Responsive Design Vs. Adaptive: What to Consider When Choosing - Learn about UX research, design, and more... (2024)

Read to compare responsive design vs. adaptive design, find out what to consider when opting for one of them, their major differences, as well as their pros and cons.

Let’s imagine: You have a website for your client and start to get complaints from visitors that it does not work correctly on all types of devices. Now, the question arises, how can you design your website for all devices?

Until recently, websites were designed for desktops only. But as you know, not everyone uses desktops nowadays! When a website is presented through a mobile, tablet, or any other handheld device, the user needs to experience smooth and error-free browsing.

The ideal solution is to use responsive and adaptive design solutions that are compatible with all types of devices, browsers, and platforms without compromising the quality of the user experience. This is the process of using CSS media queries to change the website’s layout, adjust image sizes, or sometimes resize the background images according to the device’s screen size. Even better would be to then do usability testing of your website with real users on desktops and conduct mobile usability testing to uncover usability issues you overlooked.

What Are Responsive & Adaptive Designs?

Responsive web design

Responsive web design (RWD) is an approach to web design aimed at creating sites with an optimal viewing experience. It provides easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, scrolling, or panning across various devices, from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones.

Responsive Design Vs. Adaptive: What to Consider When Choosing - Learn about UX research, design, and more... (1)

Source: Interaction Design Foundation

RWD is a way of creating web content that responds to the reader’s screen (as per the user’s action) rather than having each page be designed separately for each device. This approach simplifies web design by allowing designers and developers to create designs and elements only once so they work across all devices. It also allows a website to scale automatically, adapting the layout and design elements to create the best user experience possible. With one shared grid, designers build out the site to remain uniform across different devices.

One of the most famous examples of using responsive UI is the Shopify platform, which aims to give mobile users an optimal experience. It automatically detects different devices at page load and displays a fully customized layout.

Adaptive web design

Adaptive web design (AWD) is an approach to web design that enables a website to adjust its content to the device’s width. It typically uses multiple fixed layout grids—when the system detects the browser size, it selects the layout most appropriate for the screen.

Responsive Design Vs. Adaptive: What to Consider When Choosing - Learn about UX research, design, and more... (2)

Responsive Design Vs. Adaptive: What to Consider When Choosing - Learn about UX research, design, and more... (3)

Source: Shopify

This lets you break free from the 960px (or 12-column) layout that was once standard. The idea behind it is to prepare more than one layout for every screen size, ranging from small handheld devices like phones and tablets all the way up to large desktop monitors.

If you have certain users who use older, less capable mobile devices, then you should tailor a separate experience for them. With adaptive designs, you can utilize media queries to change the page’s layout according to the user’s device and browser. Whether it is making images more lightweight and lowering memory consumption, or resizing fonts and increasing readability — adaptive designs can handle anything you throw at them.

This type of web design is used mainly by big-name sites with complex content, such as Amazon or Apple:

Responsive Design Vs. Adaptive: What to Consider When Choosing - Learn about UX research, design, and more... (4) Responsive Design Vs. Adaptive: What to Consider When Choosing - Learn about UX research, design, and more... (5)

Source: Apple

Responsive vs. Adaptive Design: What to Consider When Comparing

Responsive web design appears to be more commonly adopted than adaptive design, but each approach has its strengths and weaknesses instead of being opposite or mutually exclusive. Both types should be considered when determining what is best for your business since they each have different strengths.

Responsive Design Vs. Adaptive: What to Consider When Choosing - Learn about UX research, design, and more... (6)

Source: Zymr

1. The difficulty of realization

On the one hand, you have an adaptive web design that uses CSS media queries to adjust the layout of a website. On the other hand, you have a responsive web design that uses fluid grids and flexible images to adapt to different devices. Most people argue that adaptive designs are more challenging to develop due to multiple layouts for different devices.

This is partially true, as having different breakpoints means more work designing and developing. But this isn’t necessarily the case. It might be easier to fit your website with a fluid design, where you don’t have to worry about assigning specific widths and heights to elements, but this ease comes with consequences.

The main idea behind responsive design seems to be uniformity. Here, you have to ensure that every detail on your website is visible and defined throughout all devices and screen sizes. The only changes throughout devices are the amount of padding, margins, and the number of columns available for displaying content.

2. Load time

Responsive layouts use the same HTML on different devices, while adaptive layouts load completely new HTML depending on the device type. A responsive layout requires more effort in website creation because it uses a single HTML for all devices, but the code uses media queries to show or hide content based on screen width. By contrast, an adaptive layout creates a new HTML for each device with a different width. This leads to faster load times.

Your pages should load quickly if you want to deliver a good user experience. You can lose many visitors if a page takes too long to load. This means that your bounce rate will increase, and your website’s conversion rate will drop. For an eCommerce site, this has a significant impact on the bottom line. For this reason, it is essential to check your website’s speed by using a website auditing tool such as SE Ranking, which will visualize all the necessary parameters so that you can find gaps in the website’s performance and immediately fix them.

Responsive Design Vs. Adaptive: What to Consider When Choosing - Learn about UX research, design, and more... (7)

Source: SE Ranking

3. Layout development: one vs. several

With a responsive design, there is only one layout, which resizes for various devices. Be it a PC, laptop, or tablet – the layout will adjust according to the screen size. With responsive design, the designer arranges the sole layout of web-based apps for different devices.

In contrast, an adaptive design works separately with multiple layouts for each device. The idea is to have no situation where a user cannot access the site or have a poor experience because of the layout. This means creating layouts that preserve your brand’s consistency and usability regardless of the device used.

4. Flexibility

Any website that adapts to different screen sizes automatically seems “flexible” to a user. All websites built with responsive design are infinitely flexible because they can be adjusted to any screen size. The pages may have high or low-resolution screens, but the designs adjust automatically according to the screen. It doesn’t matter how narrow or wide your site is. A well-designed responsive UI looks great on any device.

On the other hand, an adaptive design will break the site layout on a new device with a different screen size. The old layout needs to be customized according to the new screen size to fix this. With adaptive design, you may always need to update the layout for different screen resolutions.

5. Level of Control over each detail

Responsive websites are a great starting point for professionals learning to build and maintain sites, but they don’t give you quite as much control over layout and styling. Therefore, you will want to use a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal to maintain a responsive page. These systems come with free built-in templates that are mobile-friendly.

On the other hand, adaptive websites offer more control but are harder to build and require extensive developer resources. They are usually built by experienced designers who have the opportunity to create more complex sites, and it is easier to fine-tune them at any time. The right solution depends on your needs and budget.

6. SEO friendliness

Getting a good ranking in the search results of Google, Bing, and other search engines is one of the most critical factors for any website. Responsiveness in web design is so popular because your site is more likely to rank higher with this type of design.

The reason why Google likes it: users find responsive designs much easier to use on mobile devices, especially due to their ability to resize according to the window they are viewed against. This provides a better user experience which improves SEO and makes a page much easier to understand and generate more traffic.

Pros and Cons of Responsive Design vs. Adaptive Design

Responsive Design Vs. Adaptive: What to Consider When Choosing - Learn about UX research, design, and more... (8)

Responsive Design


  • More SEO friendly — This is because the page layout is responsive to different screen sizes and orientations, so it displays predictably and pleasantly on any device. This, in turn, means that the search engines will reward you for your effort in optimizing your site for mobile users.
  • Easier to implement — The task is to create a single layout using various online templates instead of creating different layouts for mobile and desktop versions of pages. This makes responsive design faster and easier to deploy because there’s less code to write.
  • More budget-friendly — It is more cost-effective because there is no need to build a site from scratch multiple times for various devices. Since responsive sites are built with a single codebase, upgrading your technology is cheaper.
  • Flexibility — It is considered flexible since such a design can be adjusted to any screen size, regardless of whether the visitor uses a smartphone, tablet, desktop, or computer.
  • Everything in a single URL — With a responsive design, a single URL can be used for all devices. This is a huge benefit because it means you don’t need to create separate URLs for each device, and the user doesn’t need to manage different links.


  • Slower page-loading — To function on many devices, responsive design requires extra resources for every page load, including a JavaScript file and CSS files. This can cause a noticeable increase in loading time on mobile devices.
  • Integrating Advertisem*nts — Advertisem*nts can disappear from the screen in a responsive design if they do not fit vertically or horizontally on your screen.
  • Problems with usability — The main problem with RWD is that it does not support the same features on different-sized devices. Some features may be included only in the desktop version, while others may be available only in the mobile version.

Adaptive Design


  • Best Experience — Adaptive design provides a higher degree of compatibility with today’s various devices. It ensures a better user experience by tailoring your content to meet users’ needs on any screen size and in any environment.
  • Fast Loading — With adaptive design, your website will be individually rendered and specially tailored to the dimensions and capabilities of each device. And your customers will all get the same fast-loading experience, regardless of their device.
  • Optimized for advertising — Advertisers also value the ability of adaptive design to optimize advertisem*nts through data from smart gadgets and on-site user behavior.
  • Reusable existing website — Adaptive design means the client can use their existing website and simply change the home page to include a different look, feel, and message. The rest of their site will be reused with minimal or no updates.


  • Harder to maintain — Unlike a responsive design that can be updated by a developer in a single place and immediately reflect all changes across all devices, maintaining an adaptive site requires different approaches for different situations.
  • More expensive — Adaptive design is more expensive because it requires additional development time to create the code, other resources such as developers and designers, and testing time to ensure that the technology works in an intended way.
  • Not SEO-friendly — The development of a large number of mobile phones and tablets has led to various screen sizes. For this reason, you must create versions for each size and breakpoint. You may miss a breakpoint by not creating an additional layout, which could result in a bad user experience that search engines like Google do not welcome.

Responsive vs. Adaptive Web Design: the Right Choice

Responsive Design Vs. Adaptive: What to Consider When Choosing - Learn about UX research, design, and more... (9)

Responsive and adaptive web designs are both parts of the same family. Responsive design is a subset that takes advantage of all devices to create an optimal user experience. Adaptive design was developed not long after responsive design and focuses on providing a suitable layout for each device. Both approaches are equally effective, but it’s up to you to decide which works best for your project.

If you decide to employ a responsive website design, one thing is for sure: responsive websites can take longer to load because they have to deliver a different set of elements and resources for each device. If your main priority is ensuring that your website loads quickly, you should consider using adaptive design instead. Adaptive websites serve different files and/or elements based on the device used by the viewer.

While both have their own merits, it can be challenging to make the right decision. Before deciding which type of website is right for you, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are my customers?
  • What devices are they most likely to browse on?
  • How can I best reach them?
  • How can I provide them with a positive experience so they keep coming back?

Besides, do not forget to think about your needs as well. Ask yourself what your short-term and long-term goals are, what your budget is, and what your competitors use. The answers to these questions will help you make the right decision!

Reading tip on Website design: Website architecture – How to structure your website


Responsive and adaptive design are two popular terms used to describe different approaches to web design in the 21st century. In short, RWD is an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience across a wide range of devices. AWD is similar to RWD, but it serves different content depending on the device used to access the website. With AWD, the content seen by the user will change based on the size of their screen.

Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages. Learning about responsive and adaptive design more thoroughly can help you decide which one to choose! After you have the best solution for your specific needs, you should take a look at our tips to improve UX on your web page.

Responsive Design Vs. Adaptive: What to Consider When Choosing - Learn about UX research, design, and more... (2024)


What do you prefer responsive design or adaptive design explain why? ›

Choosing Between Responsive and Adaptive Design. Responsive design is easier and takes less work to implement. It affords less control over your design on each screen size, but it's by far the preferred method for creating new sites at this moment.

Which is better responsive or adaptive web design? ›

Responsive design often works best for bigger sites that are being designed from scratch. Adaptive design often works best for smaller sites that are being refreshed.

What are some of the responsive web design considerations you need to consider? ›

Responsive Design Best Practices
  • Eliminate Friction. ...
  • Design for Thumbs. ...
  • Take Advantage of Mobile Devices' Native Hardware. ...
  • Make Layouts Fluid/Adaptive by Default. ...
  • Don't Forget About Landscape Orientation. ...
  • Remember, Typography Can Be Responsive Too. ...
  • Lazy Load Non-vital Images and Videos. ...
  • Conditional Loading.

What are the 3 components of responsive web design? ›

  • Responsive web design has become a hot topic among web designers who want to provide a fair and consistent experience across all devices.
  • Responsive web design is divided into three main components: the media query, the web browser, and the responsive web interface itself.
12 Mar 2021

What is one advantage of responsive design for a developer? ›

The primarily benefit of responsive web design is that sites load quickly without any distortions, so users don't need to manually resize anything to view content.

Why responsive design is important? ›

Responsive design allows your website content to flow freely across all screen resolutions and sizes, and renders it to look great on all devices. It also makes it unnecessary to maintain different versions of your website for mobile and desktop and saves you time, resources and efforts.

Does Google prefer responsive design? ›

Responsive design is Google's recommended design pattern.” The responsiveness of your website is unequivocally an important factor in improving user experience and avoiding common SEO pitfalls that can hinder your Google rankings.

Is responsive design difficult? ›

Responsive, good and bad

Good responsive work is still quite rare. Why? Because responsive design is really hard. Designing for every device that exists and could ever exist is much harder than designing for a specific device.

How do you know if a website is adaptive or responsive? ›

As above, if the layout looks different on desktop and mobile user agents, it's adaptive, and if the site resizes to fit the screen when you pull the corner of the window, it's also responsive.

Why is responsive web design important now more than ever? ›

Responsive design can help you solve a lot of problems for your website. It will make your site mobile-friendly, improve the way it looks on devices with both large and small screens, and increase the amount of time that visitors spend on your site. It can also help you improve your rankings in search engines.

What is one of the most important considerations for designers when it comes to designing for different screen types size? ›

The key takeaway here is that you, as a designer should specify what should happen with the images upon viewport size changes, how these elements are displayed on different viewport sizes. And how can we specify what part of the image will be displayed and what part will be cropped out?

What is considered responsive design? ›

Defining Responsive Design

Responsive web design (RWD) is a web development approach that creates dynamic changes to the appearance of a website, depending on the screen size and orientation of the device being used to view it.

What are some of the rules for responsive design? ›

With these ground rules, your responsive designs will be more robust and predictable.
  • Video. ...
  • Rule #1: Keep your viewport simple. ...
  • Rule #2: Mobile first. ...
  • Rule #3: Design from content out. ...
  • Rule #4: Use ems in your media queries. ...
  • Rule #5: Min-width or max-width, pick one. ...
  • Rule #6: Avoid fixed dimensions.
2 Jul 2019

What are responsive design requirements? ›

Responsive websites have three defining features: flexible layouts, media queries and flexible media.
  • Flexible layouts. Flexible layouts are the practice of building the layout of a website with a flexible grid. ...
  • Media queries. ...
  • Flexible images and videos.
16 Oct 2019

What are the top 10 reasons for Responsive web design? ›

Benefits of Responsive Website Design
  • Mobile-friendly. ...
  • Flexible. ...
  • Better User Experience. ...
  • Create Content Without Any Hassle. ...
  • Improves the Loading Time. ...
  • Increases Social Media Connectivity. ...
  • Easy Maintenance. ...
  • Enhance User Visibility in Search Engines.

What are two benefits of responsive UI? ›

Responsive behavior provides an optimal user experience of the elements in a view regardless of screen size — minimizing horizontal scrolling and maximizing data presentation in the available display space.

What's one benefit of using responsive display? ›

Save time: Using responsive display ads, you can reduce your overhead for managing ad portfolios within ad groups and campaigns, and dedicate more time to performance improvement.

What kind of testing is important in responsive design? ›

Hence, visual testing is important. Visual testing is often the first step in responsive design testing. Testers take the intended UI design of the app/website and compare the look and feel across various screen-device-OS combinations.

Why is responsiveness important UX? ›

Responsive UX design is becoming an increasingly important part of website development. It is a way to make your website as accessible and easy to navigate as possible for your audience across a wide range of technological devices.

Is responsive design a skill? ›

Responsive design is a key component of the web development process. The guidelines for responsive design ensure that HTML, CSS (cascading style sheets), and JavaScript elements like menus, text, and buttons are clear and usable everywhere.

What is the best unit for responsive design? ›

Percentage is one of the most useful units for creating a responsive or fluid layout. Popular frameworks like Bootstrap, foundation, and Bulma use percentage for their base layout. Here the full-width class will be of 100% width of its parent element.

Is responsive design UI or UX? ›

Responsive Design lets designers show content based on the browser space available. This allows consistency between what a site shows on a desktop and what it shows on a handheld device. Responsive design is the “traditional” option and remains the more popular approach to date. Uniform & seamless = good UX.

Is responsive design a functional requirement? ›

To answer your question, Responsiveness is under the Performance requirements, therefore it is a non-functional requirement.

What is the difference between responsive and adaptive scheme? ›

The responsive design will reconfigure all design elements whether it's viewed on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. With adaptive design, different fixed layouts are created that adapt to the users screen size.

Is Bootstrap Adaptive or responsive? ›

Bootstrap, the most popular CSS framework, is mostly used for designing responsive, mobile-first websites.

What is one advantage of adaptive web design over responsive design quizlet? ›

What is one advantage of adaptive web design over responsive web design? Adaptive design is easier to program. Among the web design elements that help create a satisfactory customer experience are: multiple navigations aids like breadcrumbs and different colors for followed links.

What will be the future of responsive web design? ›

The future of responsive design is a user's context in space and time, their devices context in space and time, and the user's preferences on said devices in space and time. It's all of these things. Today's web browsers we access and develop for give us the power to leverage these inputs in our designs.

Which language is best for Responsive Website? ›

Responsive web design makes your web page look good on all devices. Responsive web design uses only HTML and CSS. Responsive web design is not a program or a JavaScript.

What are the most important must haves for any responsive website? ›

With the design of responsive Web sites, providing the reader with a comfortable experience is a top priority. Practically speaking, you need to ensure that padding and margins do not disappear on smaller screens. Font sizes and line spacing should adjust to the relative amount of whitespace on screen.

What are the 5 design considerations? ›

Top 5 List of Design Considerations for an Owner
  • #5 – Operations and Event Schedule. ...
  • #4 – Redundancy and Reliability Requirements. ...
  • #3 – Sustainability Goals. ...
  • #2 – Project Delivery Method. ...
  • #1 – Construction Budget and Cost Model.
13 Sept 2021

What's an example of adaptive design? ›

Let's break this down even more. Say there are three separate devices rendering the same web page: a desktop, tablet, and a mobile phone. For an adaptive design, we could create three different layouts for each of the devices. Or we could have two layouts: one for mobile, and one for the desktop/tablet.

What is the first step to creating a responsive design? ›

Step 1: Make sure you understand the basics of responsive web design. The first step in the responsive web design process is to understand what it is. This is by far the most important step and will be the determining factor of your successful implementation of this technology in your websites' design.

How many types of responsive are there? ›

When it comes to responsive web development, we have basically three layout types to choose from.

What is the most popular framework used in responsive web design? ›

Bootstrap is a free, open-source front-end framework. It is used for designing and developing responsive websites and web applications. It is the most popular framework of its type and the second most starred project on GitHub.

What are the most common breakpoints for responsive design? ›

What are common breakpoints? Common breakpoints are 320px — 480px for mobile devices, 481px — 768px for iPads & tablets, 769px — 1024px for small screens like laptop, 1025px — 1200px for large screens like Desktops, and 1201px and above for extra large screens like TV.

Why should you use responsive images? ›

Having responsive images is important because it helps us deliver optimal file size, the right image for the right screen size, improves user experience and improves loading time. Having various versions of your image is important for creating a responsive image.

What is the ideal screen resolution for responsive design and why is it ideal? ›

As for the desktop version, the best choice is the 1280×720 screen resolution. It is a minimal size for desktop devices. Usually, the desktop version is user-friendly and perfectly readable if the screen resolution width is more than 1280. The tablet screen resolution varies between 1280×800 and 768×1024.

What is responsive design and why is it important for SEO? ›

Responsive web design makes websites faster, more accessible, and easier to navigate. It makes it easier for users to then find the information they are looking for and typically encourages them to stay on your site. Plus, fantastic usability may encourage users to come back to your website in the future.

What is difference between responsive and adaptive? ›

The responsive design will reconfigure all design elements whether it's viewed on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. With adaptive design, different fixed layouts are created that adapt to the users screen size.

What are the key elements of responsive design? ›

5 key elements of a well-designed responsive Web site
  • Consistency. ...
  • Compatibility. ...
  • Whitespace. ...
  • Intuitive navigation. ...
  • Optimized images.

Which resolution is better for the perfect design? ›

So going with a design file resolution that's 1440px or 1920px wide is a great start. The next decision will be to decide what maximum size the main container should have, within which you'll have your columns. This is even more important than what size your design file has.

What is adaptive design UX? ›

Adaptive designs are a range of pre-made layouts that fit different screen sizes. The device's browser selects the best-fitting design from those options.

What is one advantage of adaptive web design? ›

Faster loading times- your users won't be waiting around for your website to load with an adaptive mobile website. Instead the website will only load the information and features necessary for their device. This means that in general, an adaptive website takes less time to load than a responsive website.

What is adaptive design approach? ›

What is adaptive design? Adaptive design is a user interface that's adapted to different screen sizes. It consists of multiple fixed layouts where the size most closely associated with the user's device is rendered—whether that's a phone, tablet, computer, or something in between.

Can you explain responsive design in simple terms? ›

Defining Responsive Design

Responsive web design (RWD) is a web development approach that creates dynamic changes to the appearance of a website, depending on the screen size and orientation of the device being used to view it.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Merrill Bechtelar CPA

Last Updated:

Views: 5935

Rating: 5 / 5 (70 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Merrill Bechtelar CPA

Birthday: 1996-05-19

Address: Apt. 114 873 White Lodge, Libbyfurt, CA 93006

Phone: +5983010455207

Job: Legacy Representative

Hobby: Blacksmithing, Urban exploration, Sudoku, Slacklining, Creative writing, Community, Letterboxing

Introduction: My name is Merrill Bechtelar CPA, I am a clean, agreeable, glorious, magnificent, witty, enchanting, comfortable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.