The Pros and Cons of Adaptive Web Design That Web Developers Need to Know

Website design methods are not one-size-fits-all. While some developers have left adaptive web design (AWD) principles behind as they have adopted newer responsive web design (RWD) techniques, others cling tightly to AWD for the continued benefits it provides.

You are probably already familiar with the difference between AWD and RWD. In a nutshell, RWD displays the all the same assets on each device but repositions and resizes them as it detects the user’s device. AWD, on the other hand, modifies the assets it displays, depending upon the user’s device. Sites developed using adaptive principles only display the features that are optimal and appropriate for each type of device.

If you are in the planning and development stages of a website project and need to define and articulate your approach, make sure you understand the benefits and pitfalls of AWD before mapping out your plan.

Pros of Adaptive Web Design

Adaptive and responsive design are similar in that they both adjust to suit the user’s screen size, but AWD has several distinct benefits over RWD:

Faster Page Loads – Because adaptive delivery only transfers and displays the features that are required for the given device and optimizes all the content to the display’s size and resolutions specs, the page loads much faster. For instance, with AWD, the server will only transfer high-resolution graphics when it detects a high-density screen. This way, users with lower quality displays do not have to wait for high-res images to load.

Optimized User Experience – If your website traffic stems from various platforms, i.e., smartphones, tablets, and desktops, then AWD may be worth the investment. You can customize the page content and layout to improve UX. In other words, you have complete control over what content and assets are served up. This is important given that many mobile and tablet users use a website for different purposes and engage in different ways than desktop users. When you create intuitive designs and give each user exactly what they want/need, your viewers are much more apt to revisit and ultimately, you will improve your conversion rate.

Improved SEO – Given AWD’s single URL structure, Google loves adaptive design, which it refers to as “dynamic serving.” Google claims that it “does not favor any particular URL format, as long as the page(s) and all page assets are accessible to all Googlebot user-agents.” However, many developers feel that some Google algorithms prefer AWD over RWD. Any measures that developers can make that make their site easily navigable and Google-compliant will result in improved SERP visibility.

Serving a Wider Audience – Not all users have cutting edge devices. When you use AWD principles, you can deliver an experience that is appropriate for your user, even if they use a three- or four-gen old model. AWD allows your site to still look good and function well on lower-end devices. This is particularly important if your audience is global, where the latest devices have limited availability.

The Cons of Adaptive Website Design

If AWD is all that it is cracked up to be, then why aren’t more businesses using it? There are only two drawbacks to creating an AWD website:

Labor-intensive – Many developers shy away from AWD because there is a lot more groundwork to lay. Whereas RWD has only one HTML design that simply implements CSS to change the rendering of the page per the device, AWD has different HTML codes stored on the server that is delivered to the appropriate users. And more code, of course, means more time and effort.

Professional Required – AWD typically requires a solid team of professional developers that know how to handle the complexities of adaptive design. This can be a drawback for some small businesses with limited resources.
Fortunately, these factors can be easily overcome. Harris Web Works, a renowned web development company based out of New Haven, Connecticut, has been helping businesses all over the U.S. strategize, develop, market, and manage their e-commerce sites for nearly 20 years. You can contact them for a free consultation to discuss your needs, determine if AWD is right for you, and get the help you need to create the most impactful platform for your business.