Responsive vs. Adaptive: One Size Doesn't Fit All
Adaptive and responsive strategies are now the dominating factors in web design discussion. As a result, marketers have become hyperaware of the implications of their design and the customer experience that their site offers. Brands are clamoring to figure out which design strategy is "best" and will maintain site relevancy, engagement and visibility among users.
Both methods offer certain design and user experience advantages and disadvantages; the only way to identify a best practice is to determine the intent, content and calls to action (CTA) for each unique site. Despite the constant buzz and conversation surrounding this topic, many marketers still don't fully understand the differences in application and implication of both strategies.
First and foremost, what's the difference between responsive and adaptive?
Responsive web design (RWD) is a website (or web pages) that has been built upon a grid-based framework (e.g., Foundation, Skeleton) that will allow the design to fluidly change and respond to fit any screen or device size. Responsive frameworks are based entirely upon browser width.
Adaptive web design (AWD) is a website (or web pages) that has been built upon a frame that will allow the design to adapt, or change, to fit a predetermined set of screen and device sizes. Unlike responsive, adaptive isn't just a single template or frame. Adaptive strategy implements three layers of multiple predetermined templates that load based on device.
With consumers increasing dependence on tablets and smartphones, users demand a quality experience at all times, regardless of the means they use to access a brand's site. Both RWD and AWD allow websites to be viewed on mobile devices and various screen sizes, ultimately providing visitors with a better mobile user experience. While optimal user experience is the goal of both adaptive and responsive strategies, the foundations that both strategies rely on to achieve this end differ. Content is at the center of responsive design, while device — and differing consumer behaviors based on device — is the primary focal point of adaptive design.