Adaptive Design vs. Responsive Web Design: RWD Pundits Come Full Circle

Luca Passani, CTO @ScientiaMobile, January 2017

I had not blogged for some time, but listening to a conversation that involved Ethan Marcotte and Karen McGrane the other day inspired me to hit the company web log with a new post. The reason for this is because I heard something that I consider big. Very big.

mobile web performance, adaptive design vs. responsive designEthan and Karen are two venerable authorities when it comes to the topic of Responsive Web Design (RWD). Plus, they have real experience with web projects, including mobile web, for large enterprises. This is why, when they speak, taking notice is often a good idea. The conversation on the status of RWD was no exception, because there was a point made by Karen, which Ethan subscribed to, that Adaptive Design is not really defined the way a lot of people say it is.

Before I get to the point, let me revisit what Adaptive Design means to many and how it relates to RWD.

For most authors who have embraced Responsive, Adaptive Design is the evolution of Progressive Enhancement and Mobile First. The adoption of those two philosophies, augmented with the ability to address a set of form factors through Media Queries and breakpoints, is the basis for what they call Adaptive Design. Media Queries are essentially conditional CSS rules that can be evaluated (client-side) based on media features, such as certain minimal screen-size intervals (the breakpoints) in order to tailor the UX for users of smartphones, tablets, and desktops. Read More…