Responsive vs Adaptive Web Design

A responsive web design consists of a mix of different and flexible layouts and grids that display a single website in the best way possible, based on the device that is being used to access that site. A responsive design will have the same information, but display in an optimized way on desktops, tablets, and smartphones so that the site has a different look on each device.

An adaptive web design uses a static layout and incorporates breakpoints that do not respond initially when a site is first loaded. This type of design will then detect the screen size that is being utilized by a user and then load the most appropriate layout for it. It requires designs for up to six different widths, from 320-1600, but reduces improper media queries to limit performance issues.

Since websites that are mobile friendly tend to be ranked higher, which of these design options are the best for your current needs?

Why Choose a Responsive Web Design?

Most websites today utilize a responsive web design. Thanks to the efforts of many developers and designers, most platforms provide templates, often free, that will let anyone create a responsive website in just minutes. The layout of a responsive site is fluid, requires less overall maintenance, and makes scaling a lot easier to accomplish.

You get to design all your layouts at once with this type of setup. Although this can be confusing on some templates, in most circumstances, the process is automatic. You can then make an adjustment for resolution needs later in the process, allowing you to go live much faster.

Why Choose an Adaptive Web Design?

Adaptive web designs give users more overall control over the final product. You get to develop the content for the site for multiple viewports and how that design displays is up to you. It takes more time and money because you’re essentially developing 18 different views (6x resolutions for 3x devices), but the results can be more consistent for visitors.

Many who approach an adaptive web design will look at their demographics and create designs for those who are most likely to visit the site. This approach is typically reserved for an older website retrofit since responsive designs are simple and easy to implement today, but a specific brand message comes through better with the adaptive approach over the responsive approach.

Adaptive websites tend to be much quicker than responsive sites since there is less code to run through during the initial start-up process for each visitor.

Concerns with a Responsive Web Design

Responsive web designs may require less maintenance and adjust automatically for each user, but that also means more coding needs to go into the site. That extra level of coding increases the risks of an error occurring.

Responsive designs also create hierarchy problems on some templates. Because the content is being shifted around to display correctly on each unique device, designers must ensure that their content is displayed on every device in a way that makes sense. Visual hierarchy changes can create high bounce rates, especially on mobile devices.

Concerns with an Adaptive Web Design

Adaptive web designs may eliminate the extra coding, but you’ve got to maintain a separate CSS and HTML for each layout that you implement. This adds extra maintenance costs to the site since you must verify each layout for content accuracy, link quality and search engine optimization efforts.

Adaptive designs may not shuffle content unexpectedly, but a poor design can cause certain elements to not fit on a page for certain website visitors. This means more testing must occur when this design type is implemented. Instead of testing for tablets, mobile, and desktop, one must test for each resolution on each device to ensure the best possible results can be achieved.

Responsive vs Adaptive Web Design: Which Should Be Used?

Determining whether to use a responsive or adaptive web design depends on the audience that is being reached by a website. If you can identify who is going to primarily visit the site and which devices they are most likely to use, then it becomes easier to create an efficient website design that meets their unique needs.

It also depends if you’re working on an upgrade for an existing site. Since responsive designs tend to be the automatic solution, it may be easier to import your content onto a new platform and then work on making hierarchal adjustments as necessary. It may also be easier to incorporate the adaptive approach with your design elements.

The rest is up to you. Both bring concerns, but they both have advantages. Choose the one which makes the most sense for your needs.

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