For quite some time now, responsive design has been the talk of the town. However, adaptive web design has been creeping up in conversations more and more. Adaptive design has the same purpose of responsive design which is to deliver the optimal browsing experience by serving the site for the user’s device. It differs in that adaptive design is about customizing a website to deliver the relevant viewing format whereas responsive rearranges an existing website to display the optimal viewing format.

This explanation may sound confusing, so it’s best to provide you with some examples. Instead of segmenting different parts of a website to format it differently, adaptive design delivers a set version of a website that’s optimized for the user’s OS, browser and device. It also delivers the website from the server side as opposed to the client side setup from responsive where the user’s browser formats the website.

The advantage of adaptive design is that the load time is much faster. If you’ve been following responsive design news, then you know that load time is a problem that many companies using this design format face. Adaptive design also means that you can deliver different content based on the device. For example, you deliver one type of content to desktop users and another type to mobile users. This is significant because each group of users have different intents for visiting the website.

Recoding and redesigning the entire website is also a big challenge for companies, especially ones that have large websites. Trying to check for conflicts, optimize images, and other tasks for the responsive format can really be taxing. With adaptive web design, you’re building from scratch which makes it a cleaner and often quicker process. But of course, adaptive web design comes with many disadvantages as well.

The obvious disadvantage is the cost. Since you’re going to be building multiple versions of sites for different devices, you’re going to have to dig deep with your budget. The second disadvantage is that it takes a lot of work and time to create completely new sites. These two reasons make it out of reach for most companies, especially small businesses.

Usually, when two technologies are pitted against each other, the one that is more accessible (while also being a worthwhile solution) wins out. But that doesn’t mean that adaptive design should be overlooked. Both responsive and adaptive design are in their infancy stage, so nobody really understands their full potential. It might be very much possible to see both design formats being combined to allow website owners to get the best of both worlds.

It’s most likely that adaptive design will be of much value to you but it’s definitely something to keep track of. Companies that should pay attention to this design format are the ones that want to display a different site for mobile users and a different site for desktop users. This is where adaptive design starts to shine as it helps support marketing campaigns where companies are targeting mobile users to engage in a specific way as opposed to their desktop counterparts.