Adaptive vs Responsive

Published at Apr 12th 18, 16:30

Google has never hidden its preference for the responsive web design (RWD) sequel to the big update rolled out on the 21st of April 2015 and thereby ranked friendly.

Although Google never specified in the update that the responsive web design should be resorted to by users, it nonetheless gave a covert endorsement of its accessibility on mobile coupled with its efficient UX and performance.

The difference between the adaptive and responsive design boils down to the comparative advantage held by one over the other regarding UX and performance.

Following the paradigm shift that came with the emergence of mobile telecommunication, subscribers are in a dilemma between a responsive, adaptive, web design (AWD) and a standalone site that has it mobile URL (web address).

Since the discourse bothers on responsive versus adaptive, it might be prudent relegating standalone mobile sites for now since they are even the least sought after among enterprises and designers. The maintenance and upfront cost that gets chunked up when creating standalone has made it less fancied.

The Difference

Responsive employs the CSS media queries in adapting seamlessly to the size of the screen regardless of the resolution of the target device. The CSS media queries work by changing any of the display type, height or breadth concerning the target device. Once any of these styles are broken, it becomes relatively easy for it to adapt to different screens.

The Adaptive design, on the other hand, employs static layouts using breakpoints as a portal. Breakpoints do not give instantaneous response after they have been loaded. Adaptive as the name implies works to know the ideal screen size and afterwards, load the right layout for it.

Designers who use the adaptive often designs for significant screen widths - 320, 480, 760, 960, 1200, and 1,600.

Using this rationale, it might be apposite to assume that the adaptive is more laborious since it requires one to design at least six widths. Responsive nonetheless could be more tasking as the wrong use of CSS media queries (or even failure to use them)  could disrupt proper display and efficient performance.

Responsive has stirred the discourse in recent years because a good number of sites prefer delivering the complete desktop model which still hampers the speed of the site even when it fails to load on the mobile device. Media queries are the right antidote to overcoming this challenge. Although it might come with a few drawbacks since responsive sites are not meant to be swift and committed mobile sites.

Why Adaptive?

Adaptive helps in retrofitting a site in such a way that makes the particular site a mobile friendly one. In so doing, designers may have mastery of the design and propagate, multiple viewports Designers are left with the option of choosing the number of viewports they want to design.

This might also be at the discretion of the company and budgetary allocation meant for the project. The adaptive nonetheless affords the designer a decent level of control over the layout and content that one might not be privileged to manipulating when the responsive is used.

As it is the norm, design starts from a low-resolution viewport after which the designer now ensures that the content does not constitute a constraint to the design.

It is entirely okay if one feels at ease designing an adaptive scratch from the very beginning. It begins with the lowest resolution and then following the standard procedures. 

Higher resolution viewports could be attained by using media queries in expanding the layout. Multiple viewports may, however, come with the snag of the layout being out of proportion when one attempts to resize the window.

It can be energy consuming attempting to design and develop a site that has multiple viewports with the adaptive design. Thus, adaptive is best used for retrofitting.

Why Responsive?

Designers and developers who are yet to know their onions so well often leverage on the preference shown for responsiveness by businesses and organizations. A significant number of newly developed sites subscribe to the responsiveness and designers also exploit the availability of themes through CMS systems including Drupal, WordPress, and Joomla.

Responsive is not as restrictive as the adaptive but is less tasking in maintenance and construction.While adaptive makes use of percentage in giving a somewhat smooth touch when scaling, responsive layouts are fluid. The use of percentages by adaptive might elicit a jump in the cause of resizing a window.

It is often shrewd to emphasize the creation of a viewport that is in tune with mid-resolution to be able to use media queries. This gives room for adjusting low and high resolutions subsequently. All possible layouts are being designed when using the responsive, and this might distort the process making it look somewhat cumbersome.

Sorting out the pros of both designs, adaptive fares better when retrofitting while responsive thrives better for new projects.

Required Parameters to Consider

To recapitulate on points made earlier, responsive sites might be frustrating when speed is taken into consideration and this is usually worse off when the implementation is shoddy.

Responsive is also demanding in terms of coding which ensures that the site fits into any screen that accesses it. Although, these extra demands are in no way comparable to that of the adaptive design which requires a distinct CSS and HTML code for each of its layouts. Adjusting adaptive sites is quite cumbersome as the designer needs to make sure that things like the SEO, links and contents are all working sitewide for a smooth implementation.