Responsive vs Adaptive Design: How are they different?

Responsive vs Adaptive Design: How are they different?


Responsive and adaptive web design are two different approaches used by web designers while creating a website. These two approaches center around making the website adjust to the size of the browser window to enhance the User Interface. However, these web design techniques have some differences. 

What is Responsive Design?

Responsive design aims to provide the users with a consistent website viewing experience regardless of the device the user is accessing the website from. It makes the website easy to read and navigate, by resizing the website in accordance to the screen size of a device. A responsive website uses fluid grids to automatically create a layout that will fit into any screen size. 

What is Adaptive Design?

Unlike responsive design, the adaptive design does not have a layout that automatically changes to fit the user’s device size. The layouts are pre-designed by developers based on the various screen sizes. For instance, the website will have a specific layout for a mobile device, a separate one for tablets and desktops; so when the users visit the website, the website will recognize the device the user is on and will deploy one of the three designs. 

Now that you have a basic understanding of Responsive and Adaptive design, here are some key differences between these approaches:

1. Development Time: The Responsive design approach is time-consuming as the web designer needs to work on the website’s CSS thoroughly to ensure that the website works across all devices. With the adaptive design approach, there is a limited number of layouts that need to be designed, which makes the web design process easier and takes less time. However, it is important to remember that once web designs take the responsive route, one layout will suffice for all devices unlike, in adaptive design where new layouts need to be built when there is a new device out in the market. In other words, while responsive web design takes more time in the short run, adaptive web design becomes time-consuming in the long run.

2. Flexibility: In terms of flexibility, responsive designs have an advantage over adaptive designs. If there is a new device with new screen size, websites with a responsive design will adapt to it automatically, while, the layout of websites with an adaptive design may break. With responsive designs, there is a guarantee that your website will work well and consistently across all the different screen sizes. Adaptive websites need to be modified to work with the new screen sizes or they might not display your website content well. 

3. Load Speed: Many studies show that users may reject a website if it does not load in less than 2 seconds. Web designers must ensure that the website’s load speed is low to engage the users. A responsive design performs well in terms of the load speed as the website only needs to load one layout suitable for all the screen sizes. A website designed in the adaptive approach will load all the pre-designed layouts, select the most optimal one for the user’s device and then display the website content, which is why websites with an adaptive design take more time to load.

4. Maintenance: By going with the adaptive design approach your website will become harder to maintain as each design layout will need modifications separately. While you can create layouts for the most common screen sizes, there will be new devices in the market with different screen sizes, thereby, making the web design process time-consuming for difficult to maintain for web designers. With responsive web design, you do not need to spend a lot of time on maintaining your website however, you need to make sure that your layout is as flawless as possible before launching it officially. Responsive websites require A/B testing and content development from time to time.

5. Costs: The development and maintenance cost for a responsive web design is extremely low when compared to adaptive web design. You can set-up and launch responsive websites fasters as you do not need to develop different versions of the website to make it mobile-friendly. Responsive designs also allow you to keep all your website content in one place. The cost of development is high for Adaptive designs as developing multiple layouts will require you to hire a large team of developers. Adaptive designs are more complex and you will have to spend more to maintain such websites. If you want to develop a fully functional website in a pocket-friendly manner you should go with the responsive web design approach. However, if you just want to create a mobile version for your desktop website, you can go with adaptive design.

6. Search Engine Optimization: There is no point in designing websites if they will not reach the target audience through search engines. Your website must be Search Engine Optimised to secure a higher ranking on the Search Engine Result Page and in turn, attract more visitors. With the new Google update, mobile-friendly websites have been ranking higher. But even if you build a mobile-friendly website with an adaptive design, your website may not rank on Google as this search engine only supports responsive websites. A responsive web design will make it easier for google/search engine crawlers to read your website and index the content. With adaptive designs, you will be creating multiple website URLs with the exact same content. Duplicate content is shunned by search engines and these URLs will not be recognized.  

In conclusion, for small to mid-size enterprises, going with the responsive design approach is a better option as they can modify their existing sites and make their websites mobile-friendly for their users. This approach is budget-friendly and is perfect for service-based industries because their website has a lot of images and text. If you are building a mobile version for a complex website, go with the adaptive design approach as you will have more control over how your website will get delivered to your customers across various devices. Whichever approach you choose to design a website, it is important that as a developer you prioritize the website usability.

Author Bio

Poorvee Kalyani Alla is a mass communication graduate, copywriter, and an avid blogger who writes on technical and lifestyle-related topics for West Agile Labs, Exegy Consulting, Jewellerista, etc.


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