Wix ADI - a great time saver that does little to address the key problems of using a website builder
Updated: Jun 26, 2019
A changing workforce
The future is here, and automation is undisputedly affecting our lives. Whilst technology is thought to have created more jobs than it's destroyed, it has fundamentally changed the roles that humans are required to do. This has had a huge impact on a number of industries - agriculture providing one of the most notable examples - and many more are set to be affected. Amazon, as a recent example, have predicted that an all-robotic warehouse could be as little as 10 years away, and it's not hard to imagine others following suit. Nowadays, it's not just manual workers who will be affected - improvements in AI and machine learning mean that even previously-protected service jobs will be under threat.
So what does this mean for professional web designers? Surely a job that requires a range of hard-to-programme skills (such as creativity and persuasion) is safe?
Well not exactly. Website builders have already had a huge impact on how websites are created and have opened the process up to a far greater number of people that would previously have been excluded. No longer do you need knowledge of programming languages, you now just need to have a relatively basic technical know-how to use the drag-and-drop editors on offer.
Now, website builders are looking to lower this technical requirement even further - enter Wix Artificial Design Intelligence (Wix ADI). From Wix themselves:
"With just a few simple questions, Wix ADI designs tailored websites by learning about each person’s or business’ own needs. Next, choosing from billions of high-quality, stunning combinations and possibilities, Wix ADI perfectly matches optimal design and content elements to create a unique, dynamic, and robust website in minutes – no two sites ever looking the same. But more than just stunning design, Wix ADI gathers from across the web and social media for relevant content that you can use as is or customize."
Whilst this is not a new development (Wix ADI first released in mid-2016), Wix will have been working on it extensively since then, and I'd be surprised if this tool didn't form a significant part of its long-term strategy. If they get it right then they widen the pool of potential website creators even further - tapping into an even bigger client base than they have already.
But is it any good and should web designers be worried? Does it generate effective, professional websites that offer a good visitor experience and is it any improvement over what a human, a professional or someone already familiar with Wix' tools, could create?
Let's build a Wix ADI site
The steps that you need to take to get to a working website are relatively simple:
Select what type of business yours is. Wix ADI supports many different types from marketing agency to registered charity. Because I always appreciate a slice of delicious irony, I select 'web designer'.
Select what functionality you need. For this type of business it suggests a booking form and a chat function, but you can also add a blog, events or a subscribe form amongst other things. I add a blog.
Enter your business name. I lazily enter 'Web design co'. If only the AI could have been more helpful to me here.
Enter your business location. My (imaginary) business is virtual so I skip this stage, but I understand that Wix ADI has a number of useful capabilities here such as looking for social feeds relating to your business, and retrieving its physical address and contact details.
Review the information you've supplied (or Wix ADI has automatically retrieved). As I have no Facebook pages or Twitter feeds to link, this doesn't take long.
Select your favourite design theme from a list of suggestions (that presumably are relevant to the type of business you have specified). I go with BOLD because, in a saturated market such as this one (even robots can now compete), it pays to stand out.
Pick a favourite homepage from a choice of three. All of them look smart and contain imagery that is relevant to my business type. Either Wix ADI is very smart, or someone at Wix HQ has spent a significant amount of time on stock imagery sites.
And then it's all done. I have the basis for a website that I can now edit to make fully fit for purpose.
So...is it any good?
My first impression is that this is a smart looking site - far superior in looks to what I could have done myself if starting from scratch (for context; I'm not a professional designer). It looks professionally designed and my system 1 reaction would be to trust the designer who made it. It’s clean, crisp, bright and attractive. It looks a good start.
But it obviously needs work.
The above-the-fold view of the homepage (the area of the page you can see without scrolling) simply says ‘Webdesign co: your expert web designer’, and is coupled with a call-to-action button ‘get in touch’. It couldn't be less compelling or inspiring if it tried. This part of the homepage should be prime real estate. Its role is to make visitors want to continue browsing the site, and show them how to do that, and it isn't doing either of those things at the moment. If I were searching for a web designer I'd likely be comparing lots of different options and websites, and this page, whilst pretty, wouldn't stand out at all.
There is no portfolio or previous work page. When setting up the site I was asked to add functionality that was relevant to me, such as a booking form and a blog. A good AI should also work out that a portfolio page is a pretty essential component of a web designer's site.
'Who I am' is far too high up the page for me (coming before the 'What I offer' section). As well as the homepage showing how you can help your visitor (more on this in a second), it also needs to show why you should be given the chance to. Telling a story about you, your skills and your experience is important - but only once the visitor is convinced that you can offer something of relevance to them.
The biggest offence is the 'What I offer' section itself. Very few visitors care what you offer, they only want to know how it can benefit them and help them achieve their goals. A heading of 'What I offer' naturally leads to a very functional description of the services provided (which is evidenced by the examples Wix ADI provides - 'design adjustments', 'CSS' and 'print design'). Of course there is the role to list your exact products and services somewhere (I strongly dislike websites where you can't actually tell what the business does), but the homepage is too important a space for that. A header of 'how we can help' would lead to a description of services that are better aligned to visitor benefits (for example 'we help you stand out', or 'we print physical collateral that has an impact').
All of this is fixable and I can't be too harsh on the tool. I've gone through seven steps and it's churned out a perfectly functional website. I know that when I use Wix I will be offered a template and be required to invest time to make it my own and tailor it to my design tastes. Even using an AI tool, I can't expect it to know everything about what my (made up) business may or may not do.
But where I would need help is understanding where the specific edits and improvements need to be made to turn a functional site into a truly great one. How can I ensure I deliver a great website experience? If I didn't have experience in this area, or if I weren't pretending to a web designer, I'd have a lot less of an idea of what to change. I’d edit what was already there - the strapline, the images, the bio, 'what I offer'. I’d add a portfolio or clients page (to be fair Wix ADI makes this very easy). As with so many sites that are built with website builders, I'd have a good-looking, functional site, but one that did little to differentiate me from others or truly compel my visitors to take action. I'd have uninspiring CTAs and my site would be covered in dry descriptions of what I could do, rather than how I could actually benefit the visitor. Whilst I can't yet expect an AI to be able to write this for me, it should at least be able to communicate the importance of spending time here - and the current 'smart tips' to-do list doesn't get close to this level of insight or support.
For some sites this might be ok. A restaurant's website, where people are going to be largely sold on it through its location and menu alone, doesn't require a clear communication of visitor benefits - it just needs to show what food it offers and where it can be found. This is where ADI would work best, and where it could create a genuinely effective website in just a couple of hours. Ironically, Wix ADI doesn't support this business type yet.
So does Wix ADI succeed?
Whether it succeeds very much depends on what it's hoping to achieve and who it's aimed at. Tellingly, once you have your site, you are offered the chance to first edit it in a ‘basic’ editor (a scaled back version of what Wix normally offers) - so the tool is clearly aimed at those who are less technically capable. As such, it should be applauded and appreciated for what it is; a website wizard that quickly and easily produces a functional site. Anyone who has used a word processor before could use Wix ADI.
I would also suggest it shortcuts the design process for more advanced designers. I tried this same process posing as an imaginary plumber and an imaginary dry cleaner - and both times the site I got given came with relevant wording and imagery. I don't know how many professional web designers use Wix as their tool of choice, but this would certainly help them get to a minimum viable product a lot quicker.
But Wix ADI's focus is on design, layout and providing basic content - things that are easy to automate. Writing compelling content still requires thought, focus and finesse. Ultimately, it's not how good a website looks that determines its success - it's how effectively the website's message is communicated and how well it resonates with visitors. This is something that Wix ADI still can't help with, and isn't even something that it makes meaningful progress in helping its users build towards. It's another step in opening the website creation process up to more people, but professional web designers needn't worry about being put out of business just yet.
See what other advice and guidance we can offer that the website builders don't tell you.