TL; DR: A majority of website builders are focused on templates. Instead of relying on cookie-cutter designs, however, Bookmark gives users a more personalized experience with software called Artificial Intelligence Design Assistant (AIDA). Using AIDA, customers can view recommendations for their website design based on information about their business (such as logo and address), as well as information related to their business type and industry. With this approach, users can select a website that captures their brand more accurately. Naser Alubaidi, Head of Growth Marketing at Bookmark sat down with us to talk about the company’s commitment to small business, upcoming developments, and what makes Bookmark’s entrepreneurial platform stand out from the rest.
When you think of artificial intelligence, “personal” might not be the first word that comes to mind – especially in the website builder market. Bookmark challenges that idea with an intelligent website builder that creates personalized websites for its customers, taking them through multiple possibilities and iterations until they’re satisfied with the result.
Bookmark started three and a half years ago based on the idea that every business deserves a website that is as unique as the brand itself. Getting online is still a challenge for small businesses, and distinguishing themselves with a stand-out website is even trickier. With a background in affiliate marketing, CEO David Kosmayer sought to give small businesses more of an edge in their online presence, according to Naser Alubaidi, Head of Growth Marketing for Bookmark.
“He worked with a lot of small businesses and entrepreneurs who are trying to get more customers,” Naser said. “He saw that the lack of websites was one of the problems. There were solutions out there, but they were all doing the same thing.”
Most website builders offer a template and then provide assistance with choosing one of them, which can leave room to be desired in the originality department. Bookmark aims to create websites that serve as a vehicle for small businesses to show their passion for what they do. The result is a product that turns the traditional website builder concept on its head — the Artificial Intelligence Design Assistant (AIDA).
Meet AIDA: Bookmark’s Artificial Intelligence Design Assistant
By capitalizing on designs powered by artificial intelligence, AIDA stands out from the hordes of template-based website builders. Naser said Bookmark was lucky to have a strong development team that could think outside the box and pull off such a technically difficult concept.
“What they had to do was basically reverse-engineer it – figure out how to build something that would instantly be able to build different templates that are personalized to a specific business,” Naser said.
AIDA uses human-assisted elements and data collected online to make predictions about what kind of website would be most suitable for a given business. Customers sign in and choose their business type from a list (currently 750 and growing.) Then, they answer a few questions such as the business name, address, and other basic information.
AIDA then takes this information, combines it with data gathered from the web, predicts the best overall design, and builds a website that’s fully customized to that individual business — all in 60 seconds or less. It will repeat the design phase over and over until the customers find a design they like.
“Something that the AI software asks you is whether you like the design that you see,” Naser said. “If you do, then it walks you through the process of editing the design. If you don’t, you simply ask our software to recreate the website for you. You can keep doing this until you’re happy with the starting point.”
This is just one aspect of how Bookmark is trying to introduce personalization for the web design industry. Bookmark continues to learn about website design for specific industries by looking at user behavior within their system. As it collects more information, AIDA will become smarter and better at what it does, making better predictions about colors, fonts, images, sections, and other aspects of design.
“This is the exact point where we want to get as many small business owners to try this out and get the feedback we need to take it to the next level,” Naser said. “Even now, we are really confident that what we have is ideal for non-technical small business owners who want to build and grow their online presence.”
Providing Value With eLearning Courses That Foster Business Growth
Small business owners can use Bookmark to get online quickly and easily. As an added bonus, they can also access eLearning courses on topics like SEO and social media marketing to help their website grow their business online.
“This is something we’ve offered from day one,” Naser said. “It goes back to the whole vision of empowering non-technical small business owners.”
The Bookmark team found that a lot of small business owners who sign up to get a website are being encouraged by a third party such as advertising from other companies or blogs about marketing. Messages like “get a website and you’ll get more customers” are all too common, but don’t give the full picture, Naser said.
“People just try to find the easiest solution to get a website, and then they come back a month later and can’t find themselves on Google search results,” Naser said. “We found there’s a huge gap. We wanted a platform where they could come learn how to build their business even if they have no technical or design background.”
Bookmark’s courses and small business blog gives entrepreneurs the tools to make the most of the website that AIDA creates for them. The false advertising that small business owners often hear – that they’ll be discovered by millions of online customers just by having a website – can end up in disappointment. Bookmark provides a reality-based remedy and adds value for their customers.
“With our entrepreneurial platform, they can build their online presence and then learn how to take that extra step and grow their online presence,” Naser said.
The one missing piece, he says, is building a community around Bookmark, which the company intends to implement. Such an online community would be a place for the Bookmark team and its users to put their heads together to find the best solutions.
“It would be a place where not only are we providing helpful resources, but people within that community are interacting with each other and helping each other,” Naser said.
Using the Challenges of Being a Startup as a Springboard for Success
Nothing goes as planned when you’re involved in a startup. While Bookmark has seen its share of growing pains, Naser said that the moments when things have been less than perfect have also allowed them to get better at what they do.
“It can be a good thing,” he said of the challenges. “It gives you an opportunity to be more creative. Let’s say something on the development end is supposed to be ready in a week, but the development team estimates it will take a month. We can figure out a way to do it much more efficiently, do it much easier, and have a much better result.”
It goes back to the value of working with a dedicated and hardworking team, he said. The culture is one where people can all have a contribution and help each other improve.
“Where some people would just get frustrated or just take the instructions as-is, we’re being challenged by each other,” Naser said. “I’ve been learning from every single person.”
With a new server recently deployed, the company built a scalable infrastructure that better serves its customers.
“Those few hours of migrating pain are going to allow us to get around four to six years of comfortable growth,” Naser said. “Every obstacle that we’re getting is a lesson. It’s a huge learning curve – sometimes a painful one – but if you learn a lot you get to persevere.”
Enhancements for Designers and Developers in the Works
As a growing company, Naser said Bookmark’s target audience of small business would likely expand as the company adds and improves various features.
One of these enhancements enables users to add certain design elements, such as animations, to any section on a website — something Naser said will give websites made with Bookmark a boost in quality and originality.
“We have these built into certain sections, but now we’re going to add the feature where someone is easily able to add it and change it on their website per section,” Naser said.
On the technology end, Bookmark has been testing some new uses of AI in web design that will add new features to their product. For example, if a company adds a logo to their website, AIDA could give recommendations on colors to be used across the site based on the logo and the user’s industry.
“Based on that, AIDA can create tons of color palettes that work for your business,” Naser said. “If we do that, then we’re also targeting designers and developers because this is one of the hardest decisions that designers have to face.”
While this feature is still in the early stages, testing so far has received positive results. If the company can successfully pull it off, Naser said, Bookmark stands to become one of the bigger players in the website-building industry and have a broader impact.
“Then we’re able to attract designers and developers to the platform to build websites for their clients,” Naser said. “They start using this to make their job easier. We’re not just empowering small business owners; we’re also empowering designers to make better decisions.”