Every year, a new mobile device screen size hits the market. Whether this is in the form of a phone, a tablet or a crossover, more content is being consumed on non-traditional devices. It is changing the landscape of how we think about designing websites. Responsive and adaptive designs are two of the leading responses by the tech community to address this, but what are they? What is best for you?
Responsive and Adaptive Defined
Responsive design means that a web site responds to the size of your screen to provide an optimal user experience across devices, from desktop to tablet to mobile. It does so by using relative units (defined in percentages) to resize a web site's layout, content and images to optimally fit with your screen size. It uses one template and as a screen becomes smaller and content fills more space, a responsive website will display this in a more vertical manner.
On the other hand, adaptive design uses a predefined set of layout sizes that are based on screen sizes to display a website. An adaptive web site will have multiple templates. It will detect the screen size and display the template that is optimized for that particular screen size.
As retailers continue to put mobile first, we see some of our clients with best-in-class mobile practices - bebe & Express - move towards responsive design. One of the largest advantages of a responsive website is that content management exists in one place and "future proof" to new screen sizes.
While we believe adaptive sites will be phased out over the coming years, the most important thing is to give your customers the best user experience possible across all channels - and that includes offering a mobile app. Both a mobile website and an app for your loyal customers are crucial for a retail business. According to Internet Retailer, nearly 40% of eCommerce is coming from mobile devices, and 42% of that is from apps.
Fortunately, it's a rare day when we have to build a case to convince any digital marketing team that a mobile application is not only beneficial, but necessary for their eCommerce business. But there are still a few brands that consider mobile as "just another channel." This won't bode well for business, as Forrester Research predicts that as early as next year, we'll start seeing a growing and insurmountable gap between the industry leaders who have already embraced mobile and the "laggards who view mobile as just another channel" (see Forrester's Mobile Predictions Report: Brands Will Underinvest in Mobile in 2015).