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Differentiating Responsive from Adaptive Website Design

Responsive and adaptive are two terms frequently used to describe the design of a good website. These two are often used interchangeably, but they actually describe two different design aspects.

If you have been doing web design way back in the 2000s, you may remember the text-heavy, static websites designed to fit one screen size. At that time, we only used desktop computers and only needed one layout for websites.

However, web design has come a long way since then. Given the various mobile devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones that people use to access the internet today, websites need to cater to varying screen sizes.

Responsive and adaptive web designs are created to allow compatibility with multiple devices. Adaptive websites have numerous static designs with breakpoints. This signals the appropriate layout to fit the screen size of the user. A responsive site has one single fluid layout that can change to fit any screen size.

This article will run you through everything you need to know about adaptive and responsive web design and how to choose which design solution is best for your site.

Adaptive Design

This design method is not as commonly used as it can be time-consuming to develop and requires more active planning. However, it gives you more control over the layout of your site and the experience of users across devices.

Adaptive designs offer tailor-made designs for multiple screen sizes. You can create a design for the six most common screen widths in desktops and mobile devices. 

In general, this is more work for the designer, but it offers a more user-friendly experience for your website visitors. It also offers faster loading speeds.

However, other than being labour intensive and time-consuming, the duplicate content on the multiple sites you create can affect your website’s ranking in search engines. 

Responsive Design

Responsive design is the most common method used in web design today.

It uses one design set on a flexible grid that can be adjusted for different screen sizes. A responsive site adjusts its layout as the visitor changes the device they are using, from desktop to mobile. If the screen decreases in size, the elements can stack on top of each other.

The single layout design allows you to create different content for your audiences rather than making multiple pages for one website. If you need to update your site, you will only need to update once instead of updating numerous layout versions.

The design is also consistent across all devices, which gives your visitors a better user experience. 

The cons of responsive design would be the slower loading speeds than adaptive design and the possibility of images or texts becoming too distorted when adapting to specific devices.

Which One Should You Focus On?

There’s no clear-cut answer to this question as it depends on your business goals and the type of site you want to create.

If you want a clean and consistent look across all devices and want your visitors to be able to navigate through your site easily and find the content they’re looking for, go for the responsive option.

However, if you feel you need more control over your layout and have the time to spare in development, an adaptive design might be better.


The most important thing to keep in mind when creating a website is how to convey your message to your audience best. Your website is the most crucial tool to achieve your business and marketing goals.

Hiring a reliable web design company can help ensure that you use the best design method to achieve your business goals.

Are you looking for a web design company in Wales? Digital WebWorx Ltd can cater to businesses of any shape and size. Contact us today to learn more.