do the whole thing independently. As a result, this tech enables businesses to get to market faster, save on costs, and quickly iterate based on customer needs. 

1. AI website builders

These programs use machine learning to analyze millions of web pages and understand design principles. And with this understanding, AI can generate original designs without human input. 

The Grid was one of the earliest examples of this whereby a user would describe what kind of website they wanted, and the AI-generated a personalized design. While this AI web builder doesn’t exist anymore, other companies like Bookmark, Squarespace, Wix, and Adobe are taking this technology to new heights.

The Wix ADI is one of the most easy-to-use, fast, and intuitive AI builders on the market. All the user has to do is select the kind of website they want (e.g., eCommerce, blog, portfolio, etc.) and enter their business details to get a fully customized design.

2. Real-time design suggestions

Aside from mechanical designs, some website builders like Squarespace are incorporating AI into their products more subtly. 

Squarespace’s AI analyzes how users interact with web components. The AI can recognize the best designs for each function, which Squarespace then suggests to users to make design decisions. 

Look no further than the homepage of MozartData for an example of a customer-centric web design. Real-time design suggestions still have a long way to go, but eventually, they’ll be able to steer all businesses toward more customer-friendly web designs. 

3. Analytics intelligence

In the fast-paced world of web trends and search engine optimization, your web design is key to keeping users from bouncing. To stay ahead of the curve, you constantly need to be monitoring how visitors are reacting to your interface. 

Tools like Google Analytics collect multiple data points like the time of day, where users are coming from, and what device they’re using and deliver actionable intel. But the sheer quantity of this data can also be overwhelming. 

With Google’s machine learning feature set, Google Analytics can automatically detect anomalies, new user segments, engagement conditions, and more. Businesses and designers use these valuable insights to make more informed UI design decisions. 

As you can see, AI is a data-heavy technology that requires suitable infrastructures to be in place to support use. That’s why companies are switching over to edge computing to get faster processing times, reduced costs, and improved data security for all sensitive customer data. 

Another use case for this intelligence is using AI to generate and run A/B tests automatically. Evolv AI is one example that evaluates hypotheses, generates new experiments, and runs them without human intervention. 

Soon, websites will be able to optimize themselves based on testing results, which will further push designers into the role of “strategists” instead of “implementers.”

Enhancing user experience

While we still have a ways to go, AI has already transformed web design and how customers interact with businesses. No example paints this more clearly than the mass adoption of chatbots

1. Natural language processing with chatbots

Chatbots were a mere novelty for over 50 years but have become a fixture of most business websites. 

This AI technology has improved the lives of customers in several ways, including:

  • 24/7 customer service.
  • Personalized answers.
  • Resolving complaints quickly.
  • Humanizing faceless brands.
  • Collecting customer feedback.

According to Drift, 35% of people use chatbots to get detailed answers. For example, you can look to an eCommerce site like RealThread, which uses conversational AI to give visitors product recommendations.  

2. Image recognition with visual search

Another example of AI enhancing user experience is websites making it easier for users to find what they’re looking for with visual search. 

Search engines like Google and Bing are best-known for having this feature, but it’s also well-suited to marketplaces and eCommerce stores. In addition, image recognition AIs can identify and categorize products, making it much easier for customers to sort through the catalog.

3. Information filtering with recommender systems

Websites with built-in recommender systems can start offering relevant suggestions when the customer interacts with the page. 

Something as simple as a click, search, or save allows the AI to build a new user model based on previous users. This model then predicts items the user might be interested in, positively reinforcing the AI when it’s right. 

Netflix is a shining example of this. It suggests content based on user preferences, watch history, and selections made by similar users. 

Even though eCommerce and entertainment are the most well-known use cases for recommender systems, it has the potential to do so much more. Let’s illustrate this with an example. 

If you look at this page that ranks credit repair companies, you can see a clear CTA urging visitors to try the listed company under each list entry. The CTA button then redirects the visitor to the partner company’s website.

This website would provide personalized company recommendations to site visitors depending on their location, preferences, loan term, and financial situation with a recommender system. 

Summing up

The increasing complexity of websites and the sheer quantity of AI tools drive the adoption of AI web design. Even though artificial design intelligence is still developing, it already has a great capacity to help us make design decisions. 

Understanding creative rules and applying them to new designs will change how businesses build their websites. We’ve already come far with website personalization, but future AIs will take this even further, serving entirely different website versions to each user. 

Designers might fear robots stealing their jobs, but that doesn’t have to be the case. AI will automate most repetitive tasks in design, freeing designers to focus more on the creative and strategic side of things. 

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Written by Luke Fitzpatrick

Luke Fitzpatrick is an academic speaker at Sydney University. He enjoys writing about tech, productivity, lifestyle, and is a contributor to Forbes.

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