Both responsive design (RWD) and adaptive design (AWD) were designed in order to address the issue of rendering websites for mobile devices. As the use of mobile devices has grown considerably over the last few years, it is imperative that websites are optimized to perform on these devices.
Responsive and adaptive design aim to improve user experience (UX), adjust for different screen sizes, pixel resolutions and usage contexts. Although these two structures have the same end goal there are noticeable differences between them, which should be taken into consideration when choosing which design structure is best for your business.
Responsive vs Adaptive web design
The biggest similarity between the two methods is that they both allow for websites to be viewed over a platform of different devices to provide for a better mobile user experience. However, where they differ is how they are delivered.
Responsive design works on the principle of flexibility and a fluid single design. Using flexible grids and layouts, CSS media queries and responsive images, RWD can create a seamless UX that changes based on a variety of different factors. This means that business’ website will adapt to all screen sizes automatically and will provide a consistent design for all users. It uses CSS media queries to change the website style depending on display size. This eliminates the need for different designs for each mobile platform such as tablets and smartphones.
Adaptive design, however, has a more streamlined and layered approach than responsive. It uses static layouts based on breakpoints. AWD relies on predefined screen sizes. When a user comes to the website, it detects which device the user is on and will display the version of the website that has been designed specifically for that platform. This method is designed more towards the server side and therefore, can be seen to not be as flexible as RWD.
Which is more suitable for my business?
The majority of websites use the responsive web design method at the moment as it is considered as being easier to use for less experienced web designers and developers. Some would advise that if you have the resources, then adaptive is the better option. However, if you are not yet responsive or adaptive, then you should be. As of April 2015, Google has started to penalise websites that are not considered to be mobile friendly. Therefore, having a responsive website is highly beneficial.
RWD is usually favoured as it s single website design allows for easier administration; a single URL makes sure that users can find you on mobile devices without having to wait for redirects; it’s search engine optimisation (SEO) friendly and it is also very low cost. However, the major drawbacks of RWD is that it can suffer when it comes to site speed and also requires more in way of coding in order to ensure that the website fits every device that accesses the website.
AWD can be useful in terms of tweaking an existing website in order to make it more mobile friendly. Adaptive design gives you more control over the design and development of the templates for devices. How many templates you decide to create is entirely up to your company and budget restrictions. It can be argued that AWD ensures that each user is getting the best experience due to the optimisation of multiple device platforms. As each template is designed specifically for a chosen device, page loading times will be faster and more efficient. The drawbacks associated with AWD are it’s a budget heavy resource, can be bad for SEO due to separate URLs and may cause issues with internal linking.
The key to remember is to consider your audience’s behaviour and preferences first before choosing a design method. Once you know who you’re target audiences are, then it will be easier to design a website with them in mind.
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