When To Use An Adaptive Layout Versus A Responsive Layout

adaptive or responsive layout
Both an adaptive layout and a responsive layout are built to adjust based on the requirements of each user that visits the site. The only difference is that an adaptive layout has a set number of screen sizes that it will work well with and a responsive layout can shift to any screen size (in theory). From that description alone you would assume that a responsive layout is always the better of the two because it works in any situation, and typically that is the truth, but not always.

What an Adaptive Layout Has Going for it

We already established that an adaptive layout isn't quite as thorough as a responsive layout. It isn't going to shift into 50 different screen sizes, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. While building a website with an adaptive layout you only have to worry about testing a set number of screen sizes to make sure that the website looks good in all of them. That means you have total control over what your website looks like no matter what the screen size is.

A certainty that your site is always going to appear properly is nice reassurance to have, but most people choose to go with an adaptive layout because of cost, or time constraints. In other words, a responsive layout takes more time to accomplish and if you need to get a site done right away you probably don't have time to put out a responsive layout that is going to perform as expected. In situations like those an adaptive layout is the best possible solution.

When adapting a website that has already been built you will probably end up going with an adaptive layout as well because it just takes too much effort to shift a static page into a very fluid completely responsive one.

Another thing that adaptive layout designs have going for them is the appearance of text on the screen. There are plenty of instances in a responsive layout where the text doesn't look great because of the way the paragraphs are formatted and titles are split from their bodies of text in some instances. These issues can be resolved in responsive websites but it is pretty difficult and you have to jump through several more hoops to make sure everything ends up looking like it should.

What an Adaptive Layout Has Going for it

A responsive layout is the ideal form of a website because it is going to look natural no matter what screen size the visitor is using. That means large screens are filled completely and the user has plenty of space to explore the page, while the images and text are shrunk down to fit comfortably on a smaller screen as well.

One major benefit of this type of layout is that you really don't have to design several different pages, you only have to design a single page, it just has to be fluid so that it transforms to any screen shape. Although that sounds simple enough there is a lot of troubleshooting involved to try and get the page perfect, but when you have finished that troubleshooting you won't have to worry about different screen sizes any longer because you have them all covered.

Which Should You Use

Now that you understand what each layout has going for it, it is time for you to decide which of the two is better for your particular website. If you are altering an existing page to look better on more screen sizes you are better off going with an adaptive style because it is too complex to try and build a responsive site on top of something existing. If speed, or budget are major concerns of a particular project, adaptive is again the best option for you. If you are building a website from the ground up and you want it to work well on any device, even devices that haven't been created yet you should build a responsive website. It will take you longer to make a completely responsive site, but it will be more future proof when you are finished and hopefully that means less work will be involved with maintaining it later on down the road.