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How do responsive and adaptive design compare?

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Layout

With responsive design, the layout is decided by the site visitor’s browser window. The same file is sent to all visitors, but considerable parts may be concealed. In comparison, an adaptive layout is determined on the server-side, not by the client or browser. The design produces templates unique to every device class. The server detects factors like device type and operating system to send the correct layout.

Load time

No one likes a slow website. People get impatient and bounce if a site doesn’t load in 2 seconds or less. Adaptive designs generally load faster than responsive ones. This is because adaptive design only transfers necessary assets specific to each device. For example, if an adaptive site detects a high-density retina display, high-resolution images are used and transferred as an alternative to slower-loading, high-definition images. But this isn’t always the case — Webflow developed a feature for responsive images that pushes all inline images (both static and dynamic) to automatically scale to fit every device size and resolution.

Flexibility

Adaptive design is considered less flexible because a new device with a screen size you didn’t plan for could break your layout. Which means you’ll need to edit an old layout or add a new one. Screen sizes are constantly changing and highly variable. In the long run, a responsive layout will require less maintenance. Responsive sites are flexible enough to work well on their own by default, even if there’s a new device or screen size in the market. But adaptive websites will need occasional maintenance.

SEO friendliness

Google recommends and rewards sites that use responsive design. A mobile-friendly website ranks higher on search engine results pages. Adaptive design can be challenging to SEO. Google and other search engines might have trouble reading identical content on different sites.

Advantages of responsive design

Responsive web design has some obvious advantages:

Seamless experience

Regardless of the device type — desktop, mobile, etc. — visitors will get the same, seamless experience. This instills a feeling of familiarity and trust, even as they transition from one device to another.

Everything in one URL

Desktop, tablet, and smartphone users will access your site and share and link to your content with one URL. This makes it easier to share on social media and optimize for search-engine rankings.

More search engine friendly

As we’ve mentioned earlier, Google favors responsive web designs. While there are many ranking factors, Google shows mobile-friendly content first. Make sure your web design tool allows you to identify if you have a mobile-friendly site.

Disadvantages of responsive design

While responsive web design is great, it’s not without drawbacks. Here are the things to watch for when deciding which web design format is best for your requirements and goals:

Slower page loading

One of the biggest concerns of responsive web design is load time. Responsive websites load the information for all devices, not just for the device visitors are viewing your site on.

Difficulty integrating advertisements

Because ads have to accommodate all resolutions, it can be more challenging to integrate them effectively with responsive sites. The website will flow from device to device, so while the site adjust to specific screen sizes, ads may not properly configure.

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