Mobile devices, especially smartphones, have become the new digital screen.  As smartphone and tablet use continue to increase in popularity, companies should account for the equally increasing importance of mobile friendly sites.

A web developer’s toolkit has two main tools to respond to this challenge: responsive design, or adaptive design.

Responsive design

  • when the content of a site shifts to accommodate varying sizes based on the screen of the visitor
  • flexible in nature
  • a site will only need a single URL structure instead of creating an additional mobile specific web addresses

Adaptive design

  • focuses more on tailored web content based on the context of the user
  • provides a device-specific experience and its inherent features
  • relevancy and type of info presented is important in order to optimize the viewing experience

Although they sound similar, responsive and adaptive design are quite different. Both, however, can greatly enhance the usability of your website. Sebastian Baldovino, Lead Web Developer at SHERPA, states that idea behind adaptive or responsive techniques goes beyond desktop vs. smartphones.

“In the old days, we were thinking only in terms of desktop monitor sizes, but now we have an infinite set of screen factors from small devices such as phones and tablets to huge TV screens and even wearable devices. This is where the market is going; goodbye 960px fixed websites!”

Preparing for a Responsive or Adaptive Redesign

Here are the top 4 questions to be aware of when preparing for a responsive or adaptive website redesign.

1. What content goes where?

For both responsive and adaptive designs, content is key to success. To better tailor your information, use data & research to find the most engaging pages, time spent, bounce rate and your target audience. A mobile user interacts with content differently than a desktop user. Understanding the different behaviors of visitors by each device helps comprehending the what and how of your content.

2. Does your site contain 3rd party elements?

Some 3rd party elements might not cooperate and function well within a responsive design. There are technologies that tightly integrate 3rd party widgets into your website, such as API feeds. If these partners have already incorporated the designs early, they will most likely continue to be on top of current web design and development techniques.

3. Won’t it be expensive to change what I’m already doing?

It will be more expensive later on if you don’t do it! You are losing viewers and profit every day by not making the switch to a responsive or adaptive design.

  • 67% – users are more likely to buy from a mobile friendly site
  • 75% – users prefer a mobile friendly site
  • 96% – consumers encountered sites clearly not designed for mobile devices

If you’re still struggling to commit, try seeing this as an opportunity to deliver a great user experience and not as a challenge or setback. There is strong evidence that points to the benefits of tailoring your site to mobile and tablet users.

4. How do I know which design will work best for me?

The main distinction between these two designs is the type of web content used as well as how you enhance the users experience. These can be challenging questions. If you need help finding the answers, SHERPA is ready to guide you in meeting the needs of your audience.

In the meantime, check out some SHERPA client projects where we’ve already helped them achieve success with responsive designs.

Rusty Parker

Rusty Parker

Rusty Parker is the director of data and analytics for SHERPA Global. He has a doctoral degree in Applied Sociology from Baylor University, with an emphasis on survey methodology and data analysis. He has led data collection projects for corporate, government, and nonprofit clients for more than 10 years.

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