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Better than human: AI web design fools 54% of the population


In this Expertise Report:

Generative AI has been in everyone’s mind since ChatGPT was announced last November. But with AI, there’s usually more than meets the eye: the technology has grown into uses far beyond text creation. One shining example of that is AI web design.

Today, you can find websites that have been created entirely with artificial intelligence. Some of them look just as if they had been done by a web designer or a web design agency.

We decided to put it to the test. We asked 500 business owners across 5 countries to see if they could tell the difference between an AI-created and a human-created one, and what their priorities were when it came to web creation.

The answers are quite revealing.

We also sought out the opinion of experts in the AI and web development fields, such as Tristan Post, AI Lead at Campus Founders, and Juana Corbalán, CEO of the agency Corbax, to take the test themselves and tell us why AI can or can’t satisfy businesses’ website needs.

Curious to know yourself? Take the free test below to see how you fare. Then read on to know more about how AI web design lines with decision-makers’ goals.

When asked to separate AI-made websites from human-made ones, most people failed to do so successfully

The five websites in our survey included two websites that had been created by web design agencies, and three that were AI-generated using three different tools. We did not show the websites’ URLs nor footers to respondents.

Half of Indian business owners can differentiate an AI-designed website from a human-made one

Exactly 48.8% of Indian CEOs and business owners can distinguish websites that have been created with AI from those that have been created by people.

This suggests that distinguishing between AI-generated and human-generated websites is not straightforward for most respondents.

Businesses see security as their top website development priority

When it comes to specific areas that SMBs are looking to invest in for their websites, their owners see a clear answer.

Business owners and directors were asked to rank in order of importance their top priorities for their websites for the next 18 months, and security stood firmly at the top.

website priorities global

juana corbalan corbax

I think traditional cybersecurity tools generally don’t use artificial intelligence. But I do think it can be used to identify potential threats and figure out how to deal with them. It can also save time by identifying false positives and allow cybersecurity systems to focus on genuine threats. Because AI can monitor large amounts of data, it can recognize patterns in user behavior and detect malicious behavior.

Juana Corbalán, CEO of Corbax


When we look at the different results per country, we can see some differences in what SMBs prioritise for web creation.

web design priorities for business owners in UK
web design priorities for business owners in Spain
web design priorities for business owners in France
web design priorities for business owners in Germany
web design priorities for business owners in the Neherlands
web design priorities for business owners in India

This contrasts with the results of our 2022 study of website creation, which highlighted content as businesses’ top priority, with almost a quarter of companies willing to focus on top-quality website content creation for their sites.


tristan post campus founders

AI models can be utilised to detect suspicious activities, identify patterns of cyberattacks, and provide real-time responses. However, it’s important to acknowledge that AI, while a powerful tool, also comes with new security risks. We need to be mindful of adversarial attacks, where small alterations can trick AI systems, and potential vulnerabilities such as data poisoning or sensitive data extraction. Not to mention, the fact that AI could also be utilised by malicious actors to develop sophisticated cyber threats. Thus, it’s a dual-edged sword – offering increased protection on one hand while necessitating stringent security measures itself on the other.

Tristan Post, AI Lead at Campus Founders

In India, the priorities for website development vary across roles and team size

In India, the priorities for website development vary across different roles. For instance, UX/UI is a top priority for C-Level Executives and Senior Management, but not for Directors and Owners/Partners.

SEO seems to be less of a priority for President/CEO/Chairperson roles.

When it comes to team size, the priorities for website development also vary. For example, larger organisations (>5,000, 501-1,000, 1,001-5,000) and those with 51-100 employees consistently rank UX/UI as their top priority. On the other hand, smaller organisations and individuals (from 1 person to 2-5) are more likely to prioritise Security.

Whether creating or improving their websites, 70% of SMBs would use AI

67% of business owners would consider AI to make a new website from scratch. This opinion was consistent across all markets, with Spain and India being the most optimistic about using AI to create a website (81% and 77%, respectively) and the United Kingdom the least (59%).

Even more surprising is that 75% would consider using AI to improve their existing website. Spanish and Indian businesses also led AI adoption for website optimisation with 87% of approval each, while France had the smallest adoption rate (65%).

Copy and texts: Most popular area for AI in web improvement

The business owners surveyed all agreed that improving copy and texts in their current websites was the area in which they would use artificial intelligence the most.

However, not every market values website improvements in the same way, and differences become obvious when the predominant priorities are examined by country.

The most obvious difference is that not every country agrees that the areas in which they would use AI to create a website are the same areas in which they would use it to improve them.

Only France and Germany remain consistent; French businesses are open to AI for both creating and optimising their images and visuals, while German businesses think AI can help make and improve the security of their websites.

Most Indian businesses see AI as an boost for SEO optimisation

Across all organisation roles, Indian businesses do not doubt about using AI to build a new website from scratch.

What’s more, the majority of Indian businesses would consider using AI for improving their websites, specifically when it comes to SEO optimisation.

As a matter of fact, it was mostly company presidents and CEOs that would use AI to optimise their websites’ SEO performance.

The results also show that team size (as measured by number of employees) does have an impact on the perceived usefulness of AI in website development. Smaller companies and individuals (from 1 person to 2-5, 251-500) are less likely to consider using AI to build a new website from scratch compared to larger organisations.

62% of SMBs are more likely to work with a web agency that uses AI

Present in every market surveyed, the trend among business owners is to be more likely to work with an agency that openly uses AI in their work.


juana corbalan corbax

At our agency we use AI for content creation, for keyword development, for grammatical improvement of texts, and for other natural language processing and linguistic modelling functions. When it comes to image generation, we only use it experimentally.

Juana Corbalán, CEO of Corbax


61.77% of business owners preferred working with a web design agency that uses AI, a trend that was constant in every country, especially in Spain with 71% of likelihood. The Netherlands had the smallest rate of likelihood, with 55.56%.

percentage of businesses in UK likely to work with agencies that use AI

And an overwhelming 80% of Indian companies would consider working with a web design agency that uses AI in their work.

percentage of businesses in India likely to work with agencies that use AI

tristan post campus founders

AI helps us automate repetitive tasks, allowing us to focus more on creativity and strategic decision-making. Also, with AI, we can provide personalised user experiences, which can drastically improve user engagement and satisfaction. Therefore, it’s not just about jumping on the AI bandwagon, but rather about leveraging its potential to deliver superior results to clients. Thus, using AI can give agencies a competitive edge.

Tristan Post, AI Lead at Campus Founders

AI tools we used to create this survey

Below you’ll find the different tools that we used to create the websites that we presented to the participants of this survey, plus the last two “real” websites, those created by people.

AI Tool #1: 10Web

This tool allowed us to quickly create Pulse.Digital, a professional-looking e-commerce website, in a matter of seconds, and with minimal input. However, the copy remained generic and applicable to multiple situations, rather than being personalised to the sector like a professional designer would do.

ecommerce website created with AI

58% of business owners thought this website was human-generated.


The distribution of the sections is typical of a pre-made template and the texts seem to be of a very generic type applicable to any situation.

Juana Corbalán, CEO of Corbax


AI Tool #2: Hocoos

With this AI website builder we created CopyWizards, a copywriting service business that offered courses. It included generic team photos and an embedded map to show the location of the business’ office.

copywriting site created with AI web design

65% thought this website was made by people. This website fooled every single one of the five markets surveyed (Belgium, Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands).

It also displayed the biggest gap between the correct and incorrect guesses, meaning this website was responsible for fooling the majority of respondents.

AI Tool #3: Pineapple Builder

With this tool we generated Bean Haven, the website of a coffee shop in New York City. It has the peculiarity of being the only AI website in our survey that most respondents successfully identified as such (57%).

coffee site created with AI web design

Conversely, respondents thought that the two ‘real’ websites in our survey were actually AI-generated.

Human-designed website #1: BeTranslated

For the website of this translation agency, 54.64% of business owners thought it was generated by AI.

translation agency site not created with AI web design

Human-designed website #2: SEOCopywriting

In this case, a website for SEO and copywriting services, 51.62% believed it was artificially designed.

seo copywriting agency site not created with AI web design

This website also displayed the smallest gap between correct and incorrect guesses, which means that the number of people that thought it was AI-designed was almost the same as the number of those that thought it was human-generated.

The results of this survey go to show that, while AI-designed websites sometimes can appear very professional as to be almost indistinguishable from those made by real people, some other features can’t match the quality of a website designed by a professional or by an agency.

Conclusion

The uses of artificial intelligence are still being explored, and there’s no telling if there will be any limit to it. AI web design is one such example, with the technology being so rapidly developed that not even humans can always distinguish between an AI-generated website and a human-designed one.

As AI continues to engulf the marketing world in a sea of opportunities and new ventures, we will keep a close eye on its development and potential use cases and see where it leads us.

Methodology

The study was conducted between June 5th and June 9th, 2023, among 500 business owners in the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. In the study, we created a test for business owners to see if they could differentiate between websites generated by artificial intelligence and websites designed by web agencies or web design professionals. We also surveyed them about their priorities for the development and optimisation of their company websites. Responses are anonymous.

About the Sortlist Data Hub

The Sortlist Data Hub is the place to be for journalists and industry leaders who seek data-driven reports from the marketing world, gathered from our surveys, partner collaborations, and internal data of more than 50,000 industries.

It is designed to be a space where the numbers on marketing are turned into easy-to-read reports and studies.

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