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Adaptive vs. Responsive, the battle for mobile web design

As an award winning digital creative agency, it just wouldn’t do for us not to talk about the crucial matter of adaptive, or indeed responsive, web design. In a digital marketplace that is becoming increasingly varied, mobile based platforms being especially prevalent and set to dominate the scene in the next few years, it is essential that your site is able to be viewed in a variety of forms.

You may well have heard the words ‘responsive’ and ‘adaptive’ bandied about, but what do they mean? And what are the benefits of each?
‘Responsive web design’, a phrase that was coined back in 2010 by Ethan Marcotte, describes the use of fluid grids and images along with media queries to modify websites so that they are viewable in different formats. This design is seen as client side, as the page is delivered to the browser and that changes how the page appears based on media queries. Responsive design can be difficult to test as you are never sure of exactly how your website will appear. The beauty of responsive is that you can be certain of fundamental functionality, and that the layout you have created will be deployed along a set of fixed rules.

However, ‘adaptive web design’, sometimes seen as synonymous with ‘progressive enhancement’,  is a process of ‘adapting’ websites to fit different devices and formats not just in form but also in function. For example, if the website is accessed via a touch screen device photo streams can be scrolled through using simple finger swipes, vastly improving user experience. This website design is seen as server side, the server detecting the attributes of the accessing device and optimising the site before delivery. Of the Alexa top 100 global sites, 82 use a form of server side detection, showing just how well it can improve a site’s image if deployed correctly.

Whether you choose responsive or adaptive web design, you can be sure that your site will appear on a mobile or a range other devices. There certainly are differences though; it is just left to you to decide whether you want a site that works passably well on the move (responsive), or to build a mobile experience from the start (adaptive).

Whatever you decide, here at Selesti we have the expertise to deliver either solution. Why not let us know which you would prefer?