Responsive Design or Adaptive Design, What should I use?
For the past couple of years, a new web design term has been hot on the development market, Responsive Web Design. The idea behind this development technique is simple, design one layout that looks beautiful on any device, period. Want to display the website on a 50” LED TV, no problem; need to view this page on a tablet, done; want ease of navigation on an iPhone, Android, or other smart phone, just design responsively.
What about Adaptive Design?
This technique achieves the same end goal, but does so in a noticeably choppy pattern. With larger screen formats being introduced and the ease and ability to fit multiple windows on a screen, it makes it ever more important to provide the end user with a fluid experience.
Which approach is best?
It is of my own opinion that a true Responsive layout transforms to provide the mobile end user with a better experience. Take for example a navigation bar—displaying this bar horizontally from mobile to desktop versions is not user friendly. A common technique employed in place of this is to add a menu-like button to the upper corner once the browsing device’s width reaches a certain requirement. The Pittsburgh Children’s Museum is a great example of this.
What do we call this approach?
In actuality, this is where the confusion sets in. Most people call what I just explained as Responsive Design. From reading this article, you are among the wise if you would say it is a combination of two ideas. In the end, I would call it Responsive and not Adaptive. Think of it like the epic Blu-ray and HD DVD battle of the past decade. Ultimately, one technology is superior and attracts more buyers, thus leading to market domination. From what I have seen, that is exactly what has happened with Responsive taking the edge over Adaptive. The difference with this battle is that the winner is leeching some of its competitor’s techniques to make it the dominate player.
Even though sites claiming to be Responsive in nature ultimately are using some Adaptive techniques, it is best to coin the term Responsive as that is what the current industry is looking for and it is what you should market toward. Just remember, to be Responsive, you need to have a fluid layout that looks good no matter what device you are using to view your website.