Responsive vs Adaptive Web Design - What is the Best Choice
Last Updated On July 04, 2022

Responsive or Adaptive Design – What is the Best Choice for Mobile Viewing

Responsive or Adaptive Design – What is the Best Choice for Mobile Viewing
By Team TIS

When it comes to website designing, every professional web designer has one question on their minds – “Which should I opt for? Responsive or Adaptive design for mobile viewing?”

And it’s a good question!

Responsive web design is usually the preferred technique, and it has been since the term was coined by Ethan Marcotte on A List Apart in 2010. In fact, responsive designing is one of the best CSS “tricks” in the books today, and if you’re a brand or business looking to make mobile-friendly versions of their websites, you can go ahead and hire dedicated web designers who will in all probability tell you the same thing.

So where does Adaptive design come in? That’s a good question and this article will explore both these types of designs for mobile viewing.

Here’s when you should use Adaptive Design

Adaptive Web Design is another term for the progressive enhancement of a website. This means that if you already have a website, it’s best to use this technique to make a mobile-friendly version of your website. Through this method, you will have complete control over your budget because you’re the one in charge of your website design, its viewports, and content, so much so that you may not feel the need to use responsive design.

You can also use this technique if you’re starting from scratch, in which case you should begin by designing from the lowest resolution viewport and then working your way upwards.

Here’s when you should use Responsive Design

A large portion of websites (both new and old) today use responsive web design, and a big reason behind this is because of how easy it is to both build and maintain such websites by amateur developers and designers alike. WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla have an extensive collection of responsive designs, and you need to see these collections to understand how truly vast they are.

It’s best to opt for a responsive design if you hire dedicated web designers to start your web design from the ground up. Why? Because you get to pay for only one design that can easily be optimized to view via various mediums like smartphones, desktops, and tablets. There’s certainly no denying that The Future of Web Design is Responsive and we’re not the only ones who believe this.

Google says 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing and 40% visit a competitor’s site instead. Get free Pricing for mobile website development.

So what’s really the Difference between the two?

Responsive web design is usually the preferred technique, but why is it so? What does it have that adaptive design lacks? That’s a very good question, and we’ll explain it in the following brief points –

Responsive design is fluid

The best thing about responsive design is that it very easily manages to adapt to the size of the screen, irrespective of what the target device. Styles are changed by making use of CSS media queries according to what the target device is (eg its display type, width, height etc.). You need just one of these dimensions to adapt the design to various types of screens.

Server-side or client-side

Adaptive design is the server-side, which means that before you get to view that design on your screen, the serve which hosts the website detects the attributes of the device in front of you and loads a properly optimized version of the site (among the 6 designs set aside for it).

Responsive design is client-side, which means that the design of the website is first delivered to the device browser which in turn optimizes the appearance of the page so that it can be viewed according to the dimensions of the browser window.

Adaptive design uses static layouts

This design technique works by detecting the screen size on which the website is to be viewed, and then loading the appropriate layout for it. The keyword here is “detect”. This means you need to have different types of screen width designs (320, 480, 760, 960, 1200 and 1600) under your belt if you’re opting to design an adaptive site

It also means that if there’s a new device with a new screen size released in the market, you’ll end up with a website that cannot be properly viewed in it. You’ll be forced to make additions to your existing design, which means that all Adaptive sites will almost always require some occasional maintenance or the other.

Responsive websites load more quickly

You don’t need to hire expert web designers to know that the very premise on which responsive sites work is that they have one design. This means that unlike in Adaptive designs, the process of loading all those extra layouts (which in turn takes extra time and resources) is completely eliminated. This also means that by default, responsive websites are more SEO friendly than their adaptive counterparts.

Of course, this isn’t a rule of thumb. If you have 50 pages of responsive design to load, as compared to 5 pages of an adaptive site, the latter will load more quickly.

“Smooth” and “Snap” designs

In order to explain things simply and in a different manner, think of these designs in this way –

Responsive design is fluid, which makes the adjustment between different screen devices “smooth”, kind of like slowly pouring one cup of water to another. On the other hand, Adaptive design “snaps” into place (takes a few milliseconds) to adjust suddenly between different screen devices, just like how you’d empty the water content of one cup into another.


Do you see now why responsive web design is usually the preferred technique by professional web designers the world over? There must be those of you who want to see live examples of known web sites that make use of both responsive and adaptive designs before you can decide on whether or not to hire dedicated web designers to do your job for you. it’s better that you do!. For these people, we suggest them to go through various examples of modern responsive web designs. And don’t worry – they feature adaptive designs as well!

By Team TIS

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