Responsive web design has become a common term among web designer and digital marketers. Digital marketers are nowadays concerned about how responsive their sites are. Adaptive web design is not talked about as much as responsive web design, but it is just as important.
What is the difference between responsive and adaptive web design? That’s a question that has been coming up frequently among digital marketers. Web designers might understand the differences, but most digital marketers do not. They need to understand the difference and how each design impacts UX (User experience).
The onset of responsive web designs was revolutionary. It made it possible to browse using mobile devices. It is one of the most impressive CSS inventions to ever come along.
The lines between responsive and adaptive web design can be blurred. It is important for anyone who runs a website to understand the difference. Adaptive web design vs responsive web design is currently a big conversation among digital marketers and SEO experts.
A responsive website renders the same layout on all devices but in different sizes. Responsive sites can re-arrange themselves in real-time. If you open the site on a desktop browser and then re-size the browser, you’ll see it rearranging the contents.
The same happens with mobile devices. A responsive site will first check the size of your devices screen before rendering, and it will arrange the contents in a manner that ensures they perfectly fit in that screen. If you rotate your screen and you haven’t turned screen rotation off, you’ll see the contents re-arrange themselves to fit into the new screen width.
Responsive web design is fluid. As mentioned above, it changes in real-time as screen width changes. That means users can access your website from any device and enjoy their experience while at it.
To build the perfect responsive website, designers must have a full conceptualization of the site they want to build. They should also have enough knowledge of UX. That’s is why it is important for web designers and digital marketers to collaborate.
Adaptive Web Design is the brainchild of web designer Aaron Gustafson. Aaron coined the phrase in his book, “Adaptive Web Design: Crafting Rich Experiences with Progressive Enhancement”. Adaptive web design features multiple fixed layout designs. When browser space changes, your website snaps into the next most fitting design.
While responsive designs continuously respond as browser space changes, adaptive design respond when browser space changes to a certain extent. For instance, if browser space expands, the site detects the new space and selects the layout that would fit best in that space.
In adaptive designs, your website will study the size of your screen and render the best layout for that screen. Once your site has selected a specific layout you cannot change it by resizing the browser.
Adaptive websites have different layouts and they can choose the best layout for a specific screen size. That means that the layout you see on the desktop might not be the same layout on a mobile device. Designers have to design six different layouts for one site if they decide to go the adaptive design way.
These are the six most common screen widths in pixels.
Web designers have to design a layout for each of these screen sizes.
So, the next question one would obviously ask is, which one is better between responsive and adaptive web design?
Responsive design is the most preferred method of designing websites at the moment. It is popular because it is easier to implement. Responsive websites are also easier to maintain.
It is also easy to create templates of responsive designs. There are a lot of free or cheap templates on CMSs (Content Management Systems) like WordPress.
If you choose to go the responsive design way, you do not have to create multiple layouts for different screen. You just create one that can respond to screen size. That means less work creation and maintenance work.
Responsive designs also allow designers to maintain uniformity. Users can find, on their mobile screen, all the design elements they are used to on their desktop screen. That enhances user experience and users are much more likely to have confidence in your site.
While creating responsive designs, designers have to be keen on the element hierarchy when they get re-arranged. That might involve a lot of testing to ensure the elements arrange them in an ideal sequence every time the screen size changes.
For instance, if your website displays a header image then some product images, on a desktop browser, you don’t want that sequence to be inverted when someone is accessing the site from a mobile device.
Responsive design is frequently mentioned in discussions about SEO. At the moment, search engines prefer sites built with responsive designs. Google thinks that responsive designs offer the best user experience and it, therefore, gives priority to sites built with responsive designs.
While that is true, you need to have the following in mind;
Loading speeds can affect the SEO score of your site. If your site is taking too long to load on mobile devices, your average site loading speed will be low. Search engines prefer sites that have high average loading speeds.
Adaptive designs feature tailor-made layouts for every type of screen. That means they offer UX designers the perfect opportunity to ensure their designs offer the best user experience. Adaptive designs allow designers to separate the requirements of desktop users and mobile users. They can then create layouts that touch on the unique needs of each type of user.
As mentioned earlier, there are six standard screen sizes and designers have to create six layouts of the same website if they choose adaptive designs. You can use fewer depending on the type of users you are targeting. For instance, if you are targeting smartphone users you don’t have to create a layout for desktop users.
An adaptive design also allows you to optimize and deliver targeted advertisements. You can put different adverts on the different layouts since each layout will be viewed by different audiences. That flexibility is quite important for anyone who’s focused on running ads on their website.
Adaptive designs have some shortcomings too. To begin with, creating a website with adaptive design is a lot of work. You have to create multiple layouts to cater to all kinds of screens.
The other concern is duplicate content. Even if your multiple layouts are supposed to be the same website, search engines will crawl them independently. It is most likely that you will have identical web content on all layouts. Search engines might interpret that as duplicate content and penalize some of your layouts.
There’s no doubt that adaptive designs are superior to responsive layouts in a number of ways. However, you must keep in mind that different websites serve different purposes. The suitability of any of the two designs for a specific website is circumstantial.
Take your time to understand what kind of website you need and your target audience, before you decide to use either responsive or adaptive designs. The goal should always be to provide the best user experience possible. You need a website that caters to the special needs of the different people who will visit your website.
The question of which is one is better between responsive and adaptive web design does not have one definite answer. Factors such as target audience, SEO technique, and type of website might affect the kind of design you choose. Ultimately, you must ensure that the design you’ve settled for delivers the best user experience.
Digital Marksmen can help you decide whether to use responsive or adaptive design for your website. Our team of web and UX designers will build a modern and impactful website for you, and help you drive business results through it.