Responsive versus adaptive websites - what’s the difference?

Posted By: Matt Harris

If you're reading this blog post on a mobile you'll obviously see how it's been optimised for your device.

This is an example of a responsive website. Essentially this means a website that has been coded with CSS to respond to changes in screen size.

An adaptive site uses CSS AND scripting to adjust the layout of a site, effectively hiding and showing different areas of a page dependent upon the viewing platform.

When would you differentiate ?

We've built sites using both approaches - often times we find that sites built for PC's, large screens have lots of content that becomes irrelevant if you're a mobile user. Making a site responsive in this case just creates an endless scrolling page. Making a site adaptive on the other hand allows you to hide any extraneous content that is just irrelevant for a mobile user.

Again another approach is for a completely standalone site. When your content is completely targeted towards towards a mobile user then often this is a much better solution. You'll see this with a website under, for example, an "M" or "Mobile"" sub domain.

Then taking it further, a standalone app - specifically created for mobile devices such as Mobile Explorer®   - allows us to focus on the hardware intergration to the software which then allows for completely compelling location based solutions.

And remember it's not just about websites

If you came to this page from our email campaign  that you read on a mobile you'll also notice that that page was also responsive - I can't emphasise enough how important this is - mobile email opens hit 51% in 2013 meaning that mobile is now the number one channel for reading emails.

Litmus give the low down here :

So in summary there really is no one-size-fits-all solution as everything is business dependent.

But one thing is for sure - current projections estimate that by the end of this year (2014)  there will be more mobile connected devices on the planet than people. Specifically, Cisco expects there to be 10 billion mobile and connected devices by 2018, including those used for M2M (machine to machine), compared with the approximately 7.6 billion people expected to be on earth that year.