People aren’t accessing websites on standard desktops or laptops only anymore.
There are many different devices, tablets and phones on the market in varying sizes and configurations—with new ones constantly coming out.
In fact, Americans now own four digital devices on average.
And people are using them to access the Internet, and demand sites to perform well. So, web designers are challenged to make sure that users accessing their sites are able to easily navigate them no matter what device they are using.
Developers are using two methods to meet the challenge: adaptive web design (AWD) and responsive web design (RWD). Both methods address the issue for rendering websites on mobile devices. But that begs the question.
Adaptive vs. responsive web design: what’s the difference?
What Is Adaptive Web Design?
Adaptive Web Design provides several layouts for different screen sizes. The type of layout depends on the type of screen size. Developers create layouts in advance specifically for mobile devices, tablets, and desktop and laptop computers. The respective layouts react when someone visits the website. The site recognizes which device is being used, and launches the pre-set layout for that device.
What Is Responsive Web Design?
Responsive Web Design creates optimal viewing of a website. The type of device the user is seeing it on doesn’t matter. The approach has been described as one that provides easy reading and navigation without resizing and scrolling challenges. A design method that utilizes fluid grids is used which allows the site to render regardless of the screen size. The same layout automatically responds to whichever size it encounters.
How Do They Compare?
Responsive Is More Difficult To Create—But Loads Faster
RWD requires a lot of development attention because the site needs to function well with any possible screen size. Making a few different layouts is much easier than making one layout that responds to various screen sizes. Websites created with AWD need to load all the possible layouts, which can create lag time for the user. RWD websites only need to load the one layout that works for every possible device, making time to load quicker than AWD. Also, Responsive sites have the flexibility to keep working on their own to adjust to different screen sizes.
Adaptive Requires More Maintenance
The AWD method, while advantageous in that it’s easier to create, has the downside that the website may not always display in the best way for all screen sizes. Adaptive layouts only work on as many screens as its layouts are capable. With new devices with new screen sizes entering the market regularly, it’s possible that none of the AWD layouts you created will work with newer screens. This will cause more work for you because you’ll have to go back and make changes to your existing layouts or even create new ones. Some maintenance is required with this type of web design.
So…Which Should You Choose?
The answer really comes down to what you believe will work best for you and your website.
Generally, RWD is the safer option because of its flexibility to adjust to all screen sizes no matter what. You have the peace of mind knowing it will function well even when new screen sizes are introduced. With quicker loading times, it’s usually worth the extra time it may take for you to set the site up with this method.
On the other hand, some sites may just be better suited for AWD. If you’re a smaller company just starting out, your resources may be spread thin and you need to take the simpler approach. AWD sites are easier to make, and slower load times and lower flexibility may not be an issue for you with a smaller audience when starting out.
Think through your needs. AWD is a solid option if you’re pressed for resources and need an easier route to design your site. RWD is a worthwhile investment for flexibility and ensuring your site works well on all devices.
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