Responsive Versus Adaptive Web Design – Which Is Better For Your Site

Responsive vs Adaptive Web Design

What is Adaptive and Responsive web design? That is a valid question that has been plaguing the message boards as of late. Google’s latest algorithm change is designed to make websites easier to use for Smartphone users. Also mentioned is the fact that web designers will need to switch to a responsive web design in order to maintain their high search rankings with Google’s new algorithm. As a result, these two new terms have hit the Internet like a gigantic tidal wave. Not to worry – we will show you the differences between Responsive vs Adaptive Web Design here.

So What’s All the Hype About Adaptive and Responsive Web Design?

Ever since the Internet was born, many of us have been using what are called fixed-width and relative-width web designs. Thanks to a recent surge in the popularity of mobile devices, these days are now gone. Previous design methods would look very wrong on such devices – if they were to even show up in a readable format at all. We needed to find a way to present our websites in a way that would make our websites readable to Smartphone users. This is where adaptive and responsive web designs came into play.

Google Has a Wealth of Information About Adaptive and Responsive Web Design

If you were to do a Google search, you would come up with a wealth of information on the two subjects, as well as their differences. According to one website, it’s all in how information is presented on mobile devices.

About Adaptive Design

With Adaptive design, you’re basically creating several different copies of your website, each one for a different resolution. Typically, you start at the lowest resolution and work your way up. The resolution is then selected based on the size of the screen on the mobile device. You will be making an adaptive website for six different resolutions, including:

  • 320
  • 480
  • 760
  • 960
  • 1200
  • 1600

About Responsive Design

In a responsive design, you are creating a single website that is dynamically resized according to the size of the screen on which the site is running via CSS media queries. However, contrary to appearances, responsive design is slightly more complex than adaptive design because you have to take into account proper CSS query usage, otherwise you can cause various problems with the display of your website.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Each

Adaptive and responsive designs each have their advantages and disadvantages. With Adaptive design, you have control over how your website displays at each resolution – and your website has a high probability of looking flawless, but this degree of control comes at the cost of more work, as you need to build your website for six different resolutions used by various mobile devices.

That’s not to say that Responsive designs don’t have their disadvantages. Although you eliminate the extra work of basically creating six different websites at varying resolutions, you really have to watch your CSS syntax because if you misuse a media query, your website will look “wrong” on mobile devices.

So Which Method Should I Use?

That depends on many factors such as time constraints, your budget and your site’s specific needs. Adaptive web design is useful when you need to quickly retrofit an existing website to become more friendly toward mobile devices, and it also gives you a bit more control over the end result. You can even cut your workload by checking your website statistics for which devices are the most widely used, then develop for those specific resolutions.

However, responsive designs are more widely used because websites are dynamically resized according to the size of visitors’ screens and therefore don’t require that designs be made for multiple resolutions. However, bear in mind that with responsive designs, you don’t have as much control over the end result, which you may not like.


In this article, we’ve covered the differences of Responsive vs Adaptive web design and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of each. This is how web designers are designing their websites to be more mobile-friendly. Whichever method you choose, you will now be ready for the mobile device traffic when it finally finds you – and it won’t be a question of if, but when.

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