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Responsive vs Adaptive Web Design

With new tablets, mobile devices, and digital watches being churned out by tech companies faster than most can keep up with, it’s becoming increasingly important to generate an ease 04112013figure-aof accessibility of websites on various devices. Which means that marketers need to consider all of the variables when designing a website for mobile, so that even when the latest and greatest devices are launched, you’re ready with a fully optimized site that’s easy to interact with.

The user isn’t too concerned with what method of madness you use when they are perusing your website through their mobile device or tablet. What they care about is that the site is effectively working the way they envision it should when on various devices. There are two methods for developers to meet the needs of users on multiple devices; responsive design (RWD) and adaptive design (AWD). These methods both effectively address the challenge of rendering websites correctly across multiple devices, but also have differences in the way they work.




For example, users shopping on their mobile devices are going to have a much better experience when looking at the screen to the left (the mobile-friendly version), rather than the screen to the right (what a non-mobile friendly version would look like):
Image Source: HP Laptops

As you can see, the mobile version provides the user easier navigation and accessibility. This mobile-friendly version is much more likely to make the sale.







Responsive Web Design starts by primarily creating a flexible foundation by incorporating CSS3, media queries, the @media rule, and fluid grids. Through this, as well as the use of EMs, flexible images and videos, and fluid type, the responsive website is allowed to adapt the layout to the various devices and environments.

Adaptive Web Design utilizes components of progressive enhancement to help define the set of design methods to focus on the user not the browser. Using predefined sets of layout sizes based on device screen size along with CSS an JavaScript, AWD then detects the device in use and adapts. Basically, adaptive design will change to optimize to predetermined screen and device sizes.

The two methods are similar in that they both convert websites to be user-friendly and easily viewable on various mobile devices in varying screen sizes, which gives a better user experience. The difference isn’t in the end goal but the delivery of that goal. While responsive design relies on fluid and flexible grids, adaptive relies on presets of screen sizes. RWD also might take more effort in coding for implementing the fluid grids, CSS and flexible foundations, whereas AWD is more streamlined with layers and utilizes scripting to assist with adjusting to the correct screen sizes depending on the device used.