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Responsive and adaptive web design

Updated on September 30, 2014

Main differences between adaptive and responsive web design

Both of these types of design are focused on the creation of websites aimed at ensuring nice appearance, convenient navigation, easily readable text, and correct presentation on all types of devices – from smartphones and tablets to large monitors and TVs.

Responsive web design is a method for the development of a website that allows for the creation of a site capable of adjusting itself to the type of device from which the user access it, and at the same time allows it to retain its optimal appearance. Such a web project grants the website the option to dynamically change its appearance depending on the screen size of the device.

Adaptive web design is a method for developing websites that allows for the creation of several designs with fixed dimensions, packets of specific functionalities for different types of devices, and a method for displaying the content.

Main differences between adaptive and responsive web design

The responsive web design is flexible, and websites that use it support a range of devices. The entire code is generated even when some of its elements do not display on browser or high quality graphics are automatically reduces on the screen. All of this reduces the speed with which the website loads.

With the adaptive web design, the website is presented in several fixed sizes for a range of devices:

  • - width of 320 and 360 pixels for smartphones
  • - width of 768 pixels for tablets
  • - width of 960 pixels for desktop computers

It is better to have as many as possible widths, for example support for 480 and 640 pixel screens for smartphones. The type of the device from which the website’s content is being accessed is determined by the web server. It also determines the most appropriate template, which contains only the most appropriate code and range of graphics, optimized for a particular screen size. In this way, the speed with which the site loads is higher than that of a website with responsive web design.

If you have decided to optimize an existing website, and ensure it is accessible through mobile devices, the responsive web design will require that you rewrite the existing code almost entirely. The adaptive web design could be incorporated into an existing website without the need of substantial changes. This in particular it true for large and more complex websites.

The responsive web design allows you to adapt your website for different screen sizes, and at the same time ensures that the number of visitors remains the same for all types of devices they use. This is ensured through the use of a single responsive layout. The adaptive web design allows for the creation of separate layouts for your web project for the different types of devices. This is the supreme choice for those websites that require a different look and functionality for their two versions – desktop and mobile.

Which one of the two designs should we use?

The responsive web design is particularly useful for websites with relatively simple functionality that do not require the development of custom layout versions for the desktop and the mobile user. It is also the method recommended for those webpages whose source code is not difficult to rewrite.The adaptive web design is the correct choice for those webmasters whose clients are inclined to look for different kind of information and to conduct different tasks during their visits, both via their mobile devices and their desktop computers. An important factor here is the fast speed with which the site loads.

Both methods can be used simultaneously in practice. The adaptive web design in particular uses some responsive web design technologies allowing for a flexible presentation. On both of these two variants the websites are capable of supporting mobile devices and are adaptable to any kind of device, connected to the Internet. It allows the website owner to save money for the creation of a separate mobile website.


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