This argument of responsive versus adaptive web design is ongoing. Each type of web design has its
pros and cons and neither one is better than the other, they’re just different. So, what are
responsive and adaptive web design?
Both responsive and adaptive sites are the same in that they both change appearance based on the
browser environment they are being viewed on. They both adjust based on the browser’s width.
However, adaptive web design is different from responsive web design in that it does not have one
single layout that changes. Instead, there are many different screen sizes for different layouts. In
adaptive web design, the site detects the type of device used and delivers the pre-set layout for that device.
Adaptive websites adjust to the width of the browser at specific points. This means that the website
is only concerned about the browser being a specific width, at which point it adapts the layout.
Responsive websites, on the other hand, respond to the size of the browser at any given point. This
means that no matter what the browser’s width, the site adjusts its layout and functionality in a way
that is optimized to the screen. Whether the browser is 300 pixels or 3000 pixels wide, in responsive
web design the layout will respond accordingly.
Also, responsive web design is fluid and adapts to the size of the screen, no matter what the target
device. Responsive web design uses CSS media queries to change styles based on the target device.
These styles include display type, width, height, and so on. Only one of these is necessary for the site
to adapt to different screens.
Adaptive web design on the other hand, uses static layouts which don’t respond once they are
initially loaded. Adaptive design works to detect the screen size and load the appropriate layout for
it. Typically, you would design an adaptive website for six common screen widths: 320, 480, 760,
960, 1200, and 1600.
So, when should you use adaptive and when should you use responsive web design? If you already
have an existing site and need to retrofit it to make it mobile friendly, you would typically use
adaptive web design. This lets you take control of the design, and lets you develop for specific,
multiple viewports. You can design for your choice of the number of viewports, depending on you,
your company, and your overall budget.
Adaptive web design offers you a certain amount of control over content and layout that you may
not have with responsive web design. Adaptive web design typically designs a site for the lowest
resolution and then works its way up. You can also design an adaptive site from scratch.
Responsive web design, however, is much more popular today than adaptive web design.
Responsive web design does not offer as much control as adaptive web design, but is easier to both
build and maintain. Responsive layouts are also fluid, and while adaptive layouts uses percentages to
give a more fluid feeling when scaling, these can cause a jump when the window is resized.
With responsive web design you are designing for all layouts and so, this makes the process more
complex. Responsive web design enables the website to work smoothly, whereas adaptive web
design causes the website to snap into place.
Responsive websites are harder to make. They require greater attention to the site’s CSS and
organization to ensure that it functions well at any possible size. Also, adaptive web design is less
flexible. This is because adaptive web design only works on as many screens as its layouts are able to. Besides this, responsive websites load faster, because while an adaptive website needs to load all
possible layouts, responsive websites only need to load the one that works across all platforms.
So, which one is better? The short answer is: It depends. Responsive web design is almost always the
safer option to go with for your site. It functions well regardless of the screen size and has short
loading times. Adaptive web design, however, works well for newer, smaller websites that are just
starting out and need to preserve their resources. An adaptive site is easier to create and the smaller
size and audience would mitigate for the slower load times and lower flexibility.
Also, if you do not have a lot of time to dedicate to a project, either due to budgetary restrictions, or
due to a lack of time, adaptive design is the way to go. This is especially the case if you have access
to user analytics for your website. Analytics data can help you prioritize different viewports by
letting you know which devices and platforms are used the most on your website.
If you are designing a website from scratch, then responsive web design is probably the best option.
This ensures that every user has a really good user experience. While a responsive website requires
more coding, most of the websites being designed today are responsive. Also, as more and more
mobile devices are being used, responsive web design is becoming increasingly popular.
At Devship, we specialize in building both responsive and adaptive websites, depending on your
business need. We work closely with your in-house team to understand your need and reason for
building your website. We create fast, interactive, and secure websites using the latest web
So, if you want to build a website for your business that is tailored to your requirements, do get in
touch with us at Devship for an initial consult. Here’s to an effective, efficient, and well-designed