Responsive vs. Adaptive Design: Is there still a dilemma?

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Website development has always been a big challenge.
With all the wonders of Google’s updates, going either for a responsive or an adaptive website is a dilemma for most business owners and developers.
However, is it still a dilemma?
Missing out on responsive design can adversely affect your website’s search presence. Google itself recommends responsive design especially after rolling out this update.
With growing gadget industry, we have a new screen size every day, and adopting an Adaptive Design would be too much of a task to have your design fit all those screen sizes. You either go all out and make an Adaptive website that works on all possible screen sizes or you go with responsive. There’s no middle ground because 38% of people stop engaging with a website if the content/layout is unpleasant and a website does not respond to their screen size.
Let’s get insights into adaptive vs. responsive design with regards to performance and UX.
Begin with these key differences.

Responsive Design
Put simply, the concept of responsive web design is one of the greatest CSS “tricks.” Responsive means ‘to respond to the size of the browser.’ Responsive web design (RWD) is designed to adapt to the size of the screen. No matter the width of the browser, it can adjust its layout and fit the screen.
Another way to think for RWD is its smoothness. The layout of a responsive website is fluid. And the fluidity allows the site to adjust – irrespective of what device it is viewed on. Think of it like it’s a cat!

Consider this image:



In the image above, the element adapts to different screens: from a desktop to a tablet to a mobile device – this is what is featured by a responsive website.
Responsive web design uses fluid, flexible images, proportion-based grids and different CSS style rules just to deliver diverse user experiences to the desktop, tablet, and mobile devices while maintaining the same HTML and URL structure. Moreover, RWD site is featured to grow or shrink according to devices.

Why should you choose responsive web design?
Today, maximum sites are responsive. Reason being, RWD can be designed even by less experienced designers and develops. It requires less effort and less maintenance. Further, responsive layouts are fluid that uses percentages to give a more fluid feel. Below is an example of fluid layouts.



In the above image, the designer has used percentage widths to let the view be adjusted for each user.
When it comes to responsive, developers have to create a design keeping all layouts in their mind. And, no doubt, it leads to great confusion and complexity.
Developers create a viewport for mid-resolution, and then use media queries to adjust for low and high resolutions later on.
Benefits of responsive web design include:
• The same website runs on multiple devices,
• It is easy to manage,
• Gets traffic from mobile users,
• Lower cost and website maintenance,
• Provides a seamless user experience,
• Good for SEO.

Adaptive Design

Often referred to as AWD, an adaptive website uses pre-determined screen sizes. It means you’ve designed different layouts for different ways in which users view content (called Viewport). It is developed on static layouts that are further based on breakpoints which don’t respond once they are initially loaded. AWD design detects the screen size and loads the appropriate layout for it.
Usually, an adaptive website is designed for six common screen widths: 320, 480, 760, 960, 1200 and 1600.




Google refers adaptive design as dynamic serving. This particular design features to serve different devices using the same URL structure. It typically uses multiple fixed layout sizes. When the device detects the browser size, it picks the layout most appropriate for the screen.
Adaptive design is very much similar to the responsive design, except for the fact that content follows a fixed layout size in the adaptive design, while it moves dynamically in responsive design.
Benefits of adaptive design:
• Control over design
• Good for cases where you have specific screen sizes for your webiste to be used.

Is responsive better than adaptive?
Yes, if you are looking at a target audience that consumes your website from varied screen size. Yes, if you are not looking at changing your design for various screen sizes.
However, don’t force yourself and go for responsive web design just because it is the mobile-first design and would win in terms of SEO and ranking.
Choose one according to the project at hand. The choice can be easier if you are aware of the specific devices your site must support. For example, you have a particular device in mind which your site will support most, and based on that, you can adapt the design for that screen size.
On the other hand, a responsive web design is a good strategy for search engine ranking and a future-ready website. If you have a responsive design, it means you will have a site against the possibility of any upcoming or popular device in the market. If you still have any doubt, get in touch with our experts at Super Fresh Media, and we will help you design a cutting-edge website.

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