Adaptive Or Responsive Website Design? Which One Is Better?

Adaptive Or Responsive Website Design? Which One Is Better?

The comparison between the adaptive and responsive website design is probably one of the most common happenings on the internet these days. Not to mention, many people visit blogs, forums and other online platforms only to know the difference between the two since the thin line between these two is quite ambiguous for non-technical people. For website designers and business owners it is immensely important to deploy the best website design to meet the needs of internet users and website visitors from all around the world. An old and static website design is amiss today for any business.

Both, responsive and adaptive website designs, focus on the varying screen sizes that are in use today and the experience that users get when visiting the same website from various devices. Responsive website design is considered the client-side design where the adjustment of the website according to the varying screen size is controlled by the browser in use by the client. On the other hand, the adaptive website design is called server-side design on most parts since the change in the layout of the website is made by the web server as the screen size hits the predefined screen sizes.

Adaptive Website Design

In the beginning it was progressive enhancement but later it was named as adaptive website design. The main purpose of such website design is to use the techniques that focus more on accessibility i.e. making the website accessible for virtually every user regardless of the browser and device he’s using to view the website. The layouts of the website are predefined when designed with the adaptive approach. These predefined layouts then work in relation with a set type or number of devices so they can be viewed unobtrusively on these varying sizes of the devices. In short, the layout only changes when the screen size of the device is that’s been predefined in website design.

It must be understood here that adaptive website design also uses multiple layouts for the same web page but they don’t respond to the changing size of the browser or device screen. They only respond to a particular screen size and remain unresponsive unless the next predefined screen size has been reached. The web server in this particular case needs information about the operating system on the device and the type of the device. Once this information is detected the server launches the best layout for that device so the user can have an uncompromised experience.

There are some great benefits of using the adaptive website design for your website today. First, it gives the designers more control over what they are designing and what experience the users will get from the website. They know how the layout of the web page will be arranged when it is being viewed on a particular screen size. They can decide what elements should go where when the website is viewed on different screen sizes. In short, the website’s content can be optimized based on the screen size it is being viewed on.

The browser has to send only one message to the web server about the operating and type of device. Once detected, the layout changes and the rest of the communication takes place more quickly than before. The content on the website is arranged in such a way that the most important part of the content to the visitor is more easily accessible than other unimportant parts. There are different versions of the same website in terms of the layout but eventually you have to manage only one website. It is easier for small business to manage just a single website and do less maintenance on the website.

Adaptive websites work great on slow networks too because there is less data on the website. The image qualities are also adapted for different versions of the website so all devices run the website with maximum speed. However, budget remains the biggest hurdle in the way of many people and businesses when it comes to creating an adaptive website. Furthermore, such a website takes very long to build. Adding and removing the content from the website can become extremely difficult since all the versions of the website are affected when a change is made on a web page. Lastly, the predefined sizes and layouts might not be fit for some uniquely sized devices.

Responsive Website Design

As mentioned above, responsive website design is known for being the strategy focused on clients. In this type of design the website continuously and fluidly changes its layout as the size of the screen or browser window is changed. It is because the grids are designated percentage values by designers in this type of design rather than allocating fixed values such as pixels. The images will start to shrink and the text will start to wrap as you continue to enlarge or reduce the size of the browser.

Just like adaptive website design the responsive websites are also focused on boosting the accessibility factor i.e. making the websites user friendly so virtually all users can access the website irrespective of the resources they are using to access the website. Two of the key elements that form the backbone of responsive website designs are media queries and the use of CSS3. Responsive websites are not designed for a pre-specified number and sizes of devices but virtually for all existent screen sizes. The website size and layout changes just like liquid will be shaped and resized when moved from one container to another.

Responsive websites are the most popular websites these days. They are getting more popular with time because they are practically the fittest for the modern requirements of the users. The images, text and virtually any content on the website will adjust itself automatically as the browser window size is changed or the website is viewed on different devices. Designers don’t have to design multiple websites for desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones, rather one website serves them all equally. The maintenance of the website design is easy after it has been completed because the work put into its construction takes care of how the website looks on various screen sizes.

It must not be forgotten here that smartphones and tablets are coming in all the new screen sizes with time and in future we will have innumerable screen sized devices all around us. This makes responsive website design the future approach where you don’t have to do anything with the design of the website no matter how many devices are introduced and launched. In the last couple of years the smartphones and tablets have seen a growing number of online transactions and a huge chunk of the credit goes to the responsive website designs as stated by most experts.

Just like anything else in the world responsive website design has its cons as well. First, not everyone is in a position to have a responsive website built. Individuals and small businesses can have a hard time in managing the budget that is required to build a responsive website. It must also not go without mentioning that due to the use of CSS3 and HTML5 the responsive website design might not work properly on some old phones and smartphones. You don’t have much control over how your website will look on different screen sizes.

As the website changes its layout the most important content might hide from the users. The coding for responsive website designs is pretty complex. These are big codes and the website gives the best experience to users using devices with specifications towards the high end of the spectrum. As a consequence, smartphones with smaller memories and slower processing speeds might not be able to run a responsive website as it deserved to run due to the lack of resources. The user experience will be compromised in this scenario.


As is the case with most debates, there is no particular solution to this problem. One good thing that can be done is that designers can make use of the best of both the worlds and combine those factors in one place to come up with a website with the best customer experience. Another way to solve the problem is to look at your needs and requirements i.e. the type of website, your target market, your budget etc. and decide the design based on those needs. Just make sure that you don’t push the factor of accessibility out of your focus.

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