Webmaster? Does anyone have one of those anymore? A decade or so ago, you needed some techie who knew enough HTML to make sure your website didn't have hideous green and red text in a terrible font scrawled on a black background with graphics that looked like they were drawn by a bad cartoonist. Then along came Wordpress, and even non-geeks could churn out a professional-looking website on their own.
Pretty soon, the DIY website will be just as archaic as your old webmaster.
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The Grid: A Website that Builds Itself
Get ready for the website that builds itself. According to a new San Francisco startup called The Grid, your next website may be designed by artificial intelligence. Your site will also update itself, make itself more searchable and constantly evolve to meet your business needs.
The name comes from Grid Style Sheets, an open-source web layout design program developed by company founder Dan Tocchini. The Grid claims it's programming can analyze your existing content and employ algorithms (you know, those magical mathematical constructs that allows Google to find just about anything you're looking for) to dynamically make the best design choices. And supposedly it can do this in about three minutes, far less than the 18 hours required to make a comparable custom website on Wordpress. According to Forbes, that rate more than exceeds the standard of the tenfold improvement over an existing product required to spur widespread new product adoption.
You get all of this for less than $100 a year if you sign up as a "Founding Member" before The Grid actually launches this spring. Otherwise it will $25 a month for a regular subscription that includes seven sites with custom domains. However, the first release is aimed primarily at designers and developers as a tool to manage multiple sites for their clients. An offering for commercial business users is scheduled for later in 2015.
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The Future of Websites Isn't Quite Here ... Yet
Can The Grid deliver on its promise of not only completely automating website design, but also automating updates to optimize social media, searches and brand identity?
The idea is based on constraint programming, which allows developers to define what they want a program to do and then rely on the algorithms to do it. The Grid is building on existing programming capabilities, such as those Apple uses in its Cocoa Autolayout for iOS and OSX, so it's not making any pie in the sky claims.
However, as Fast Company points out, the singularity where humankind and machine meld perfectly isn't quite here yet. Some prototype designs have had weird hiccups that require an actual person to intervene. Indeed, The Grid doesn't claim that it replaces a real human designer so much as provide an effective tool to reduce iterative, time-consuming and non-creative production chores.
Which means more than a few businesses should be on The Grid by this time next year.