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Adaptive or Responsive Design? How to Choose A Mobile Web Design

April 4th, 2016 |

Adaptive Design Versus Responsive Design

At this time, Google has begun a crackdown on sites that don’t utilize some form of method in making a mobile experience for users. Site ranking is taking into factor the ‘use of mobile-friendliness’ – in 2015 alone, 80% of internet users utilized smartphones. Your web site needs to utilize some way of accommodating the new generation of devices, which we can explore in the world of web design.
Adaptive or Responsive web design? Aaron Gustafson, a web standards advocate, originated the term ‘Adaptive Design’, but Ethan Marcotte, web designer and developer, conceived the term ‘Responsive Design’. In this modern heyday, these terms coined by the gods of web design/development have become common terms – but which theory wins in the WWW smackdown? And which one should you use while making your site ready for mobile experience?

Adaptive Design Versus Responsive Design

Responsive design uses flexible images and layouts along with media queries to provide the same content to different capabilities, detecting the user’s browser size and adjusting the width and changing the display of the content using CSS – think percentages instead of set pixels or widths.

While using different sizes of images for each window size can take longer to load, it can be worked around with various techniques, such as using images as background images and changing them as the window expands, or using vector scalable graphics. The same content should be available for all users of any browser size or capabilities. There can be certain design limitations, but these can always be worked around with the right solutions. All in all, responsive design can take time, but it is usually well worth the effort of having your site available to all types of audiences.

Adaptive Design Versus Responsive Design

Adaptive design provides basic content and features to the least capable browser, while progressively adding more with different sizes – hence why it is also dubbed progressive enhancement (originally coined by Steven Champeon). Due to having the content specified towards a target audience, load times can be quicker than responsive design, but this also means that there are separate templates to deal with. Updates will need to be made separately to each template, including any content or design changes. While more features and capabilities can be utilized for the more capable browsers, allowing a richer experience, users may also not be able to access the same kind of information via phone as they would desktop, which can create frustration in user experience.

Adaptive Design Versus Responsive Design

Ultimately, both responsive and adaptive design are great solutions to the world’s changing on-screen needs. The typical site will benefit from either design method and users will be appreciative and more likely to return for the tailored experience. The choice is in your hands, and it’s best to decide after seeing what kind of environments and needs your site’s audience has.

Want to learn more about the world of web design? Check out the degree programs that we offer here at Platt!

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