Adaptive & Responsive Design: Which one is better?

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“Content is like water. You put water in a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot.”    
  Josh Clark

The diversity of devices used to browse the internet are increasing constantly and hence there is a need for improvement in the design which suits best on all type of screens and sizes. 

A website should, no matter what, look good on all browsers whether its chrome browser used on a smartphone or a computer. A less appealing and inconvenient website can drastically decrease the audience impressions and engagement. 

Different design approaches

Adaptive Design uses distinct layouts for multiple screen sizes, the layout largely depends on the screen size being used so with each of these sizes in mind a layout would have to be designed for it.

Whereas, responsive design adjusts to the size of the screen automatically to target device’s screen size. Its layout is called ‘fluid’ and uses CSS media to change styles, this liquid grid allows the page to resize its dimensions to adapt to different screen sizes.

We can also say that adaptive uses kind of static ways to adjust according to the screen size, whereas responsive shows a dynamic nature. They might appear the same to people without web-design experience.

The major components of both of these designs:

  • Layout 

With Responsive design, the layout is usually set by the end-user using a particular browser.

But for Adaptive Design, the layout is set on the back-end. The client/end-user is not entitled to make changes in it. Factors like Operating System and device type are used to increase its accuracy.

  • Load time

Load time means the time a website takes in loading; more is the load time, slower is the website. Nobody likes a slow website. And in this case, adaptive design wins over responsive design. But this isn’t always true.

  • Difficulty

This is more of a relative thing. Developers and designers say that adaptive design uses different layouts for different devices and hence it is more difficult. But many other people argue that since responsive designs use only a single layout to adjust according to the screen size of the user, it becomes more complex to manage it.

Which one is better? Or which one should you use?

Just like everything else both have their pros and cons.



  • Uniform & seamless = good UX.
  • An abundance of templates to use.
  • SEO friendly.
  • Often easier to implement


  • Less screen size design control.
  • Elements can move around
  • Advertisements lost on-screen and Longer mobile download times.



  • Allows designers to build the best UX for the appropriate device.
  • Mobile devices can sense their user’s environment.
  • Designers can optimize advertisements based on user data


  • Labour-intensive to create tablets and netbooks can have trouble with site configuration
  • Challenging to SEO

The take away from this article (CONCLUSION)

If we look according to stats in the current scenario, for every 1 out of 8 websites use Responsive design whereas the figures of adaptive nowhere lie even near to this, so if the demand of a website design approach affects the decision in any way, the above part represent it.

 Moreover, responsive websites are more cost-efficient and seamless, in the long run, they turn out low maintenance too, whereas adaptive designs are great too as they are personalized for the target consumer. 

Some more stats, shown in the picture: 

Rest it all boils down to your needs and requirements. The key is understanding and planning for your needs, goals, and budget — now and in the future.

Learn about Responsive Design

Posted in UI
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