/Responsive vs Adaptive Design: Which Is Right for Your Website?
Responsive vs Adaptive Design

Responsive vs Adaptive Design: Which Is Right for Your Website?

Which of the two types of website design should you choose in 2021?

A recent study showed that 94% of visitors won’t return to a site if they think the design is downgraded. Almost half don’t think website owners care about design. Yet 62% of businesses believe responsive web design increases sales.

Throw adaptive web design into the mix and it makes things more confusing.

This article helps to breakdown the responsive vs adaptive design debate and explains what’s best for your website.

We explain each type and how they work. We then compare the pros and cons of responsive vs adaptive design and reveal if one holds the advantage.

Read on to understand how the modern web landscape has changed. And why choosing the right design will increase traffic and make users come back again and again.

Why the Need for Modern Design?

Before mobile smartphones came along the web was a much easier place to design for.

Resolutions averaged 1024 pixels wide and screen sizes stopped at the edge of a computer monitor. Designers used Photoshop to build static layouts and developers spliced them up for simple web conversion.

Then in 2007, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone and the web changed forever.

Websites suddenly needed to look good and work on tiny screens. The original iPhone was 3.5 inches wide. Sites required a magnifying glass to read and pinch-and-zoom became a temporary solution.

Something needed to happen.

The answer came in a new form of web development called responsive web design.

What Is Responsive Web Design?

Responsive websites ‘respond’ to the user’s screen size and adjust their content accordingly.

For example, viewing a site on an iMac offers a full experience but a phone running Chrome hides less important elements. Navigation gets reduced to a simple toggle switch that elegantly displays the same links when tapped.

Content remains the same on all devices. Yet how it’s presented has evolved significantly.

CSS3 Media Queries

The magic behind responsive design lies with cascading style sheets (CSS).

The latest version can break the styling code into sections that activate when the right conditions are met. These are called media queries and offer flexibility as to how a site displays.

For example, the default style works on all mobile devices (a mobile-first approach). Adding a @media screen and (min-width: 800px) query replaces those styles with everything within the query for larger screens.

Designers can add as many media queries as they wish. They can also target resolutions for high-density devices. The end result is a system where any platform can be catered for with relative ease.

What Is Adaptive Web Design?

Adaptive website design uses old-school static templates to work on mobile devices.

Instead of the process happening in response to user interaction, adaptive sites display a series of static templates. These appear according to the size of the user’s device through a series of breakpoints or set widths.

There are 6 common breakpoints: 320, 480, 760, 960, 1200, 1600. Each gets triggered when the page appears on the corresponding screen size.

Why Use Adaptive Web Design?

creative design agency uses adaptive designs to update existing websites for the modern web.

Site owners know exactly how things will look on the given screen viewports. This offers exact control over layout and content presentation. That’s perfect for retrofitting a site for the modern web.

However, adaptive web design has major shortcomings like:

  • Development costs increasing due to the extra templates required
  • Resolutions that don’t match a breakpoint look ‘odd’
  • Screen density factors are ignored
  • Maintaining multiple templates is expensive and time-consuming

Adaptive websites don’t take future developments into consideration either. It’s an older technology that offers limited scope and isn’t designed to flow as responsive sites do.

Pros and Cons of Responsive Web Design

Most modern websites use a responsive approach. Why? Because Google recommends it.

According to the search engine giant, sites should incorporate responsive web design because they:

  • Help Google crawl and index content more easily
  • Reduce common mistakes on mobile sites
  • Produce faster load times as the same content gets served each time
  • Require less development time to maintain one page and not six

Google Search guidelines state that a website should be mobile-friendly and should aim to work on a mobile device as the default. Therefore, responsive design offers excellent SEO which in turn increases the site’s ranking.

Many CMS platforms like WordPress now come with responsive themes as standard. Content remains the same but media queries and JavaScript provide the best layouts no matter the device.

Yet there are a few disadvantages of using this technique.

Responsive sites can sometimes become slower if they aren’t implemented correctly. Several media queries need creating to match different sizes and resolutions. This means more coding and maintenance.

But these flaws exist for adaptive sites too yet the benefits far outweigh those methods.

Responsive vs Adaptive Design for Your Site

The winner is clear.

Responsive web sites pave the way for future-proofing a website. Adaptive methods act as a bandaid to try to offer the same functionality. Better to stick with the technology that Google prefers.

When considering a web designer to update or create your site, make sure they build ‘responsively’.

They must embrace responsive design principles. And their web design services portfolio should demonstrate this for every type of device.

Discover More About the Types of Website Design at PSD Learning

The responsive vs adaptive design argument centers around your existing site type and what you want to achieve.

For older websites that can’t accommodate modern layouts, adaptive web design is worth considering. However, for SEO-friendly, mobile-friendly, and visitor-friendly sites always choose responsive web design.

Remember to ask your web design services provider if they offer responsive user experiences. Ask to see their work then test it on your mobile, tablet, and computer screens. That way you’ll see how responsive reacts no matter the platform.

For further tips on site design, check out our Web Design section.

It’s filled with insights and advice on the latest techniques. And don’t forget to bookmark our Business Resources page for fresh guidance into technology for your business needs.