Responsive Web Design vs Adaptive Web Design – Which One is Better for You?

Long, long ago, in an age where there were only personal computers, a website was a fairly simple...

Long, long ago, in an age where there were only personal computers, a website was a fairly simple thing. And then the world exploded and companies found that they had to make websites that displayed well on laptops, smartphones, tablets, phablets, 10-inch screens, 8-inch screens, 5-inch screens …


How were companies to keep up with the fluctuating variety of screen sizes out there? Would they have to make special versions for each and every device? Thankfully, no!

Adaptive Vs Responsive Website Design

Enter adaptive and responsive website design. These two new approaches suggested an alternative that was as ‘smart’ as the devices the sites were being optimized for. Companies could cheer again for they were no longer at danger of alienating a large portion of their clientele that had migrated away from the traditional desktop.


For the layman, ‘responsive’ and ‘adaptive’ are terms that can be used interchangeably. After all, don’t they both create mobile responsive design for sites? Yes, they do, but there’s a clear distinction between both approaches which extends beyond sites that can be viewed comfortably across a wide range of handheld devices. Understanding that will help you decide which could be a better solution for your business.

Responsive Website Design

Coined by designer and developer Ethan Marcotte, responsive website design (RWD) revolves around the concept of browser sizes. In it, only one site with one HTML code is created. However, its layout changes depending on the width of the browser you’re viewing it on. Owing to tweaks in the site’s CSS, the elements on a page rearrange to fit into the space available to them.

Adaptive Website Design

Adaptive web design (AWD), on the other hand, creates multiple versions of the same site. Think of them as pre-defined templates, each with its own HTML and CSS code. AWD relies on a sophisticated auto-detection script (which runs on the web server) to identify the visiting device, its size, and capabilities. Based on the feedback received, the best version of the site is delivered to the users.


As you can see, while the end result is the same, how it is achieved is very, very different. In RWD, the elements arrange themselves automatically depending on the size of the browser. In AWD, you decide beforehand how the pages are rendered and what functionality is made available to a particular device.


So, which of these approaches is best suited for your business? The answer is not straightforward. The aim of both is to create a mobile responsive design; however, AWD is quite complicated and fairly expensive. It’s an option that only large companies with little or no budgetary constraints can enjoy. Also, experts believe that the practice of creating multiple versions of the same site is on its way out.

Advantages of RWD

There’s no doubt that responsive website design is a simpler and hassle-free option. There are other advantages as well. For instance,


  • Your site remains consistent across different platforms.
  • With page views streamlined through a single URL, you also benefit from improved SEO and social sharing.
  • Development time is reduced and you don’t have to worry about maintaining several URLs.

If you’re considering revamping your website and upgrading to a responsive design, Plasma offers cost-effective solutions that fit into your budget. Our team will not just make your website look and work well on all devices, we will also use the latest technology that future-proofs your website for several years to come.