Mobile-First Web Design vs. Responsive and Adaptive


    People’s way of browsing the internet is rapidly changing with Modern Times. For instance, more and more people are starting to use phones as their primary device instead of traditional laptops and desktops. So, the traditional web designing format will no longer be useful for these people who are continually changing their digital gadgets. Recently, Google created an algorithm to promote websites that are optimized for mobile browsing. This means that responsive websites will receive higher priority in Google search results. Many experts have predicted that the transition from desktop to mobile browsing will not slow down in the coming years. Here is a quick checklist about responsive design and testing that will help you get started.

    Google has released a mobile-friendly test site that allows the designer to check their website’s mobile readiness. In case your site fails this test, you are losing valuable visitors and possible mobile clients from your site. The developers can also take professional advice from a UX consultant to interpret a test like this. It will also help them to understand the possible improvement for their scores. So, now it is time to update your website and make it mobile-friendly. This will allow you to get all the customers that you have been losing all these years. In the current software design industry, there are primarily three types of mobile-friendly web designs. They are responsive web design, adaptive web design, and mobile-first design.

    The responsive design allows the website to expand and shrink depending on the screen size and resolution that the user is using. This allows the system to provide a fluid web experience to all the customers. The adaptive design also is popularly known as a progressive enhancement. This design allows the developers to create completely separate websites, one for the mobile platform and the other for the desktop platform. 

    In recent years, there have been several debates between designers and Developers regarding the effectiveness of both these web design Technologies. A practical discussion would quickly reveal that both of these technologies have their own negative and positive sides. So, in this article, we are going to compare responsive web design with adaptive web design.

    Responsive Design

    Ethan Marcotte was the first person to use the term Responsive Web Design in his book Responsive Web Design. Responsive web design can respond to changes in browser width by adjusting the placement of all the design elements to fit in the available space. This process helps to create a pleasant viewing experience for the customers.

     Responsive websites can display the contents of a website depending on the space available on the screen. For instance, if a user opens up a website on a desktop and changes the window size, the website can automatically adjust these changes and fit all the elements. For mobile phones, this is an entirely automatic process depending on the CSS model. After adjusting the elements, the website will display all the elements in the ideal arrangement.

    Responsive web designing is a straightforward process to improve the User experience on all websites. As it is a fluid process, the users can access the online world and enjoy the full potential of the device along with the website at the same time. However, the developers must implement an impressive conceptualization of the website to utilize responsive web designing powers. They should also have a deep understanding of the needs and desires of their end-users.  

    Advantages of Responsive Design

    • The massive benefits of responsive web design have made it one of the highly used technologies in the Software Development Industry. So, let us take a brief look at some of these advantages offered by a responsive design:
    • It provides a fast pace of the software development life cycle. This is because the developers need to create one website that can fit on multiple platforms. It cuts down the development time for the web application.
    • By nature, responsive websites are less complicated compared to adaptive web designs. For instance, if the developer needs to change, he needs to implement it in one location. On the other hand, for adaptive design, they have to implement that same change in multiple locations to carry over to the mobile platform.
    • Google currently recommends responsive web design for all software development companies.
    • The flexibility of responsive designs allows them to fit on multiple platforms. This process makes this remarkable technology future-proof. On the other hand, most adaptive sites are designed to fit only on desktop and mobile devices. The adaptive websites leave out a massive portion of the consumer base that use tablets and iPads for Internet browsing.

    Disadvantages of Responsive Design


    As we already discussed earlier in this article, everything has its share of disadvantages. Responsive web designing is no alternative to this rule. Let us take a look at some of the limitations that responsive web design will offer in development projects:


    • Responsive designing is a costlier process compared to adaptive web designing. This is because the developers have to perform additional work to make the website responsive. However, after the completion of the process, responsive design requires less maintenance compared to adaptive design. In simple terms, responsive design requires heavy investment to produce long-term savings in web development fees. The initial investment for responsive design makes it somewhat unaffordable for small companies.
    • The developers need to redesign the entire website if they choose to make it responsive. They cannot shorten this process by adding templates or other third-party plugins. In most cases, this process benefits the business company because the mobile and desktop website will match and look equally impressive. Responsive web design allows the company to provide a consistent User experience for the customer. So, the customer remains loyal to the company and also recommends the website to others.

    Mobile-First Design

    One of the significant issues with adaptive and responsive design is that it is an old-fashioned way of creating websites compatible with the mobile platform. As a result, the mobile experience looks quite bad for the end-users. On the other hand, the mobile-first design prioritizes the visual aesthetics on the mobile platform. The primary goal of this design is to provide the right user experience for the appropriate devices. Mobile-First design replaces all the unnecessary content like buttons, text, and features depending on the limited space. In simple terms, the mobile-first design ensures that the website is accessible and viewable on all mobile platforms 

    Adaptive Design

    Aaron Gustafson was the first person to introduce the term adaptive web design in 2011. This incredible technology is also popularly known as progressive enhancement. As we already discussed, responsive web design depends on changing the design pattern to fit the device screen’s real estate. Adaptive web design has multiple fixed layout sizes for various devices. It detects the available space on the device and automatically chooses the appropriate layout for the screen. When a user visits a website on the browser, resizing the browser window will not affect the web design.

    During the initial adaptive design times, some sites were very quick to adapt to this new change. The developers must remember that the website’s layout on mobile design will be different compared to the desktop layout while using adaptive design. This change is due to the reason that developers choose a different layout for the phone screen. This change wouldn’t be effective if they allowed the system to try and rearrange the elements accordingly. 

    In most cases, the developers create six different layouts while using adaptive web design. The standard screen width patterns used in adaptive designs are 320, 480, 760, 960 1200, and 1600 pixels. 

    Advantages of Adaptive Web Design

    Various E-Commerce websites have realized the value of adaptive web designing. They have quickly adopted this incredible technology to enhance the growth of their business. So, let’s take a look at some of the main benefits of adaptive web design:

    • There is a considerable benefit in developing different layouts for different platforms. For instance, the developers can abandon various elements like images, logos, and other bandwidth resources to save space on the site’s mobile version. This process also allows optimizing the UX of the site on various devices. In simple terms, the adaptive design allows the developers to create a faster and leaner website for their mobile platforms. The key to developing an optimized mobile website is to use the essential assets for the user.
    • The developers do not have to redesign the desktop site for introducing adaptive web design. In case the desktop website provides a satisfactory experience, you can leave it alone and create a different layout for the mobile version.
    • The developers can provide a link for the website’s desktop version on the mobile home page. This process will allow the customer to choose the layout of the website that they want to visit.
    • With adaptive web designing, designers can create a customized experience for mobile users. On the other hand, with responsive design, one single design must work efficiently on all devices. Adaptive Design is for companies who want to provide variations in UI depending on the platform. 

    Check the Responsiveness of Your Web Design with LT Browser

    Now that we have finished comparing responsive web design with adaptive web design, it is time to shift our focus towards the testing phase. The developers need to ensure the smooth functioning of the website. A faulty website can end up frustrating users and force them to abandon your services. LT browser is a tool that allows the developer to test the responsiveness of the website on multiple devices at the same time. This tool provides various features to test and deliver high-quality mobile applications to end-users quickly. LT browser also allows the developers to compare the visuals of the web application on multiple devices. Using LT browser, the developer can quickly detect errors in the application and sort them out before production. 

    The Final Verdict

    It is wrongdoing to neglect mobile-first design in UX development. Good User experience must be the primary goal for any software development project. Many experts consider this strategy to be one of the most complex approaches. Mobile-first design allows commercial services to adapt to the current fast pace of life. 

    This article analyzed the various advantages and limitations of responsive, adaptive, and mobile-first designs for website development. Finally, we would recommend our readers consider LT Browser as the ultimate tool to test web applications’ responsiveness. 

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