About six months ago, someone asked me what I thought of ‘The Grid‘. Started by some folks behind Medium.com, it was a promising startup. The membership model was simple: sign on as a founding member and lock in a low monthly rate. The idea is that artificial intelligence would decide on what was important on your website and optimize it accordingly for display.
It doesn’t take a math genius to figure out $8/month times 56,000ish people is not a bad chunk of change.
Now here is where The Grid seems to have gone off the rails. They promised a ‘late spring’ launch. Now late spring can be anywhere from May up to June 22 (the summer solstice) in terms of interpretation. Guess what didn’t happen?
Instead, The Grid launched its ‘beta’ version to 100 founding members in July, promising to do a full release when they had 100 happy users.
Problem was they kept taking out Facebook ads during all this and so people, seeing it in their newsfeed, left comments there, many of which The Grid did not respond to.
At first, people understood the delay… but the delay plus paid ads plus lack of communication started to rile people up. This comment pretty much summarizes the overall sentiment of those not happy with The Grid:
Basic message: yes we’re on Facebook but we’re communicating with founding members via email and the public via Twitter. So I went to Twitter last night and saw this exchange… with a guy that has 39 followers:
OK so there’s no time for Facebook updates but there is time for a Twitter engagement with someone who a) might not even be a founding member and b) has a relatively small following? It doesn’t make much sense. I get that they are hesitant to put out a date but as businesses wait for this technology to come out, etc., it’s pretty hard to not know how long the wait will last.
Of course there are some people who have seen The Grid in action and say it is amazing and that they still believe etc. but I think collectively, the public is wary at this point of The Grid. I certainly am, no matter how many tech journalists with thousands of Twitter followers tell me otherwise. Honestly, I will happily pay $25/month when it comes out to just try it.
So I’ve been watching The Grid for about six months and last night, another Facebook ad showed up to me for PageCloud. Look familiar?
So the idea with PageCloud is that you can have a designer create your site but PageCloud’s technology allows you to edit it on your screen (move elements, resize, etc.) A bit different than having a website automatically created.
I looked at both The Grid and PageCloud. Pricing is similar ($8ish/month for a locked in membership rate and early access) but PageCloud is rolling this out A LOT differently.
For example they are responding to current articles in their blog, which is being kept up to date:
I will say if I had $1 for every time a client said “I trust your intelligence and experience completely, just design me something!” I’d have zero dollars. Because despite the fact that some people seem to have no opinion, they often get one when they see their website design concept. They suddenly hate purple or their email newsletter more prominently featured. Seriously, I’ve seen it happen.
The reality we all face when we want a website:
1) We want a well functioning beautiful website that looks great on all screens
2) We are not going to like the first thing a designer (or The Grid or anyone else) shows us, even if it is perfect, and
3) We are going to want some things how we want them (Definite side menu! Definite slideshow! Something to decide on definitely.)
(If you don’t believe me on 2 in particular, watch Say Yes To The Dress and – even when they find the exact right dress the first time- notice that the bride always tries on several. My statement is no attack of people being persnickety about web design, it’s just human nature to want to see other options.)
So The Grid and PageCloud have accepted these realities and are dealing with them in two different ways.
With something like The Grid, you can click through automatically generated options until you find one you like. You don’t need a designer to start with. Content is your main feature.
With PageCloud, you can have the layout, etc. likely produced by a professional but maintained by you. You probably want a designer to give you some nice ‘bones’ to work with. Content is what you are changing.
Different products but we can agree both are changing the way we look at web design. But I can bet you can tell which one would be easier for me to sell to a client. (You can go to each website and watch the intro videos to get an idea of how each are different.)
I will say PageCloud is maintaining an active social media presence (responding to Facebook comments, etc) and overall, seems like a more upbeat corner of the internet than The Grid right now. Also, rather than alienating the kind of people who could help them ‘sell’ this service (web professionals), PageCloud seems to want to bring them in. Like this guy who said something they could have easily ignored but didn’t:
I’m going to make a call right now that we can all look back on in a few months: PageCloud is going to do better financially than The Grid because:
1) Designers will be involved.
2) People will get to decide elements (ie not have robots do EVERYTHING for them.
3) There is way better PR happening prelaunch, allowing customers and future customers to feel much better about this purchase.
Once I can get in, I’ll be happy to report back on what I think of both systems but this is a prediction! Stay tuned!