Discussion: Is The Grid (www.thegrid.io) vaporware?

almost 2 years ago from , Thanksalot DC

Hey DN community,

I was wondering if anyone here got their hands on The Grid already? The principle sounds quite cool, they claim to have an AI engine which builds websites based on content. When I signed up in October, I paid $96 and got the promise they would launch in Spring 2015.

Spring has long passed and over 54k people signed up and paid for the The Grid – however, they have failed to present a working product. In a youtube video they claimed to have launched their beta to 100 users – maybe one of the lucky chosen ones reads this and could tell us something about The Grid.

Meanwhile, I tried to step away from my subscription and get my money refunded, which is not possible according to their customer support. I guess I just lost myself $96 – quite frustrating. What's your experiences and opinions with The Grid and services like The Grid? Any other founding members here at DN?

62 comments

  • Jon GoldJon Gold, almost 2 years ago (edited almost 2 years ago )

    hey DN!

    I starting working at The Grid a few months ago so might not have all the answers you want, but it's absolutely not vaporware (if it is vaporware I guess I've been hallucinating all the code I've seen). There are ~15-20 of the best designer-engineers I've ever worked on on the team; it's just a bit of a bigger feat of engineering than a social photosharing app for cats etc ;)

    lmk anything specific you're interested in and either I'll answer or pull in someone who can help; as a starting point I'd say that:

    • I'm 150% confident that it's going to be incredible and worth the wait; just hold in there. I wouldn't be working on it if I didn't think it would be incredible.

    • it's such a logical evolution; feels like the next step from what Gerstner & Müller-Brockmann etc were working on. I'm really into design systems; it's really compelling to do it at scale and having to cede control to algorithms. You just have to make the algorithms good.

    • it's really smart — our layout, color, typography systems etc are all getting good. right now I'm teaching the typography AI how to pick fonts with the same nuance as a designer. It's fun. Brings you back to design school roots, makes you really scratch away at your process and everything you know as a designer.

    We've been recording some video hangouts & screenshares & stuff recently - https://www.youtube.com/user/TheGridio

    We're definitely trying to be more open about what we're working on - just hard to balance talking with sitting down and hacking. If you want a design 'point of contact' feel free to tweet me @jongold or our Creative Director @lat. We're all humans here :P

    I'll see if we can do an AMA sometime to share some more stuff :)

    28 points
    • Johannes IppenJohannes Ippen, almost 2 years ago

      Hey Jon,

      thank you very much for your prompt answer! I still think your approach sounds really cool, however it's a product that I paid money for and was promised months ago. I hope you understand that the "happy 100 customers" policy might work for free products, but in your case generates 54,000 unhappy customers who have paid you.

      As a customer I would at least expect you to communicate release dates or milestones more transparently, if you're unable to deliver the product as promised – OR – as usual in these cases, grant a refund.

      30 points
    • Murat MutluMurat Mutlu, almost 2 years ago

      Cool to hear you joined! Looking forward to this

      2 points
    • STUPIDkid .coSTUPIDkid .co, almost 2 years ago (edited almost 2 years ago )

      I heard you speak on the Design Details podcast only recently Jon, and hearing snippets about what you had been working on put my mind at ease. More communication through emails would be great for the people who have backed the project.

      Not being a coder at all, i can imagine these things take time, but i am really looking forward to the end result.

      this is the episode i am referring to if you want to listen - http://spec.fm/show/design-details/14150

      i just want to add - i am backer 3366, from october last year.

      1 point
    • Daniel ZanderDaniel Zander, almost 2 years ago

      Hi Jon,

      Do you have any idea how the "commerce engine" will work? Will I be able to choose the payment provider (Paypal, Stripe etc etc)? When will it be be ready to use and will I be able to use it in the EU?

      Thank you!

      /Daniel

      0 points
      • Jon GoldJon Gold, almost 2 years ago

        Just saw this :)

        thegrid.io is powered by our payment engine. It currently supports Stripe & Bitcoin, I'm sure we'll work in PayPal & others for when it's public. Not sure on the timeline for that though.

        0 points
    • Ben BonneyBen Bonney, over 1 year ago

      as many designer have now tried it, what about doing this AMA uh ? So far, I just tried one of the worst UI ever. Oh yeah it looks bright in videos… Feels worst then vaporware

      0 points
  • Rick LanceeRick Lancee, almost 2 years ago

    The problem i have with The Grid is that it appears to only work/build a site (or choose a template :d) based on your image content (correct me if i'm wrong) what if your site does not have images but only text?

    12 points
    • Daniel WinterDaniel Winter, almost 2 years ago

      You just divided by zero

      37 points
    • Jon GoldJon Gold, almost 2 years ago (edited almost 2 years ago )

      There are no templates - we figure out layout based on a mix of content, what you tell us about your site's purpose, and the hinting you choose for the layout engine*.

      this is very WIP but I prefer to link to realpixels - https://youtu.be/-TB531D0fFE?t=6m14s - you can kinda see how we're squeezing lots of control into as simple a UI as possible. Here's what I'm working towards - http://cl.ly/image/3D1D1q2N0K0F

      I think a lot of the demos we've shown are using images because…they're nice to look at? I don't know. But you'll be able to go from simple text blogs to crazy overlapping wild image galleries. I guess we just like looking at photos. Will put a text demo out soon.

      4 points
      • Rick LanceeRick Lancee, almost 2 years ago (edited almost 2 years ago )

        Looking forward for some more info because the lack of previews/demos has gotten me highly skeptical that it will be as great as the hype makes it out to be.

        2 points
      • Sergie MagdalinSergie Magdalin, almost 2 years ago

        Even though The Grid websites won't be based on traditional "templates", it looks like the layout presets/algorithms will still create layouts that look like they're based off of a template.

        3 points
      • Wentin ZWentin Z, almost 2 years ago (edited almost 2 years ago )

        depends on how you interpret template I guess. It is definitely different from wordpress or Squarespace template, but it feels like templates for smaller modules, like templates for typography, templates for layout blocks. and the final design is end result of a mix of all the choices made on various module templates -- Oh I wish design is that elegant and simple, but no, design is messy, it is coffee spilled over your keyboard, it is finger prints on your screen

        1 point
        • Jon GoldJon Gold, almost 2 years ago

          The cool thing about design is that—no matter whether you're Müller-Brockmann or Gerstner or Carson or Brody or Barnbrook—it's rules-based. You have formalised rules like "lines should be ~66 character long", and then unconscious rules. The result of you months-years-decades of practise as a designer (we call that "experience") are just a set of rules for solving particular problems.

          This doesn't mean stale, trite designs; rather an exciting territory of things to scratch away at and turn into formalised statements. You can do the wildest designs that are still, at the end of the day, rules-based (see anything OKFocus did, or http://allanyu.nyc).

          Design can be messy, but good messy design is still messy-with-thought-and-principles.

          1 point
      • L Theos, almost 2 years ago

        Is it true that each page weights about 15Mb?

        1 point
  • Daniel WinterDaniel Winter, almost 2 years ago

    haha, looking at how much money they put into marketing where they just put some nice girls and then talk about an "intelligent AI"... well... 3 Wordpress templates that they chose randomly... Great that they don't even offer their service yet, I thought they already launched

    5 points
    • Johannes Ippen, almost 2 years ago

      I agree – I still get retargetting ads every day, which is a bit annoying since I know that I have kind of paid for these ads :D

      2 points
  • Jon GoldJon Gold, almost 2 years ago (edited almost 2 years ago )

    typed a long reply and DN gave me a blank post and I can't delete it. oops

    5 points
  • Wentin ZWentin Z, almost 2 years ago

    the moment one of your early adopter, the ones who paid you with whole faith doubt your legitimacy, you have already failed miserably

    4 points
  • Andrea MontiniAndrea Montini, almost 2 years ago

    96 $ * 54.000 = 5.184.000 $. And you're still hoping to get your hands on The Grid?

    4 points
    • Terry OTerry O, almost 2 years ago

      Hey kids, today's letter is P. Some words starting with P are Peach, Parasol and Ponzi, that's 'P' 'O' 'N' 'Z' 'I'.

      0 points
  • Ernest OjehErnest Ojeh, almost 2 years ago (edited almost 2 years ago )

    I wouldn't call it vapourware, because of the "countless" accounts we've seen all over social media and the blogs of how awesome and revolutionary it is. That said, I'm not a big fan of their approach. They over-promised and I seriously doubt that they can match my expectation now.

    I've seen videos of the team and their intents, read blog posts and if i hadn't seen those from reliable sources, I would've doubted their claims. I personally didn't pay but I think they've had all the money and time they needed.

    If the team can see this - Release the damn thing already!

    3 points
  • Remko DijksmaRemko Dijksma, almost 2 years ago

    Well Dann Petty is impressed.

    https://twitter.com/DannPetty/status/608397199505031169

    3 points
  • Boris PfeifferBoris Pfeiffer, almost 2 years ago

    Thank you for this post Johannes. I have been wondering about the very same thing. I am supposedly number 11,036 on their list and I also suspect that the $96 I invested are lost. I never thought they could deliver on their promise tbh, so I invested the money to satisfy my curiosity with a slight shimmer of hope that they would pull a magic rabbit out of their hat and give us an AI to design beautiful websites in minutes. Anyone here with a lower member number?

    2 points
  • Vlad DanilovVlad Danilov, almost 2 years ago

    So you thought a nematode could build web sites?

    Let me give you a little context here. This little fellow is Caenorhabditis elegans , a nematode worm that has 302 neurons. The absolute state of the art in simulating intelligence is this worm. We can simulate its brain on supercomputers and get it to wiggle and react, althogh not with full fidelity.

    And here I'm talking just about our ability to simulate. We don't even know where to start when it comes to teaching this virtual c. elegans to bootstrap itself into being a smarter, better nematode worm.

    Web Design: The First 100 Years

    2 points
    • Oscar von HauskeOscar von Hauske, almost 2 years ago

      Obviously this is not a real AI, it's the marketing word for "tons of algorithms that crank something out eventually"

      3 points
      • Jon GoldJon Gold, almost 2 years ago

        What's your definition of AI? Artificial General Intelligence? In that case, sure, we're not 'real AI', but that also means no one else is (or will be for quite some time).

        If you mean using a bunch of advanced algorithms to generate ~design~ based on unknown input, then I'd say we are. I spent the day working on an artificial neural network to choose fonts; good enough for me :)

        1 point
        • Oscar von HauskeOscar von Hauske, almost 2 years ago

          I'm very happy for you and your work, and wish you success. Your product seems amazing, and I can't wait for you guys to clear out all those menial design jobs out there — joking :)

          However, words have meaning.

          Artificial Intelligence means the exercise of thought by an artificial being such as a machine.

          While having an artificial network choose a typeface might be enough for you, it's not what one would call Artificial Intelligence, since I'm not sure your neural network exercised thought. Maybe it's something you ought to appropriately call machine learning?

          Anyway it's not important, good luck!

          0 points
  • Drew BeckDrew Beck, almost 2 years ago

    Too early to call it vaporware, but I am skeptical it'll deliver in the ways they want it to or that it'll find a market.

    But also I want them to succeed! Partly because I think constraint-based layout is the FUTURE.

    1 point
  • L Theos, almost 2 years ago

    5 million dollars later and still no product. Well vaporware is a light term, scheme would be more exact.

    1 point
  • Ariel VerberAriel Verber, almost 2 years ago

    damn. they are marketing geniuses. almost joined just because it says "8$/mo for life if you buy now, otherwise 25$/mo". And I rarely need to build these kind of websites.

    1 point
  • Alex Glassey, over 1 year ago

    I got a refund from The Grid. This is how: Like you, I paid my $96 a long time ago. Like you, I got frustrated with the wait and asked for a refund. Like you, I got turned down. But I recently got even more frustrated, especially as I see their blanket marketing which, to my mind, is mis-leading. And I keep getting their update emails as they try to keep the unrest down. So I replied to their update email but this time said, "You know, I'd just like my money back. I think you're bordering on thieving cheats." Lo and behold: they just processed my refund. Somebody must have threatened a lawsuit... :-) Be careful out there! Alex

    1 point
  • Erez Zundy, over 1 year ago

    There's finally a solution for all the frustrated TheGrid founders: http://www.imcreator.com/offthegrid

    1 point
  • Mitchell KnightMitchell Knight, almost 2 years ago

    With how dishonest the marketing behind The Grid has been, are you really surprised that you aren't seeing anything for your money?

    1 point
  • Thomas DavisThomas Davis, almost 2 years ago

    The open source project TheGrid works on is quite complex -> https://github.com/gss/engine

    And as an anecdote, I've spoken to one of the developers there and consider him quite above average when it comes to software engineering.

    Look forward to seeing the product!

    0 points
  • Jason FullerJason Fuller, almost 2 years ago

    What really concerns me is the code this thing kicks out. I remember seeing not to long ago that their website uses "grid". The source code is not a thing of beauty; The home page HTML is 4200 lines long with some crazy things going on in there...

    0 points
    • Paul KinchlaPaul Kinchla, almost 2 years ago

      Running a speed test on their site yields terrifying results.

      1 point
    • Jon GoldJon Gold, almost 2 years ago (edited almost 2 years ago )

      The current version of http://thegrid.io uses an ollllllld layout engine. Like last year-old.

      The source code being messy thing:

      • At the time it was using inline GSS which caused a lot of bloat. Now we're computing layout on the backend before we serve pages, so output is much smaller.

      • Things like ARIA tags & optimized images at different breakpoints are coming. They're tiny things to add in the grand scheme of things; don't think we've forgotten how to make accessible web pages. There's just more complex groundwork to work on.

      • Same goes for people who complain about performance. That stuff is obviously going to come.

      • We could prettify the output. We might be doing that now, even. The exciting stuff to me is how we're getting to the design output, not the HTML per se. Maybe if it was a WYSIWYG Bootstrap editor or something you'd really care about the HTML.

      5 points
      • Jason FullerJason Fuller, almost 2 years ago

        The exciting stuff to me is how we're getting to the design output, not the HTML per se. Maybe if it was a WYSIWYG Bootstrap editor or something you'd really care about the HTML.

        I don't understand. I'm sorry but yes you may be doing some really clever stuff to produce designs from someone chucking in a load of content. But not caring about the output makes your whole effort pointless.

        Your designing & building websites for people. Take note of that second part building; whats the point of going to all the effort of producing a design then to be bloated by code that is illogical & that's always going to hamper performance no matter what you do to it?

        If you where giving people a PDF fine who cares, but your deliverable is HTML, CSS & Javascript. Those things makes the design output a reality.

        3 points
        • Jon GoldJon Gold, almost 2 years ago

          It's not bloated, it's not going to hamper performance; like I said thegrid.io is running a very old version of the layout engine.

          1 point
          • Jason FullerJason Fuller, almost 2 years ago

            I'm not saying you won't reduce these things & noted that its running a old version but your last bullet kind of scared me.

            2 points
            • Drew BeckDrew Beck, almost 2 years ago

              Have you opened up your dev console on Facebook or Gmail recently? The output is … not pretty.

              Jon said they care about performance, they care about avoiding bloat. It'll get better.

              0 points
      • Paul KinchlaPaul Kinchla, almost 2 years ago

        It's Good to hear that performance will be a priority.

        2 points
    • Daniel WinterDaniel Winter, almost 2 years ago

      Wow, is that Wikipedia on a single HTML, or whatever that is, page? Guys, we're back to the good old dreamweaver/frontpage times.

      0 points
  • Daniel GoldenDaniel Golden, almost 2 years ago (edited almost 2 years ago )

    Edit: [commented on wrong post :P]

    0 points
  • Eric StevensEric Stevens, almost 2 years ago

    I purchased expecting a product, once I realized it was not even built - I promptly asked and received a refund.

    In terms of extendible design The Grid has a few concepts right - in that templates are not the right way. Spaces with interesting concepts are Siteleaf.com which have posts & pages format for everything but almost requires users to write code.

    The next thing that has my attention is semplicelabs.com. Although they are on wordpress their layout concepts are very interesting. Start blank and choose your blocks - Nav - Index - Text - etc. per page.

    The positive thing is that wordpress is basically a synthesizer and you can patch / plug and play anything.. but not everything makes good music.

    0 points
  • Wentin ZWentin Z, almost 2 years ago

    A follow up piece about thegrid on the next web: http://thenextweb.com/dd/2015/07/31/this-is-what-the-grids-ai-website-builder-looks-like/ it mentions our post too at DN!

    0 points
  • Cavana Faithwalker, 1 year ago

    Whelp I don't know if it is vaporware or not but I want my money back for breach of contract. I tried to hang. They were about a year late with the product and when I did get the product it was nothing in the least bit usable. There was virtually no customer service. I don't know how many times I've contacted them in the past year but I know how many times they've responded, zero. Their March 3rd update "Beta is in full swing now, and we've learned so much from all of you sharing your experiences with us. Your insight has been invaluable, we’re really encouraged by the passion and enthusiasm you show for The Grid. We love the sites you are building and we're making changes and improvements every day as a direct result of your feedback and sharing." I think I will see if I can pull together a class action suit. My site is not for sh*ts and giggles, I'm trying to make a living. I finally came to my senses and went with pagecloud, which has it's issues but at least I got the product and no "your insights have been invaluable," stuff. I didn't sign on to be a partner in building their business while mine languished.

    0 points
    • Peter Zwaart, 1 year ago

      Hello Cavana,

      just out of curiosity, did you request a refund? If so, how did that go? I've had the same experience with the company and the founding membership.

      Surely there must be more than 60.000+ of us by now so we should take action.

      http://goo.gl/forms/eBCXVArzx5

      Peter

      0 points
  • Peter Zwaart, 1 year ago (edited 1 year ago )

    If you're interested in joining several fellow disappointed founding members in a class action lawsuit please check this out:

    http://goo.gl/forms/eBCXVArzx5

    0 points
  • MARIA LORNA KUNNATH, 1 year ago

    I was able to test the Beta and it was sooooo bad I wanted my money back...trouble is the demo on you tube had functionalities/features not existing on mine and requested my account to have the same features....they reponded that theyre still in beta (a year ago).... 'have not heard from them since

    0 points
  • Matt Lundstrom, 1 year ago (edited 1 year ago )

    Their website at thegrid.io is riddled with misaligned text, orphaned words in paragraphs, pixelated images, improperly overlapping divs, weird whitespace, etc. Go there now on an iPhone 6 and look at the "request access" button.

    Why would you trust a company's web design platform when their homepage is riddled with web design problems?

    0 points