The basics of adaptive vs responsive website design

One of the first questions that brands looking to design or redesign their website need to answer these days, is whether they would prefer an adaptive or responsive design.

This has only become an even more pertinent question as the use of mobile devices to access the web has boomed, meaning that any new or revamped website needs to cater as well for smartphone users as it does for those accessing the site via desktop computers.

So, what are the differences between adaptive and responsive web design, and what implications do they have for user experience (UX) and your organisation?

How these two approaches differ

Adaptive web design is much like it sounds; it’s an approach to design that allows a website to adapt to the different screen sizes of the various devices that may be used to access it. Going for an adaptive design necessitates designers creating layouts for the most common display sizes.

A responsive website design, meanwhile, automatically resizes its layout in accordance with the device used to visit it. You only need one design if you opt for a responsive approach, but coding is required to be hierarchical, so that the modules stack in an appropriate order on smaller displays. Regardless, a responsive design will elegantly fit the screen of whatever device is being used.

Why might you consider adaptive design?

One big reason to potentially choose an adaptive design is if you have an existing desktop-ready version of your website and don’t want to have to redesign everything you’ve done already. This might make adaptive design an attractive route if you lack the time or budget to put together a new, responsive site; it’s effectively a way of retrofitting your current site.

Adaptive design does come with a significant downside, though: the need to create layouts for all sizes of device, or at least the most frequently used ones. Even if you do a thorough job in this regard, there will almost certainly be atypically-sized devices left out of the equation.

Is responsive design a better idea?

The defining characteristic of responsive design is that it ‘responds’ to whatever size of display your visitor’s device might have, and only requires one layout to do so. That saves you from the additional coding and design work that an adaptive approach necessitates.

Only one layout to edit also makes the ongoing updating and maintenance of your website a comparative breeze. Furthermore, responsive designs tend to provide a better UX, due to the greater consistency they offer to website viewers.

As for downsides – well, not everyone actually wants to have only one layout for their website. Indeed, they might prefer being able to customise for different devices and screen sizes.

Much attention must also be paid to UX when coding a responsive site. Understanding the likely user journey through your site is really important, so it’s crucial to ensure the various elements of your responsive site are well-ordered for intuitive use.

Give us a call about your website design needs 

There are good reasons for a web design company to go for an adaptive design or a responsive design for a given client. Every client’s needs are different. While one may not want the hassle of redesigning a site entirely and may therefore prefer the adaptive approach, another may intend to comprehensively revamp their web presence anyway. In the latter instance, a responsive website design might be the better one in the long run.

Don’t be afraid to talk to the PENNInk Productions team now, calling 020 8144 7931 at first or even sending us an email, to discover how we could work as your web design company to get your revamped or all-new website just right in 2020.

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What I appreciated most was the level of engagement with me as a person and the way that has ultimately been reflected in the construction and design of my website.

Tamar Posner

Having tried two other web companies, my business has been with PENNInk for many years because I trust them and they make the most of my online presence, supporting and enabling growth. Thank you, PENNInk. You go above and beyond.

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PENNInk Productions are everything you could want when updating or having a brand new website. They are experts and take the mystery out of getting your message across to your customers. Thank you.

Christine Black

I would like to thank you for your recent work you have done to my website. My website looks refreshed and finally it is responsive. I was happy with the price you have quoted and you stayed in touch with me during the whole redesign process. I will not hesitate to recommend you to all my clients and friends and I will definitely use your services again.

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Lisa and her team are fabulously creative, great technicians, and, most importantly, take the time to listen to their clients' needs and wants to build the very best and effective websites. I would recommend them without hesitation.

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Just looked at the site and Lisa you've done a brilliant, brilliant job! I feel this is a really 'grown up site' and if that sounds daft just put it down to me being so thrilled at what Lisa has produced!

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PENNInk Productions Ltd.

PENNInk Productions Ltd.
020 8144 7931
27A Maxwell Road

Registered Company 04851085.
Registered in England and Wales.