Adaptive Design – Is it the same as Responsive Design?

Adaptive and Responsive Design – two terms that are frequently thrown around interchangeably, especially in Web and software services. The definitions and the distinctions between them may seem a bit mystifying to those not in the industry. Even to some in the industry, the distinctions may seem blurred at best.


To clarify, there is a definite difference between adaptive and responsive design. Understanding these differences is very important, because current technological limitations make one far less possible to effectively implement than the other. With that in mind, let us step back and look at what distinguishes them from one another. Then, let’s see which one works currently with today’s tech trends, and what must be changed to facilitate the other in the future.

Adaptive and responsive design are both intended for the same root goal – diversity and flexibility. In a technological climate like today’s, with numerous platforms, device configurations and user mindsets, designs can no longer afford to be as rigid and standardized as they once were. We’ve been seeing this problem in mobile app and Web design for quite some time. Now it’s becoming an issue on PCs and consoles as well. The speed at which new mobile designs and systems is being released is phenomenal. In order for the end-result to be all-accessible, some form of non-rigidity in design conventions has to be implemented. This is where these two concepts come into play.

Responsive design involves an automatic configuration of software or service through one line of code, in order to best fit the platform through which users access it. Responsive design works well, but has limitations as it is a rather unconventional kind of programming mentality. However, the alternative, adaptive design, promises something new.

With adaptive design, the software is self-aware, learning user-patterns and platforms from experience. It is centralized over internet updating, so that it can, on its own, make the most use out of any platform for any specific user. It basically adapts to user-patterns in conjunction with benchmarking on devices to have new contingencies for any combination of user-patterns and device design that it may encounter. When new systems, designs or user patterns emerge, it should theoretically quickly learn these, so that in the future, it works proficiently in this scenario without any difficulty thereafter.

With current computing power and logic philosophies behind programming, this is just a pipe dream. The centrality of processing is reliant upon super-Cloud systems that do not exist yet. The capacity to learn and adapt freely requires an application framework that does not follow the current rules. For the time being, adaptive design is merely conceptual, though some more sophisticated, heavily automated models of responsive design have been labeled the earliest instances of this nascent architecture.

In the future, systems must change and frameworks must adopt new rules in order for adaptive design to truly work. Perhaps the promise of this will stimulate the further development of higher Cloud functionality – it cannot exist without it.