AI is becoming better and more common in all workflows especially digital ones. I’m using AI to help write this blog right now!
So I definitely have and am always asking the question: Will AI make web developers obsolete?
AI will not make web developers obsolete. AI enables people to create basic websites without web developers. Limits to AI make those sites similar, so web developers are actually crucial to stand out. As AI improves, web developers’ roles & use of AI will evolve to develop websites in the future.
AI Will Not Make Web Developers Obsolete
I have researched web developers and their thoughts on AI. Here are a few snippets:
The web developer, Rob Adams, stated: “Web development is an art form. It’s always going to be something that takes creativity.”
Mike Rundle, a web developer at Clicktale, also shares the same sentiment. “There is no substitute for the creative mind of web designer or developer.”
I completely agree with both of these gentlemen, but not just in sentiment. I base this opinion on an experiment I performed with current AI on one of the most popular website builders, Wix.com.
If we look at how AI is used in web development today, we can clearly see its success. From small tasks to complete basic websites, AI is definitely being used for web development. But AI is still a tool limited to what we give it and how we use it, definitely not a standalone replacement for web developers.
The current results you can get from any simple, ready-to-use AI leaves you with generic template content that blends in with your competitors. More complex AI can do a lot more; however, it requires a lot more work from expert web developers and engineers to set up and maintain it for it to work.
However, websites for businesses and people with specific needs to stand out will need web developers who can create unique results. As AI improves, web developers may begin to focus more on using the AI to develop for them instead of doing it themselves whenever optimal.
The Limits of AI in Web Development Today
AI is being used in web development and web design today four different things at different levels of different difficulty at different levels of success.
For simple and routine tasks like:
Making responsive grids for web pages (think Bootstrap)
Generating CAPTCHAs (those annoying things you have to type before submitting a form)
AI is super capable and 100% successful. We all regularly fill out captchas on tons of websites with no problems.
Even for more complex tasks like generating a basic website based on what a human inputs AI is also successful (I will go into more depth on this with an example later)
Despite AI’s great capabilities, it suffers from it’s own success. Now everyone can create a simple website with website builders and AI. So more people have and all of these websites are so similar.
The only way to stand out is with a web developer.
Some examples of software or platforms that use AI for web design or web development that we will look at include :
– Sketch2Code – Wix – TensorFlow.js by Google
Sketch2Code is an older project by Microsoft that can take hand-drawn wireframes of websites and create working HTML prototypes of those wireframes.
While each of these AI tools can achieve specific tasks in web development, they are limited to those tasks, as we will see.
Here is just a small list of crucial web development tasks AI, including the tools above, still can NOT do on their own:
· Any custom code beyond wireframes & templates (No tools, forms, content, etc.)
· Optimize & update code.
· Transfer website to new platforms as needed.
· Ensure user communication and experience meet website owners’ needs.
· Maintain and update internal and external links as needed.
· Analyze user needs by running workshops and strategy sessions with businesses and website owners.
· Address ongoing legal issues such as accessibility and privacy.
· Address issues such as budget and website performance as per website owner needs.
· Contact website hosting and third-party agencies regarding issues affecting the website.
· Develop or implement website revisions.
· Provide detailed descriptions of website content that fall in line with branding.
· Monitor website security.
These are just some of the crucial web development tasks AI cannot do. But let’s first see what AI is currently capable of.
What AI CAN do in Web Development: Wix AI Experiment
AI won’t make web developers obsolete but it can aid them as a tool.
Ai can complete specific tasks for web developers and even create basic templates people can use to create a website without a web developer.
Wix.com is a platform that has AI that can do that. So I decided to use it myself to see what it could do.
I wanted to experience this as a new user, fully relying on AI so I signed up and recorded the entire process on video.
First, it asked me what kind of website I was creating. I love the diverse amount of options here.
Following the prompts, it asked for my business name and the features I would need on the website.
Then it asked for my existing website to pull text and images. I wanted to test this feature out as well, so I went ahead and inputted my website.
I was asked to pick a theme without much detail about what this would affect other than color and one font.
It also asked me to pick my favorite home page design that it came up with. I did not like the very limited options for both of these questions.
Finally, it asked what other pages I would like, and it was done.
This was all the information asked for, and it did come up with a nice clean, modern design.
For anyone who needs a simple site like this, this is perfect. You can go in to edit and fill all your content in yourself without the need for a web developer. 😲
BUT…this result is something you could get with tons of other software and website builders without AI.
And the more important issue is that your website will be just like everyone else’s who uses these tools.
Without web development or design training, you are limited to the results of the AIs original choices and capabilities or your own.
I want to emphasize that this result from Wix ADI is great. The fact that you can create a basic website this good with just a few questions is mind-boggling.
But the critical point is that a lot of the work still needs to be done by you, not AI. And this editing does not use AI. It is simply the software or website builder.
And as anybody who has built a website for anything other than a blog or basic shop on Shopify can tell you, you are limited in customization.
Web developers still are needed to take your website to the next level and make it your own instead of a template that anyone else can make using the same AI and software.
I confirmed that I didn’t miss anything by looking at the documentation on wix.com here.
One specific example I want to point out is that the AI organizes the page sections based on its own intelligence.
This is a huge problem as the order of these things can make or break your site as a business losing your views and sales. All of the AI and software choices could be causing issues like this, and without a web developer, you will be none the wiser!
The AI can not create custom forms or tools to optimize your website’s experience for your clients or visitors, as it is limited to templates.
You still need to do all of these tasks yourself or hire a web developer.
At the end of the day, this result is definitely a good starting point. It is a website that works fine and can look great. But if you want to stand out in a sea of templates to get more views, engagement, and sales, you still need a web developer.
The Future of Web Development With AI
Google’s TensorFlow.js, however, uses AI on a completely different level. At least according to the super technical engineer in their video, it does:
What the tool would be capable of, according to the video, would be truly amazing and way beyond what the Wix ADI is doing. But, even as an experienced web developer and designer myself, there was definitely not enough instruction to understand exactly what was going on.
It would offer a tailored personal experience to every visitor on the website. This involved preloading pages, where AI predicts where each visitor would go to all based on custom machine learning. Preloading would speed up the website to be able to ensure an uninterrupted experience for visitors. This would lead to more time on-site and more sales in the example of an e-commerce site!
If you are a beginner and want to speed up your site with simpler easy to implement tips I’ve written a couple of articles that will help you:
Even looking at their documentation and the tensorflow.org website, I still wasn’t any wiser on how to get this to work myself. I did understand that just to set up tensorflow.js to use the AI, you had to connect it to four other platforms to collect data that could be utilized the same way it was in the video example.
This is exactly what led me to my statement that AI will not make web developers obsolete. But web developers will have to change their focus to learn how to use AI like this and develop ways to improve its results.
This falls in line even with the results I achieved with Wix. Taking that original template and developing something truly unique for the website owner is still something that needs to be done by a web developer or on your own. AI still needs that input.
On average, someone trained will always produce better results than someone who isn’t trained. A web developer should & will produce better results for your site’s development than you will. Until the AI can complete every part of the tasks I mentioned previously, like customizing code, etc., it will not replace a web developer.
AI is not the answer to all web development problems. In some cases, it may be helpful, but AI has a long way to go before being an industry standard for any important parts of web development, let alone the entire job.
In the future, AI will supplement web development but not take over it entirely. As technology evolves, so do job demands. That is exactly what is going on here.
Web developers will continue to use AI to improve their craft, focusing on the parts the AI still can’t do to provide a better website than it can. All for our benefit as website owners and users around the world. 🙂