Responsive vs adaptive web design: Everything you need to know

When it comes to responsive and adaptive web design,both solve the same problem, but they are two different design approaches. Read more about them in this blog post.

by Natko Radmilovic - Art Director
Responsive vs adaptive web design: Everything you need to know

Responsive vs adaptive web design: Everything you need to know

There were times when web designers built websites for the desktop only. Nowadays, they design websites for mobile phones, tablets, laptops, wearable gear and many more devices. This is because the screen size differs for each device we use today.

Considering different screen sizes, web designers have to create a user interface (UI) in such a way that it is fully functional on all types of devices. This is why you will need to understand the concept of “responsive” and “adaptive” web design.

What is responsive design?

First coined in 2010 by Ethan Marcotte, the term responsive web design means the design that always remains consistent regardless of whether a user accesses it on a desktop or mobile device. In fact, Google recommends responsive design, especially after rolling out its update on 21st April 2015.

A website is responsive if it is able to change its layout based on the screen size and orientation of the device. Developers and designers use CSS to make sure each web page can reformat based on the size of the user’s device. They use “breakpoints” to tell the website to adjust and accommodate different screen sizes.

Why responsive design?

The majority of websites now use responsive web design and development. Thanks to the availability of responsive themes made accessible via CMS systems like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. Although responsive design won’t offer as much control as adaptive, it does take less work to build and maintain website layouts.

The thing with responsive design is that it allows you to design with all layouts in mind. This may confuse the process and make it complex. So, you should focus on creating a viewport for mid-resolution and then use media queries to adjust for low and high resolutions later on.

What is adaptive design?

When it comes to adaptive web design, you will need to create a different website layout for each device and screen. When it loads, the website will recognise the screen size and serves up the layout that was built for that viewport.

Keep in mind that there are an array of screen sizes,e.g. 320px, 480px, 760px, etc. So, it is time-consuming to design a website for all these screen sizes. You can minimise the work by referring to user analytics for an existing version of the website. This will help you determine the screen sizes on which users access it the most.

Why adaptive design?

Adaptive design is helpful in retrofitting an existing website to make it more suitable for mobile devices. This technique allows designers to take full control over web design and development. You can choose specific or multiple viewports based on your company and budget.

Unlike responsive design, the adaptive design does give you a certain amount of control over content and layout. You would begin by designing UI for a low-resolution viewport and then work your way up to ensure that usability isn’t lost and your UI design isn’t constrained by the content.

Responsive vs adaptive design: What’s the difference?

Major differences between responsive and adaptive design are:

1. Responsive design can adjust its content and width according to the device. However, adaptive design follows a different approach and loads the content of the web page that was already designed.
2. Designers won’t have to work much since they can create a single responsive layout of the web page. Whereas, adaptive design requires creating six different versions of the website to handle different screen sizes.
3. Responsive design helps the content adjust naturally if there comes any new layout of the screen into the market. In the case of adaptive design, you will have to create a completely new page for the new layout.
4. Responsive design is great for larger sites that are being built from the scratch. On the other hand, adaptive design is suitable for smaller sites that are being revamped.

Responsive and adaptive design isused by several companies to ensure their websites are optimised for mobile, tablet, laptop and desktop screens. Although responsive design is more popular,adaptive design isn’t dead yet.

Keep in mind that both solve the same problem, but they are two different approaches to e-commerce website design in Melbourne. So, be sure to determine your web design needs.

You have successfully signed up for our newsletter.