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AI website builder

Ever heard of The Grid?

If you follow the website builder market (like we do), you’ll know that it was one of the industry’s most hyped-up products a few years back.

In the lead up to its release, The Grid promised to revolutionize the process of building websites.

Its aim was to develop an AI (artificial intelligence) web builder that would create beautiful websites quickly and intelligently – with very little input from users.

The problem? Well, the development process took way too long. In fact, its launch date was pushed back by over a year.

By that time, investors and users had huge expectations.

And did it deliver?

Not even close.

For all the buzz and hype, The Grid turned out to be a bit of a dud. It was riddled with bugs, cumbersome to manage, and on top of that, the designs were just no good.

Luckily for us, this gave competing web builders the opportunity to learn from The Grid’s mistakes.

That’s why we now have a small but decent range of AI website builders available to us.

So, if you like the idea of having a website quickly and easily built for you – or you’re simply just curious – read on as I walk you through my experiences with using the most popular AI web builders on the market.

Wix ADI

Wix have built a reputation for themselves as one of the most innovative website builders in the market.

So it’s no surprise that they’d be blazing the trail for AI website builders, too.

Wix ADI was launched in mid-2016 – around the same time as The Grid.

Coincidence? Probably not.

But whether Wix were inspired by The Grid’s vision, or were already working on an AI web builder on their own (albeit less vocally), one thing’s for sure.

In terms of execution, Wix ADI absolutely blew The Grid out of the water.

How? Well, let’s take a look.

How fast is it to set up a site?

Really fast. You start off by telling the assistant what kind of site you want to create. (Side note: Wix ADI supports most types of websites, including online stores, blogs, business sites, and portfolios. However, it’s not available for photography, restaurants, or accommodation sites)

In my case, I wanted to set up an online store, and I was able to specify baby clothing as a category:

wix adi questions

You’re then asked a series of questions about your business name, location, as well as any extra features you want for your site. You also get to pick the kind of theme you want for your site:

wix adi design questions

Based on your responses, as well as any existing information Wix can find on your business/site (e.g. social media), Wix will suggest some website designs for your to choose from:

wix adi designs

Once it’s done collecting this information, Wix ADI does its magic, and provides you with a fully-featured site that’s ready to customize. The whole process takes 2 minutes tops, and by prepopulating things such as logos and contact information, Wix ADI cuts down the work you have to do to get the site ready for launch.

wix adi site

Voila! The site created for us by Wix ADI

How easy is the site to edit?

It’s actually pretty easy. Wix ADI has a little pop-up window that provides step-by-step ‘smart tips’ on what to do. But even without this, you’ll find that editing images, text and sections is pretty straight forward. Just click on the section you want to edit, and you’ll get a pop-up pane in the left that will let you edit the content. Simple.

Editing more complex features like store products or a blog is done in a separate screen, as per Wix’s regular editor. But with a little practice, even this is fairly easy to manoeuvre.

How much can I customize?

A lot. You can add new sections to your page, as well as moving/deleting existing ones. You also have options to add new pages such as FAQs or About Us, and apps such as live chat and booking calendars.

For each page, you can also edit SEO properties such as title, page description, and URL.

If you’re feeling particularly confident, you can even switch your site from the ADI editor to Wix’s advanced editor (i.e. their regular website editor). This will give you almost complete control over how your site looks (and, if you miss the simplicity of the ADI editor, you can always switch back).

Quality of designs?

As you’d expect from Wix, the designs suggested by Wix ADI are attractive, modern, and mobile-responsive. And if you don’t like the design suggested for you, you can change it completely – there’s plenty of different themes to choose from. Which is great, because I didn’t love the design Wix created for me – so I changed the theme to something I did like.

wix adi changing designs

You can also customize designs with your own images, of course. Plus, Wix offers a library of its own stock photos, which you can use for free.

How ‘smart’ is the AI?

It’s not bad. If you have an existing site, Wix ADI will pull in your contact details and also suggest a color palette based on your site’s colours. But the suggested site designs seem to be mainly based on the theme you select. I don’t feel like it really analyzes your content to come up with a unique design that it thinks is best for you.

The final product, however, is pretty impressive. Here’s what I ended up with – click the image to check out the site in full.

wix adi online store

Price:

Wix ADI is available on all of Wix’s plans, including their free plan. See full pricing details here.

Rating:

4.5/5. Wix’s AI builder is complete, intuitive, flexible, and – from what I could see – blissfully bug-free. I see it as being a top choice for users who need to build slightly more complex sites – e.g. online stores, businesses sites that need booking/scheduling tools or live chat – in a short amount of time. If it could build up the smarts to really personalize designs, it would be absolutely unstoppable.

Try it for free

Jimdo Dolphin

Here’s another established website builder that’s doing some nice things with AI.

Jimdo – originally known for their super easy-to-use web builder – came out with Jimdo Dolphin in late 2017.

Why ‘Dolphin’? Well, because they wanted an AI-assisted builder that was fast, and smart.

And although they were a little later to the game, it’s fair to say that they’ve quickly caught up.

So let’s take it for a spin – this time with a bakery website.

How fast is it to set up a site?

Jimdo Dolphin claims to set up a site in less than 3 minutes, and honestly, this is pretty accurate. Taking a similar approach to Wix ADI, you start off by answering a few simple questions about what kind of site you want to create, your business name (to pull in your Google Places listing), and whether you want to connect Facebook/Instagram properties.

Jimdo Dolphin Google Places

In just a few seconds, Jimdo Dolphin processes this information and generates a site that’s filled with your business name and contact details, images, and even a text description of your business/site.

jimdo dolphin design

How easy is the site to edit?

Super easy. I’d go so far as to say it’s even easier than with Wix ADI. All the editing of text takes place in-line (rather than in a separate pane or window), so it’s just a matter of clicking and typing.

How much can I customize?

Quite a lot, actually. You’ve got options to change layouts of different sections (or content blocks, as Jimdo calls them), and within these blocks, of switching on/off elements (such as text, images and buttons). Blocks can be moved around and copied, and it’s also possible to add features such as contact forms, music players, and booking forms.

Jimdo Dolphin content blocks

SEO options, unfortunately, are limited – you really only have the option to set a homepage title and a single title for all other pages.

Quality of designs?

Not only can you switch designs/themes, but you can also edit styles within designs. This includes color themes, fonts, and even adding animations. All designs are mobile-responsive, too.

How ‘smart’ is the AI?

It’s intelligent enough to suggest relevant site colors, and also pull in any high-quality images you may have on your online properties (e.g. social media and Google Places), which is a huge bonus. It also adds a business description to your site taken from social media.

I actually really liked the design Jimdo Dolphin created for me, so made very few changes to it. Check out the final site here.

Price:

  • The free Play plan gives you up to 5 subpages
  • The Start plan (up to 10 subpages) starts at $9 USD/month
  • The Grow plan for unlimited pages starts at $19 USD/month

Plans are billed annually. Find out more about Jimdo Dolphin pricing.

Rating:

4/5. The ease of use and quality of designs are impressive. But Jimdo Dolphin would definitely score higher if it gave us more options for website types (e.g. online stores, blogs), SEO, and let us switch over to the more advanced Jimdo Creator editor. As it is, we think it’s suitable for simple business websites, portfolios, and businesses that take online bookings (e.g. beauty services, yoga studios).

Try it for free

Impress.ly

Impress.ly take a unique approach to web building, creating sites that put mobile first and foremost.

It’s for that reason that their sites look and feel a lot like mobile apps.

(And the fact that they’re powered by app maker AppMachine).

Curiously, Impress.ly shy away from describing their web builder as ‘AI-powered’.

However, they do make reference to its ‘native intelligence’ and its ‘automagical design algorithm’ (!), so there’s no doubt that it plays in this league.

Let’s try it out with a restaurant website.

How fast is it to set up a site?

The process of setting up a site was fast, and easy. You don’t even need to sign up to get started. Instead, Impress.ly jumps straight in and asks a series of questions about your site, and gives you options to pull in data from Facebook (or even an existing site).

Gathering content such as logo, images and brand colors, it then suggests a variety of customized mobile designs for you to choose from – and I have to say, these were pretty nice.

impressly designs

How easy is the site to edit?

Once you choose your design, you’ll find the editor is pretty easy to navigate, with a clean interface and easily accessible editing options for changing text and images. It comes with plenty of pages included, too, including a menu where I could add my own menu items. Pages/content can easily be added and removed.

impressly editor

One thing that you might find a little jarring is that Impress.ly moves away from the whole idea of a ‘drag-and-drop’ editor. That means the user experience of editing is a little different to what many people are used to with these kinds of tools. I still found it simple enough to edit different pages/sections, though.

How much can I customize?

A good amount. You can change the style by choosing from different navigation, background and layout options. You can also apply site-wide fonts and colors. But again, without a drag-and-drop editor, you’ll find that you’re relinquishing control over some visual details.

impressly navigation

Extra functionality that can be added includes blogs, maps, contact and reservation forms, and even an online store.

Quality of designs?

The mobile designs are decent, and really do make your site look like an app, with big buttons and subtle animations. I also like how the designs are really tailored to your brand, and how they include your logo, images and colors (if you have these available online).

The design of the desktop version of the site wasn’t quite as impressive, but you could still change some elements of it, and it certainly wasn’t the worst-looking site I’ve seen.

impressly desktop site

How ‘smart’ is the AI?

Smarter than most. I think this is where Impress.ly really stands out. It takes data from a variety of sources – including Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google Places, and even your existing site. And it adds your logo, brand colors, images, contact details and social media feeds to your site. So, it’s probably the only tool that I feel creates a site with a truly customized design.

Price:

It’s free to set up a site with Impress.ly, but to publish it, you’ll need to upgrade to one of two plans:

  • The Starter plan costs $9 USD/month and includes a free domain + your site in HTML 5
  • The Business plan costs $14 USD/month and includes everything on the Starter plan, plus extra features such as ecommerce, a reservations system, music features, and a blog

Rating:

3.5/5. If you’re a local business, store or restaurant and your main target is mobile visitors, Impress.ly is a decent option to try out. You might not get quite as much flexibility as with other web builders, but you do get all the features you’ll need, in a simple-to-manage tool. However, I wouldn’t recommend it if having a great-looking desktop site is important to you.

Bookmark

Here’s something a little different.

Bookmark is a website builder that builds all its sites using its AI assistant (which it calls AiDA – Artificial Intelligence Design Assistant).

It claims to be the easiest, simplest and fastest (free) website builder available.

But does it really deliver?

Let’s find out by creating a hotel website.

How fast is it to set up a site?

Bookmark promises to create a site in less than 2 minutes, and that’s probably about right. Like the other AI web builders we’ve discussed, it starts by asking questions to gauge the kind of site you want, and what layout and style you’d like. It probably asks a few more questions than the other builders, but it doesn’t feel like an overly drawn-out process.

bookmark ai images

How easy is the site to edit?

The options for editing are a bit overwhelming, as there’s so many of them, and you’re not really sure where to start. There is a little tool tip window but even this could be made easier to use. Not really the simple experience you’d like from an ‘intelligent’ builder.

bookmark ai design

There are tutorials scattered throughout the editor to show you how to use it, but I can’t help but feel that this would be redundant if the tool were more intuitive to use.

Rather annoyingly, you’re constantly asked to save changes before moving onto new pages or sections – it would be much better if autosave was enabled.

How much can I customize?

Modules (text, images, video etc) can be dragged and dropped directly into the page. You can also add some pretty advanced features, such as event registration forms, third-party tools (e.g. PayPal button), and even an ecommerce store, although I didn’t test these out.

SEO settings can be edited on a site level for the free plan, and for individual pages on the Pro plan and above.

Quality of designs?

Honestly – the designs didn’t ‘wow’ me. They don’t look as polished as with Wix ADI or Jimdo Dolphin. You’ll likely have to make changes to your suggested design, or ask AiDA to create you a new one (which you can do without having to re-input your responses).

bookmark ai site

How ‘smart’ is the AI?

Although AiDA asked me a lot of questions upfront, I struggled to see how my responses really had any influence over the final design of my site. I ended up with a pretty generic-looking accommodation site with some random images that didn’t really match the style I’d specified.

I was also asked to input the business’s contact details (rather than AiDA pulling these in from the web). These didn’t even end up getting inserted into the site. The only ‘intelligent’ thing I could see in the site was an image that it had pulled from the hotel’s Facebook profile, which it weirdly treated as a logo.

See the final site here.

Price:

  • The Free plan gives you 500MB of storage and a Bookmark.com subdomain (displays Bookmark branding)
  • The Professional plan includes unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage and a free domain for $11.99 USD/month
  • The Business plan includes an online store for $24.99 USD/month

Rating:

3/5. While Bookmark gives you a good amount of flexibility and some decent extra features, it could do a better job of ease of use and quality of designs. Still, if you need have more complex requirements for your site (e.g. online store, event registrations), it’s worth a try.

Try it for free

Sacha by Firedrop.ai

Sacha is a web builder with a slightly narrower focus.

It specializes in landing pages, building single-page sites for small businesses who only need small, simple sites.

It’s a concept that’s struck a chord with the market. Before launching in February 2017, the tool had already signed up 4,000 users.

Part of the appeal is in Sacha’s simplicity – the website creation process is managed entirely through a chatbot.

Although it’s currently in beta, I thought it was still worth checking out.

So let’s build a single-page business website for a marketing agency.

How fast is it to set up a site?

Here’s where Sacha is a little different to the other AI web builders. It uses a chatbot to collect input about the kind of site you’d like to build. Because it allows for free-text responses, the process of initial setup takes slightly longer, although it still felt pretty speedy.

firedrop ai chatbot

Sacha’s chatbot in action

How easy is the site to edit?

It’s very simple to do. In the left window where your website is displayed, you select the section you want to edit and click the ‘Edit’ button, then ‘Content’. A visual editor will pop up, allowing you to edit images and text.

firedrop ai editor

At times I did find the editor a little buggy, especially when it came to trying to add images. It’s hopefully the kind of issue Firedrop will have resolved once the tool is out of beta.

How much can I customize?

All customization is done via the chatbot – that is, if you want to make any changes, you’ve got to instruct the chatbot to do so. It’s a novel concept, and for the most part I found it worked pretty well. The chatbot seemed to understand most of my commands. It also suggests a few options for customizing the site, including adding new sections/content (including some content templates), changing color palettes and fonts, and finding relevant images.

SEO options are limited. Although you can add a page title and description, you’ll find it almost impossible to optimize your content – you can’t set H1 and H2 headlines, for example, or optimize your images.

Quality of designs?

Sacha creates a design based on the ‘design personality’ you pick, and you can easily change between these (as well as customize them by choosing different color palettes). The main criticism I have is that the designs are a little too simplistic – they’re definitely not on the same level as Wix ADI or Jimdo Dolphin. I also found some inconsistencies in some of the design elements – issues with alignment in different sections, for example.

firedrop ai design

How ‘smart’ is the AI?

Sacha is really designed for users starting a site completely from scratch. It doesn’t search the web for any existing sites or social media profiles, and populates the site entirely based on your chatbot responses.

To me, the main ‘intelligence’ comes from its image finder, which lets you search for Unsplash images from straight within the chatbot. But even this isn’t that advanced.

Case in point – it gives you the option to have Sacha find you a ‘random’ image. I tried this, thinking it would find an image based on my previous image searches (which were all related to digital marketing). It gave me an image of a ski lift. Go figure.

That being said, I do think the chatbot is quite clever, with some impressive smarts built into it that make the process of customizing the site very easy.

Here’s the published site if you want to check it out.

Price:

  • The Free Starter plan comes with 1 webpage and a firedrop.me domain (plus Firedrop branding)
  • The Pro plan costs $6.49 USD/month and allows you to use a custom domain (with no Firedrop branding)
  • The Plus plan is $20 USD/month gives you the same as the Pro plan plus unlimited webpages

Rating:

3/5. Sacha does still feel a little ‘beta’, with a few small kinks to iron out, and designs that feel a little generic. Plus, the single-page proposition isn’t going to suit everyone. But if you’re after a very simple site (and don’t have a whole lot of your own images to use), it’s a quick and easy fix.

Try it for free

AI website builder: Conclusion

So are AI website builders ready to completely turn the world of website building upside down?

Well, not quite. The intelligence just isn’t as advanced as most users would probably like it to be.

Do they still provide value?

Absolutely.

For those who would like to cut down the amount of work needed to build a site – beginners, for example, or users who need a site launched quickly – AI web builders offer an easy and affordable solution.

And not just for simple sites. Some tools allow for some pretty advanced sites – online stores and mobile-friendly sites, for example.

As long as you’re okay with giving up some of the control – especially over aspects like SEO – you might find that an AI web builder will be enough to serve your website needs.

If you want to keep all your options open, though, we’d recommend Wix ADI. They manage to square the circle by letting you jump into Wix’s regular editor where you’ll enjoy full customization flexibility.

 

Got any questions about AI website builders? Or experiences to share? Let us know in the comments below.

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