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Oct 18,2012 Shopify API Ecommerce

Responsive vs. adaptive web design

Responsive vs. adaptive web design

In case you haven’t noticed, mobile web design has arrived. With mobile traffic now accounting for around 12.5% (and rising) of all website visitors it’s high time you started putting effective mobile design at the top of your to-do list, because if you fail to do so you’ll be missing out on a huge sector of the market. And we mean huge. According to recent statistics 9 out of 10 mobile searches result in some action and over half the time that action is a purchase—mobile users are falling over themselves to buy something from you, so if you want to get those sales you need to make sure you’re giving visitors what they want.

And what they want is a site that works on their chosen device. Sounds simple enough but it’s surprising how many companies get it wrong—they don’t have an effective strategy in place and instead expect customers to use the desktop layout on their mobile, and that will easily send them elsewhere—so it’s time you considered the options and embraced the brand new world of mobile design. In that world there are two main options to choose from, responsive web design and adaptive, and here’s a quick run-through of each:


In this method you’re running the website from one content management system but it simply adapts and readjusts according to the dimensions of the device it’s being viewed on. The content stays the same but the layout changes—it might be in 3 columns on a desktop and 1 on a smartphone, for example—with it automatically adjusting and wrapping around columns to suit the screen. This method is quick and easy to implement but there are a few drawbacks, namely that the user doesn’t get a fully-optimised experience—searchers behave differently when using mobile devices and regular websites will take far too long to load on a smaller screen, damaging the overall experience. That’s where adaptive web design comes in.


This offers all the benefits of responsive design without the drawbacks, and this relatively new concept is rapidly gaining popularity. In this form of design not only does the content adapt to the size of the screen but it takes into account the capabilities of the device as well, offering a much better user experience as the whole design will be based on context. Certain elements will change depending on whether the user’s got a touch screen or a traditional mouse and keyboard arrangement and different layouts will be offered for tablets and mobiles, and images and videos can be edited or even completely removed to speed up the loading times of a page.

Adaptive web design enhances the user experience in a way that RWD can’t match to offer total usability and a more customer-focused result, but of course, the method that’s right for you will depend on your business, your budget and the type of content you provide. Either one of them could be perfect for your needs, so as long as you choose one you can be confident you’re hitting the mobile web design mark to give customers what they’re looking for.