The Pros and Cons of Adaptive Web Design

September 1, 2015In Framework, Usability4 Minutes

While responsive design has been dominant in the design and development industry, adaptive design has still remained relevant. What makes adaptive web design different from responsive is that it uses different versions of a website to deliver a customized experience for the user. The version that is shown will obviously depend on multiple factors like the screen size of the device, type of device, browser being used, etc. The big question that many website owners want answered is if whether adaptive design is the right choice for their mobile campaigns. To help answer that question, here are some pros and cons of this design format.

Pros of Adaptive

  • A better user experience due to the fact that predesigned versions of a website will be served to the user. The website isn’t “responding” to the type of device or other factors.
  • The website will perform better. Load time is one of the biggest obstacles for mobile users, so solving this issue is a big sticking point for website owners. By creating a custom website for a certain criteria, an adaptive website will load faster than a responsive one.
  • More linear development. Let’s face it. Developing and designing a responsive site can get really tricky and complex. It can be hard to create a something that’s optimal as a one size solves all solution. On the other hand, adaptive websites are more straightforward to create. Development teams will find it easier to work on an adaptive website especially if they are inhouse.

Cons of Adaptive

  • The most obvious downside of going adaptive is that you have to build a lot of sites. If the goal is to create the optimal experience, then you’ll want to have multiple sites to serve all kinds of users from users that are using tablets, smartphones, to televisions (which is becoming more popular).
  • Since there will be more sites, it’s easy to assume that maintenance will be a bigger job. The more versions of your website you create, the more you’ll need to update, redesign, optimize, etc. This can become a headache for large sites.
  • Coordination and organization will be more difficult. It will be hard to change major elements on your website, make sense of analytics data, integrate data, and more. This will be magnified by the complexity of your website.

How Some Companies Are Using Adaptive

You can clearly see that there are some big downsides of using adaptive web design. However, some companies are mixing and matching to get the best of both worlds. They are using adaptive design for special conditions. For example, one company may feel like tablet users are incredibly valuable to them and may want to create the best possible experience for tablet users. In this case, it may be a better idea to build a primarily responsive websites and create a separate adaptive site for just the tablet users. This makes more sense than creating multiple versions of a website to serve the entire user base.

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