Responsive Or Adaptive Web Design?

Posted 23.06.2020

By Luke Pickering

With Google making the conscious decision to change to mobile-first indexing completely in September of 2020, having a great mobile site is more important than ever. While your web design agency should be building your site with the mobile version in mind, they also have to decide whether to opt for a responsive website design or an adaptive website design. But what’s the difference and which one is going to be best for you? Well, we’ll be using this blog post to explain the differences between responsive and adaptive web design and help you decide which one is best for you and your business.

Responsive website design

What is it?

If you opt for a responsive website design for your website it means that your website is going to respond to the user’s screen size, platform and orientation. This practice is made up of a mixture of flexible grids and layouts, images and the use of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). This means whether you are on an iPhone X or an iPad the website should automatically change depending on the settings of the device. This means things like the resolution and image sizes will change to adapt to the device. Therefore the content and the visuals on the site stay the same but they’re all scaled up or down to be as user friendly as possible. 

The benefits of responsive web design

The vast majority of modern websites now are built using responsive web design. This is because in recent years it has become easier for designers and developers to create a responsive website, this is mainly down to Content Management Systems, such as WordPress and Magento

While a responsive website doesn’t give you complete control it does take a lot less work to both build and maintain. Furthermore, a responsive website uses a percentage scaling system meaning that it is able to adjust its size to whatever you’re viewing the website on. Unlike adaptive, you design the website with all sizes in mind not just a handful of popular ones so this means that your website is going to perform better as a whole and you aren’t going to be missing out on any potential customers.

Adaptive website design

What is it?

Adaptive website design uses the idea of static layouts and once you load the webpage it finds out what screen size you’re viewing it on and then outputs the web page. What this actually means though is that you design and create about six sites that all have varying different widths (320, 480, 760, 960, 1200, 1600) so that you are able to display one that is suitable for most devices. While it may seem like adaptive might take a lot more work to create, a responsive site can sometimes be more complex as improper use of media queries can make for big issues.

The benefits of adaptive web design

So what are the advantages of opting for an adaptive site? Well if you’re not looking for a brand new site but instead you’re wanting to make your old website more mobile-friendly then adaptive is most likely going to be the way to go. With the ability to take your old site and recreate it for a number of different viewpoints it will help turn your old site more mobile-friendly for a much cheaper price.

While we listed the 6 main viewpoints that you should look to design a site for, you can use your Google analytics data and learn what a majority of your audience is viewing your site on so that you can design to those viewpoints.

Overall we recommend that unless you have a large budget, you’re better off going for an adaptive website if you’re looking to make your old website more mobile-friendly. But if you’re wanting a brand new website then opt for a responsive website for the best user experience. If you’d like some help with your latest web design project or if you want some more information on the difference between responsive and adaptive web design, then don’t hesitate to get in touch… 


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