Responsive web design and adaptive web design are quite different, but not hard to understand. They are two popular ways websites can be coded to visually display on different platforms.
Adaptive design is when a developer writes several different layouts for a website for different types of devices. When a user accesses the site in question, the coding automatically detects the device being used and displays a unique layout. The look of the site may change entirely, so to make browsing and moving between pages more simple. The end user may have a different experience with the same site if they are accessing it from a desktop versus accessing it from a smartphone.
Responsive Web Design
Adaptive web design does require more coding because a developer must write for each type of device. However, one big plus is that adaptive design for mobile can allow a person to have totally unique, mobile-optimized content. If the website is fairly large with many pages, adaptive may be the best solution to give smartphone and tablet users select, important pieces of content.
Responsive websites are often seen as more simple to code and faster to construct. These sites are developed to show the exact original design across all platforms. The difference with responsive design is that the site automatically adjusts its layout to fit the size of the user’s screen. This is also referred to as “fluid design”.
For example, say a website has a row of four square images at the top of its homepage which display next to each other on a widescreen desktop. When viewing this same page on mobile, there may not be enough space to display that row of images inline. Thus, the mobile experience may show two of those square images on top and two positioned below, so as to condense all in. If a website is smaller and doesn’t have many content blocks, the use of responsive design could be best.
While very distinct, responsive and adaptive web designs are similar in that they provide ways for people to view the web in their preferred manner. The scope of the website itself will determine the best of the two methods to utilize.