Responsive vs. Adaptive Web Design

There’s a Difference?

Responsive and Adaptive Design concepts have been around awhile, with responsive design being the hot topic in the evolving world of designing for mobile. Concepts of Adaptive Design are emerging again as designers and developers work to keep up with an ever-changing device landscape for which to design. Both are important to understand when considering your mobile-first strategy and what’s right for your website and your customers.

Responsive Design

Responsive Design utilizes a grid layout to rearrange content based on the device’s screen size. It is the website that you love and care for, reconfigured to fit regressively smaller screens, and still display all content and information to users in an optimal format.

Adaptive Design

Adaptive Design is one step beyond responsive design. It reconsiders the user-experience on smaller screens and “adapts” the design accordingly. Adaptive design only shows a user what they need in that moment. Content, navigation and images can be eliminated or shown in a different order with adaptive design. Considering that mobile users often have a different intent when viewing sites or applications from mobile devices (a nice way of saying they want what they want now), adaptive design serves up only what they need then and there.

Adaptive Design can also incorporate a strategic file loading strategy. Say what? Basically it means the site only pulls the content, code and images when a user needs them, making website (and applications) load faster on mobile devices. It’s a minimalist approach that can pay off for complex sites, such as those with an e-commerce function.

Plus, as Search Engine Optimization efforts are increasingly affected by faster load times on mobile devices, this can help your site retain a higher ranking in search results. Bonus!

Finally, adaptive design can make use of, and exploit, device-specific features such as geo-location and tap-to-call functionality. This can tailor the experience for a user beyond just screen size, making your website world-class.

What’s Right for My Business?

It depends. A lot of factors go into the decision: your goals, the scale of your website or application, your customers needs and your budget. A site heavy in content and functionality will likely move more towards adaptive design to improve user experience and speed load times. Whereas a smaller business with a conservative budget can utilize responsive design to have their site display nicely on mobile devices.

Ready to get started? As a strategic web firm, On Tap can help assess your needs, your site and what works best for your business and customers. Contact us to learn more and set up a consultation.