This Tool is Going To Completely Change Web Design

About every five years a company comes along and really shakes things up. Rather than try to make slight improvements over their competition they completely redesign the concept and reform the way we do things. Over the last decade many of us have experienced the painful, time-consuming task of making ourselves a website. We've probably all wished their was a better way. Fortunately in 2015, The Grid is about to change all that. 

Chances are that many of you have already seen or heard about The Grid as it has received a ton of press over the last few months. It has been featured on websites such as Wired, TechCrunch, Cnet, Forbes, HowDesign as well as many others. It quickly became the most successful crowdsource funding campaign for software with already over 13,000 people signing up for the service and the number is still growing. Lots of big names in the tech industry have turned into investors and mentors for The Grid. For instance, Jerry Yang, co-founder and former CEO of Yahoo, just helped raise 4.6 million towards the site. Other investors include former President of Disney Interactive John Pleasants, former Facebook VP of Product and Engineering Greg Badros and the founder of Elegant Themes Nick Roach. 

The Grid is not a new website builder, it is completely different than anything else out there, more like your personal website developer. The reason so many leaders in the tech industry are excited about it is because it is going to entirely change how we build our web presence online through a completely automated process. This is a perfect example of disruptive innovation. Not just taking a product and making it better but actually transforming it, making it more affordable, and accessible to a lot larger population. In short, what The Grid does is takes the content you provide it and automicatically creates a site for you and helps you keep it fresh and engaging for viewers, something many web users expect to see these days.

“The Grid’s cloud-based artificial intelligence will reinvent web design by eliminating the mundane, time-consuming parts of web development and creating elegant websites in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the cost. This will completely reinvent modern web design for everyone.” - Jerry Yang (co-founder and former CEO of Yahoo)

The Grid co-founder and CEO Dan Tocchini was nice enough to take some time to do a video chat with me back in November and I was impressed. I got off the call, walked over to my wife and said, "I just video chatted with who I believe will be next big name in the tech industry." Tocchini was incredibly knowledgeable and I could tell he is the guy that will work his tail off to accomplish a task the absolute best he can. Even more than that though, what impressed me most with Tocchini was how he has surrounded himself with some of the absolute best minds in the business. You can read more about the team over at The Grid here. They currently have about 20 members on the team spread out throughout the world. One member of the team that has the photography industry excited about is Jeff Woods. Jeff and his wife Julia are extremely accomplished photographers, with numerous awards, recognized as Canon Explorers of Light and featured speakers at a number of different photography conventions. If you want to reach out to Jeff about The Grid you can reach him on Twitter @JefnJul or even email him at jeff@thegrid.io.

Being as this is a brand new technology it really does make the most sense to watch the video I shared above to understand what The Grid is all about. Some photographers have expressed concern about the parts in the video that suggest The Grid will automatically crop and color your photos. Don't worry though as that will be a feature you can turn off. It makes a lot of sense for many businesses but as photographers we want our work to be presented just as we edited it. They understand that and made it possible to do. I think it's important when watching the video to remember this service is bound to change up how many different industries develop their online web presense, not just photographers. One feature that will be included that I do love is the ability to do A/B testing on your site. This will allow you to test subtle variations of your site to see what generates more clicks and leads.

They are planning on launching The Grid in late Spring 2015 but now is the time to get on board. Through their crowdsource funding campaign they are offering The Grid to Founding Members for just $8/mon pre-paid for one year. That is quite a discount! When it goes live in 2015 that price will jump to $25/mon. Here's the best part though. After signing up you receive a referral code link. Give that to your friends, your parents, your siblings, anyone you think that could benefit from having a website through The Grid. When one of them signs up they refund you $32. That means once three of them sign up you got your first year of The Grid absolutely free and you will always be locked in at the $8/mon price.

After watching the video I immediately signed up, shared it with my friends, 12 of them jumped on board and they've already refunded me every cent I paid for my first year. To date they have almost 14,000 Founding Members signed up and as I mentioned earlier quite a few big-name tech leaders backing them. While they haven't decided yet on a hard date to stop accepting Founding Members the word is that it will most likely happen soon or just after the New Year.

Can you imagine?

  • No more having to spend those late night hours trying to tweak things just right.
  • Writing emails back and forth with your web designer and taking 6 months to design a new site.
  • Spending hundreds or even thousands on a design that after launching you don't know how to update.
  • Dealing with a website that always looks the same and lacks engagement.
  • Learning how to use your website builder each time you log-in because it's been 6 months since the last time you used it.

Some might question the abilty for The Grid developers to pull off what they are promising. The concrete evidence of course won't be available till spring. But I will add that I was impressed enough with what I've seen, with the team and the investors that have been willing to step up and endorse The Grid that I wanted to make sure and let our readers here at Fstoppers know about it before the opportunity to purchase it at the discount ran out. I do know their site http://thegrid.io was created with their program and they have already been able create the engines behind the scenes that make this thing work. Like a kid waiting for Christmas, I can't wait for Spring 2015 to get here so I can start playing with The Grid. 

 

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58 Comments

Daniel Ott's picture

Looks lovely, but my initial thought is whether this is going to be SEO friendly!

Austin Burke's picture

Just found the FAQ and this is what it says about SEO

"How do I manage SEO on The Grid?
For our general release, our layout filters automatically handle SEO optimizations using your content (e.g. auto created site description, page descriptions, page title in url, etc)."

Spike S's picture

Given that SEO is a moving target and relevant words change over time, it's hard to see how they deal with that. Also, will it provide Facebook Open Graph?

Jeff Woods's picture

Jeff I am asking about Facebook Open Graph...is that just an API?

Spike S's picture

Sorry I missed this when it was posted, but I did want to let you know that it is a small piece of code, easily copied, with the information you want about your site. There's a good WordPress plugin and a fair amount of places you can find the code.

Would be nice to see some examples before handing over cash.

Jeff Woods's picture

Gus our website is built on our platform but we will be showing some more off soon. We are tweaking the post editor/UI as we speak this will be unlike anything you have seen in the web world. We will be having some behind the scenes demo starting soon. One of those behind the scenes with be with Jeremy Cowart. If you have any questions as to what to what The Grid can do please feel free to email....Cheers to a better future!

Jeff Woods's picture

We are getting ready to reveal more real soon...however a perfect demo is our actual site. Its built on our platform.

Austin Burke's picture

While I would like to see some examples I might jump on it. To be grandfathered in at 8 bucks a month I think its worth the risk.

Of course I would like to know some more information first, like can I host multiple sites for that price, such as several portfolio sites for the different niches I serve (examples like people who shoot both commercial and weddings). Wordpress I know lets you do it but requires some tinkering to get it working, where squarespace does not but is very user friendly.

Also they state you get "Pretty much unlimited bandwith and storage"....well pretty much unlimited and unlimited are two different things.

Jeff Woods's picture

Hello fellow photographers as the Community Evangelist I want to help our community and industry not only know more about our company but also how it is going to change the way you see the web...So feel free to email me at any time with questions...If I can answer them I know who can. Also we have some of the best minds on the job and the best open sourced developers around. One of them is Leigh Taylor our creative director...who left a piece of his soul out there when he open sourced our entire website and allowed anyone to download our PSD...These PSDs aim to give you an introduction to what approach we used at the Grid. Similar to the design frameworks that are gaining popularity today but with a move to creating systems over sets, guidelines over absolutes and a direction that can move from heuristic to code. Feel free to download them it will give you a great deal of insight in our design. As a photographer I appreciate the attention to details we have put into place especially for creatives.

To a better future.

Here is that link
https://www.behance.net/gallery/21817975/The-Grid-Web-(download-psd)?utm_content=buffer8f046&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Will Pursell's picture

Their website crashes my ipad 4. Not sure if that makes me confident.

Jeff Woods's picture

Are you running safari or chrome Will? If your running Chrome do you have ad blockers set?

Will Pursell's picture

Safari. No Adblock. Tried a few times. Crashed every time. But the concept does sound sweet!

Jeff Woods's picture

Will does not make sense many have used a smart device with no problems have you tried a desktop?

Dan Howell's picture

Crashed my Safari on iPad 1 as well.

CHRISMDAY Photography's picture

That standard price point is horrible.

Trevor Dayley's picture

You referring to the price of $25/mon if you don't get in on the $8/mon founding member price? While I became a founding member so I wouldn't have to worry about that, even $25 seemed reasonable since before I was with a service (Showit) that charged $40/mon. When you consider all it offers though, that it's not just another web site builder, but something entirely different that in fact takes saves you a lot of extra time and even money on a web designer for some. Seems to me that $8 is a killer deal, and $25 will still be quite attractive after it launches.

CHRISMDAY Photography's picture

Showit was complete garbage and not anything like what this is. I can get web hosting for $90-110 a year + free Wordpress + $20-100 Wordpress theme I only have to pay for once and still save money after the first year. Hell squarespace is very attractive to photographers and that is only $12/mo. I was interested until I saw that price point and the $8/mo offer from what I read is only good if you keep it up, so if you cancel and come back you get hiked back up to the $25/mo price.

Trevor Dayley's picture

Well I am super stoked about it. Can't wait to give it a run. Seems like a hell of a deal to me.

I love what they are doing, but I very much disagree that it will completely change web design (web developing?). It is only a different way to add content to your site and have it be dynamically generated. It will still have your sites look roughly the same as with most low priced sites will. If you still want a unique site you still need to hire a developer and an even better designer.

If I needed a low cost site and didn't have time or money for a custom site, I'd for sure do something like this.

Jeff Woods's picture

S Wade...Yes if you want a custom site you will need to hire a designer and with it pay a great deal of money...However I can tell you all your sites on The Grid will not look alike. "Content dictates form" and we have so many front end designers deploying layout filters. Selecting layout filters will be as easy selecting a filter on Instagram.

Im surprised by the excitement for this, especially here. In essence, this program aims to take the Graphic/Web Designer out of the equation. So, we are foregoing the use of fellow creatives because now we can do it ourselves. If this were a program aiming to replace the photographer, we would all be proclaiming that the sky is falling.

As a staff photographer, I work with an amazing team of designers ranging from Print/Digital to UX/UI everyday. And, I'm here to tell you, no automated anything could ever come close to replacing a truly creative mind.

Jeff Woods's picture

I recall this quote from Steve Jobs: An individual l can put up a website that, if they put enough work into it, looks just as impressive as the largest company in the world...Its a very profound thing, and a very good thing.

Scott you have brought up a great point as to "They took our jerbs" (southpark). However we have found a lot of positive feedback from the UI UX design world. We have actually hired a few to build layouts filters...Here is a great article from one of the best out there. WE are not eliminating jobs there will always be a need. But for those small business who can not afford those prices? Shouldn't everyone have a beautiful website. I for one have gone through so many web designers and still have the frustrations of finished site this not finished. Which is why I was forced to learn on my own since I could not afford 10k or more for site for my needs or go with a template service like Square Space (which btw cost me about $300 per year with ecommerce).

The focus is in the wrong area. Currently we focus on containers for design. Not the forces that drive the design. Please read the article below...I feel it will see where we are coming from.

https://medium.com/the-grid/the-start-of-design-evolution-c5435706540c

Also here are some of the players we have on board that are doing amazing UI/UX design...And we are bringing more designers on board. Also keep this in mind we are writing a whole new language called GSS

GSS reimagines CSS layout & replaces the browser’s layout engine with one that harnesses the Cassowary Constraint Solver — the same algorithm Apple uses to compute native layout.

http://gridstylesheets.org/

Here is another article written about how designers are feeling about GSS
https://medium.com/@spencerharrison/hello-gss-world-de5b1ce27f6f

Nick Roach is one of the biggest theme makers for Word Press ://www.elegantthemes.com/
Nick Jones -A stud to say the least http://www.narrowdesign.com/
A group of 3 UX/UI front end designers http://www.theexperiment.io/
Leigh Taylor http://www.gravita.co/

I hope this can give you more info...but always feel free to email me if you have more questions.
We understand its better to work on your passion than it is to work on code.

"Innovation is rapidly becoming democratized. Users, aided by improvements in computer and communications technology, increasingly can develop their own new products and services. These innovating users -- both individuals and firms -- often freely share their innovations with others, creating user-innovation communities and a rich intellectual commons"
Democratizing Innovation
by Eric Von Hippel

Suzi Pratt's picture

Well argued, Jeff. As both a photographer and web designer, I'm definitely intrigued by the idea of The Grid...not quite enough to sign up for a paid membership yet.

Jeff, will there be any tools for importing content from existing websites, such as Wordpress? I have 3 personal sites hosted on WP, plus a handful of clients I could potentially point in the direction of The Grid, but I can already hear that being one of the main questions I would get.

Jeff Woods's picture

Suzi yes you can import you will actually own all your own content on a GitHub Repository.

I'm not sure this is going to change web design at all. There is an extensive article on Webdesignerdepot.com that covers the web design issues with an "AI" driven automated web designer. The code doesn't validate on W3C among other issues with products sold (some might say over-sold) that promise beautifully designed websites in seconds.

http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2014/12/is-the-grid-a-better-web-designe...

I'm now member 14k and some change. This will be a godsend to me, my wordpress site is terrible (My own fault because I suck at it)

Noam Galai's picture

This looks awesome, but:
1. $25/month is A LOT. Even $8/month sounds like a lot when you consider you may be using it for years... $2-$5/month makes more sense to me. Flickr made it $2/month which made sense to me.
2. Cant wait to see more websites and how it actually works in reality.

Trevor Dayley's picture

I pay close to $100 a month for cell service, $60 a month for high speed wi-fi, $20 a month currently for SquareSpace Pro plan, $40 a month for gallery hosting for my clients, $10 a month for Google Drive... seems to me that $8/mon is quite a value to have my business site. Not only that but after sharing with my friends 12 of them signed up (though I only needed just 3) and I was already refunded the $96 I spent. So in reality I got my first year, to try it out, for free!

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