Responsive vs. Adaptive Web Design
Desktop PCs are a quickly becoming a thing of the past. Today many people prefer to browse the web using their laptops, tablets, and smart phones. In fact, about half of all website traffic comes from users accessing the web on a mobile device. With the growing popularity in mobile, web-enabled devices comes a demand for websites that are compatible with various device types and sizes. To meet these mobile viewing demands, websites must be developed to respond to a broad range of viewing specifications, operating systems and browsers. This can be accomplished by developing websites to be either responsive or adaptive, both of which have their pros and cons.
Designing a website to be responsive to the infinite possibilities of screen sizes and device types is a popular approach to developing for mobile technology because it only requires a single site build. This is a huge time saver and the translation from smart phone to desktop works quite well. Unfortunately, using the responsive design template to handle the viewing translation for various devices can sometimes lead to longer page load times, depending on the device and the amount of data on the page, because the device must wait for the page to load the resources required for viewing on a variety of devices. The good news is that the responsive design approach works very well for most sites and if performance is affected, the page load times are typically only increased by a few seconds.
The adaptive website design approach is equally as effective a method to implementing a smooth viewing transition from one device to the next. The benefit of the adaptive approach is that the page load times can be significantly decreased because the device is only loading the resources required for that specific device. Unfortunately, this is a very labour intensive and costly approach to website development because a different template must be created for each device type. Not only does the developer have to develop a separate template for each device type, but updating can become a lengthy and cumbersome process because the updates must be completed on each template.
Whether you want to redesign your existing site or you want to design an entirely new site, making sure the design translates well on a variety of devices is essential these days. Deciding what approach is really a matter of preference and priority. If you are looking to keep development and maintenance costs down and page load times are not a significant concern the responsive approach is a great design choice. If you really need to optimize performance and page load times are a top priority over design costs, the adaptive design approach is the way to go.