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Responsive and adaptive

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Responsive and adaptive11 Apr 2015 - 02:57

The Internet took off quicker than anyone would have predicted, growing like crazy. Now, for the past few years, mobile growth has exploded onto the scene. The growth of mobile Internet usage is also far out pacing that of general Internet usage growth.

These days it is hard to find someone who doesn’t own a mobile device, or multiple, connected to the Internet. In the UK there are more mobile phones than people, and should trends continue mobile Internet usage will surpass that of desktop Internet usage within the year.

With the growth in mobile Internet usage comes the question of how to build websites suitable for all users. The industry response to this question has become responsive web design, also known as RWD.

Responsive Overview

Responsive web design (WBD) is the practice of building a website suitable to work on every device and every screen size, no matter how large or small, mobile or desktop. WBD is focused around providing an intuitive and gratifying experience for everyone. Desktop computer and cell phone users alike all benefit from responsive websites.

The WBD term itself was coined, and largely developed, by Ethan Marcotte. A lot of what is covered in this lesson was first talked about by Ethan online and in his book Responsive Web Design, which is worth a read.

Responsive vs. Adaptive vs. Mobile

For some the term responsive may not be new, and others might be even more acquainted with the terms adaptive or mobile. Which may leave you wondering what exactly is the difference between all of them.

Responsive and adaptive web design are closely related, and often transposed as one in the same. Responsive generally means to react quickly and positively to any change, while adaptive means to be easily modified for a new purpose or situation, such as change. With responsive design websites continually and fluidly change based on different factors, such as viewport width, while adaptive websites are built to a groups of preset factors. A combination of the two is ideal, providing the perfect formula for functional websites. Which term is used specifically doesn’t make a huge difference.

Mobile, on the other hand, generally means to build a separate website commonly on a new domain solely for mobile users. While this does occasionally have it’s place, it normally isn’t a great idea. Mobile websites can be extremely light but they do come with the dependencies of a new code base and browser sniffing, all of which can become an obstacle for both developers and users.

Currently the most popular technique lies within responsive web design, favoring design that dynamically adapts to different browser and device viewports, changing layout and content along the way. This solution has the benefits of being all three, responsive, adaptive, and mobile.