Adaptive Design Versus Responsive Design
Adaptive or Responsive? Aaron Gustafson originated the term ‘Adaptive Design’, but Ethan Marcole 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?
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. While this can sometimes create longer loading times due to the browser loading all sizes of images, it can be worked around with various techniques. The same content is available for all users of any browser size or capabilities. There can be certain design limitations and possibly slower download speeds as all the same content should still be on the page, but there are workarounds for only having certain things load. 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 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.
All in all, both responsive and adaptive design are great solutions to the world’s changing on-screen needs. 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. The typical site is likely to benefit from either design theory and users will be appreciative for a tailored experience.