What is adaptive web design (AWD) and when should you use it?

I wrote a submit lately wanting on the execs and cons of adaptive web design (AWD), and the feedback highlighted the confusion and crossover that exists between AWD and responsive design.

So, with assist from a number of the professional contributors to our Mobile Web Design and Development Best Practice Guide, let's attempt and clear this confusion up.

I've requested them for his or her definitions of AWD, the place the confusion lies, and the best use instances for this strategy.

How would you outline adaptive web design?

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh:

In some ways, adaptive is not dissimilar to a cellular particular site, in that the server delivers totally different content material to totally different units. Where it differs is within the logic used to find out which units get which content material.

On an m dot site, the URL tells the server that the shopper is on a cellular site; on an adaptive site the URL is constant however the server makes use of system info despatched together with the request to find out the web page delivered.

Every time you view a webpage on the web you ship details about the system and browser you are connecting from, it seems to be one thing like this:

User-Agent: Mozilla/H.zero (iPhone; D; CPU iPhone OS 4_0 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/532.N (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/A.zero.H Mobile/8A293 Safari/6531.22.S

In this occasion, I am utilizing an iPhone and my browser is Safari. So, very similar to an m dot site, the web server is aware of I am utilizing a cellular, and sends the cellular content material.

This capacity to modify content material (templates) based mostly on server-aspect system detection is the guts of adaptive design.

James Gurd, Owner & Lead Consultant at Digital Juggler:

I just like the clear distinction of defining AWD as utilizing server aspect methods to customize the belongings/contents served based mostly on system/browser and RWD as utilizing shopper-aspect, or browser-based mostly, methods.

RESS successfully straddles the 2. You're utilizing a responsive code base and RWD rules however utilizing server aspect methods as nicely (I'll defer to the extra technically versed to elucidate the small print).

Justin Taylor, MD at Graphitas:

Adaptive web design will sometimes use a totally totally different set of designs and templates for every platform being focused.

As a end result, designers will create a desktop model of a website and will then design a separate cellular model (and probably a separate pill model additionally).

Responsive web design then again includes of a single design with a fluid format that adjusts to display width of the system, which means that just one set of web page templates have to be created and maintained.

The two routes are sometimes confused as each are primarily strategies of concentrating on cellular units, subsequently carry out a really comparable position from a customers perspective.

The best approach to decide if a format is responsive is to view the site on a desktop pc and re-measurement the browser window, if the format re-flows and modifications related to the width of the browser window, you might be pretty positive the site you are taking a look at is responsive.

Where do you assume the confusion lies between adaptive and responsive?

Stuart McMillan:

I assume the confusion is comprehensible, provided that we’ve traditionally needed to navigate to totally different URLs to see totally different desktop and cellular content material.

Now, there are two applied sciences which ship what look like comparable interfaces, utilizing a single URL.

Many individuals simply take a look at the interface as proven on the display and don’t think about the underlying know-how and on this circumstance, 'Responsive' is the time period that appeared to catch on first.

Ryan Webb, digital improvement director at equimedia:

In my expertise, the main confusion arises as a result of individuals don’t actually recognize that there is an alternative choice to RWD. The phrase 'responsive' is typically mistakenly used as a generic time period, fairly than being clear that it is just one choice for a website to be optimised throughout units.

It’s just a little bit like somebody saying that everybody should have a WordPress website as a result of it permits you to handle your content material simply…… when everyone knows that WordPress is simply one of many many CMS options out there and might or will not be the appropriate answer for you.

Even in numerous articles I’ve learn the place the writer is making an attempt to elucidate the distinction between the totally different approaches, they incorrectly make a press release corresponding to “it is now turning into more and more essential to make sure your website is responsive”.

What they imply to say is that “it is turning into more and more essential to make sure you have a website that works nicely throughout units of all sizes”.

James Gurd:

I assume the confusion lies within the false impression that a RWD answer cannot adapt content material to go well with distinct gadget/browser consumer behaviour patterns.

A RWD answer does not should serve the identical content material to everybody, solely altering the web page template based mostly on break-factors. You can use adaptive methods on a responsive site – the 2 aren't mutually unique.

So I may outline my break factors and my template reflows to a single column format on smartphones (responsive) however I additionally disguise some content material as it isn't related to cellular customers (adaptive).

The key level is this – do you want totally different code bases for every site or are you utilizing one core responsive code base for desktop, pill and cellular?

Yes, there is debate. Yes, individuals use totally different definitions.

In the report we simply launched, our purpose was to stay to at least one clear distinction and base the report round that, to assist focus individuals on this definition and then perceive the implications of every choice, relatively than debating definitions that appear to go spherical in fixed circles.

When should companies think about using an adaptive strategy?

Firstly, I truly assume that the best options use a mix of methods from each approaches.

However, I would say that adaptive should be thought-about if you meet these standards:

  • You have necessities which might be radically totally different between totally different units.
  • You have a adequate variety of units that you can justify totally different templates.
  • You can design templates that cumulatively ship extra profit than having a one-measurement-matches-all answer.
  • You have adequate useful resource to take care of and develop totally different templates (and know that the useful resource is best spent engaged on a number of templates, as an alternative of latest, common, performance).

Lufthansa's adaptive strategy: 

The desktop site is geared in the direction of search and reserving, whereas the adaptive cellular site is extra for patrons who've already booked, with flight standing, verify-in etc. 

Ryan Webb:

We all the time advocate beginning together with your audience; how do they interact together with your website and what do they anticipate throughout totally different units?

If your viewers anticipate the identical expertise on a smartphone as on desktop, then it is possible that a responsive answer will work for you.

However, in case your viewers anticipate to have the ability to do various things (for instance analysis/browse on desktop however reply/purchase on smartphone) then adaptive could also be higher.

Unfortunately, it’s not that straightforward and different elements come into the choice making course of resembling finances, know-how platform, technical potential, technical useful resource and whether or not you are ranging from scratch.

And in fact, don’t overlook the HiPPO (plainly RWD is typically seen because the'“Ronaldo' choice for CEOs).

Justin Taylor:

I'm of the opinion that web sites should be designed for consumer expertise, subsequently the choice on responsive or adaptive methods should be made with the consumer in thoughts.

Users are the one element that REALLY matter when creating web sites as finally we would like them to work together, buy or convert on some degree.

My recommendation is to design a site which works for a consumer then determine if it should be construct utilizing adaptive or responsive.

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