Differences Among Responsive, Adaptive And Mobile–Optimised Websites

In the world of mobile web development, there are three main classifications that you are likely to encounter:

  • Responsive design
  • Adaptive design/dynamic serving
  • Separate, mobile optimised design

Marketing managers and business owners can use these designs to deliver their content to their clients and customers, and because mobile design affects businesses greatly, this article aims at giving a systematic breakdown on the main differences among these website designs.

Imagine a visual baseline with two ends. Each end of the spectrum should represent an extremity. The far left being 100% same as desktop (exact same site delivered to users on every device) and the other end being 100% different from desktop (completely different site being delivered to mobile users). This is the basis on which we discuss the above web development methods.

Responsive web design

Responsive design falls somewhere to the left, near the 100 % same as desktop mark. It delivers the same website in every website with the only difference being in the layout. It uses “fluid grids” to adjust content to every screen size and thus allows for optimal viewing experience regardless of the device screen. The elements such as headlines, copywriting and CTAs are all the same.

The layout adjusts for easier mobile consumption. It will arrange all business and marketing content for quick up and down scroll navigation and save clients from left-right scrolling to see a picture or from in-out zooming.

Advantages of responsive web design are that it is cheap to build, maintain, doesn’t allow content overlap and works for any design. This is especially good for business owners and clients.

On the other hand, responsive sites don’t offer a fully optimised experience because it is redundant content offered to customers.

Adaptive web design/ dynamic serving

This falls midway through the baseline. It delivers separate content to users based on their device. Each of the business’ clients will see fundamentally different content. Content may be 10- 100% different depending on the devices be it a Smartphone, tablet, desktop but since they all have the same URL we refer to it as adaptive.

It does not make use of fluid grids to deliver flexible content to any device. This distinguishes it from responsive web design. The disadvantage with this is that there are far too many devices than you could ever manually adapt for and therefore some devices won’t give the business owners, marketing managers and the recipient market optimum enjoyment. Another con with using this design is that it is complex and can be an expensive form for businesses and marketers.

Separate, mobile optimised design

This falls to the right of the baseline, near the 100 % different than desktop mark. This term implies creating separate distinct website for the clients by the business users and marketing managers. This kind of design makes use of sub domains rather than URLs. Clients are rerouted to a separate website thus the business owner will be able to control the user experience.

Good thing is, Google recognises mobile specific domains as being mobile friendly thus this can favorably impact on the business owners’, clients’ and marketing owners’ search results.

The disadvantage of this design method is that the business won’t create a mobile-centric experience, thus clients aren’t reached effectively. Furthermore, if the designer forgets to add appropriate “canonical” tags then search engines penalise the mobile site as duplicate content.