Adaptive Web Design vs. Responsive Web Design: What are the Differences?

Adaptive Web Design vs. Responsive Web Design

More consumers than ever before are now using mobile devices to access the web and visit or do business on their favourite sites. Today, to avoid losing web traffic volumes and valuable customers, your site should be easy to access and view on a tablet, smartphone or small laptop. Also, websites that currently display a responsive design are returning better results in web searches since search engine advancements now award higher precedence and rankings to sites with responsive design rather than adaptive web design.

While adaptive web design involves several distinct web page layouts to suit multiple device screen sizes, responsive site design provides one layout that changes to accommodate easy access and use with your digital device. Although when adaptive web design is used, your website must detect the type of device being used to access it and deliver the layout set for this specific device, a website with responsive design automatically adjusts for immediate access and use on the device being used.

Both adaptive and responsive website design are acceptable for mobile use of your website. However, for best results for your business or personal interest site, you should examine your website preferences, needs, goals and spending budget.

Responsive Web Design vs. Adaptive Web Design

Responsive Web Design

With use of responsive web design, your site visitors gain an optimal view of all that your website has to offer, regardless of the type of device each visitor is using to access your site. Your site will offer simple, easy navigation with the least amount of panning, scrolling or resizing necessary for a complete user experience. All features and functions of your website will be accessible and usable on smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. This access on multiple devices is achieved with use of fluid grids that operate with ease on all screen types and sizes. Your website layout will auto-respond to any screen size fluidly, rapidly and efficiently.

Adaptive Web Design

A website that uses adaptive web design does not have one layout that changes to accommodate use on different devices. With use of adaptive design, several different layouts are available to accommodate varied device screen sizes. The layout that appears to the viewer is dependent on the screen size. For instance, pre-set layouts are prepared and ready for use on smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. When a web user visits your website, your site will detect the device type and screen size being used and then deliver the correct pre-set site layout that is designed for that device.

How Responsive Web Design and Adaptive Web Design Differ

Differences between responsive and adaptive website design include the following:

• Responsive Is More Difficult to Produce. – Responsive website design is more difficult to complete because extra attention must be given to the site’s CSS and its overall design organization to ensure its excellent operation on all screen sizes. It is much more difficult to produce a single layout that will work well on multiple screen sizes than to design several specific layouts suitable for the different screens. Although an adaptive site layout needs to be flexible, this is easier to achieve than creating one layout that operates well on all screen sizes.

• Adaptive Offers Less Flexibility.
– Although adaptive design is easier to achieve, the final result may not offer optimal display on all screen sizes. Adaptive designs only function well on screens that the layouts are adaptable to, while responsive designs for sites are guaranteed to operate smoothly on any size screen. This means that if additional size screens are available on new devices soon to be released for sale, none of your current adaptive layouts may work well on these new screen sizes. As you can see, adaptive site designs will most likely require periodic adjustments and maintenance, while responsive sites will have the flexibility to work on future devices without the need for adjustments.

• Responsive Sites Will Load Faster. – While an adaptive website design will need to load all varied layouts when your site is accessed, a responsive site design will only need to load one layout that is designed to operate well across multiple platforms. The major exception to this rule is when you have a responsive layout of 100 pages and an adaptive layout of 10 pages. In this instance, of course, the adaptive site layout will most likely load faster.

Considering all aspects of site design, an adaptive site will be easier to produce and can be a good choice for new, small sites and start-up e-commerce sites that want to preserve their spending budgets. However, responsive web design will nearly always be the better option for optimal viewing and functioning on all screen types and sizes with faster loading time to please your site visitors.


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