There has been a lot of discussion about Responsive Web Design (RWD) and Adaptive Web Design (AWD) in the trade press and among enterprise IT teams looking to convert web sites and apps to user-friendly, flexible mobile displays. One of the main issues facing the enterprise is to decide between RWD and AWD. Once this decision is made, it is difficult and expensive to turn back. This article focuses on some of the differences and benefits of each of the techniques.Responsive Web Design: True responsive design is fluid, and uses CSS3 media queries to respond to any screen sizes. With CSS3, you can create a flexible grid where text can wrap and images can shrink and adjust along with your browser.


Adaptive Web Design: Adaptive design uses a series of static layouts based on breakpoints. For example, you may design a webpage at three different sizes: 320 for mobile phones, 760 pixels for tablets, and 960 for desktop browsers. Unlike responsive design (where the design responds while you adjust a browser window), adaptive files don’t respond once they are loaded. This method detects the device and calls up the properly sized layout for appropriate viewing.

Deciding on RWD Vs. AWD: If a business wishes to have a website display on all devices no matter the size or resolution, responsive fluid design will give users an optimal experience no matter what device they use, and it will allow for an HTML file to optimize for more than one environment.

Conversely, if the business wishes to display a website on specific devices with a concentrated user base on a specific device(s), the adaptive design approach may work better, as you the designers and developers would only need to develop layouts for a few screen sizes rather than planning for an optimal experience for all sizes and resolutions.

Advantages of Responsive Web Design over Adaptive Web Design: While there are clear advantages to RWD and AWD, the advantages of RWD outweigh AWD, and should be carefully considered before choosing a design approach.

  1. Ease in reaching to your audiences through tablet and mobile
  2. Improvements in conversion and sales ratio
  3. Consolidated Analytics
  4. Search engine visibility will be improved
  5. Save cost and time to do a mobile development
  6. Easy to maintain the website

In summary, every enterprise should consider the market and competitive advantages of RWD and AWD. But, it is crucial that the enterprise understand its customers, users and business requirements and make an educated decision on the design approach in order to achieve rapid ROI, improve user satisfaction and decrease TCO. A comprehensive review of design approaches and comparative requirements will ensure project and enterprise success.