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Responsive vs. Adaptive: Choosing the Right Path to Optimize for Mobile

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By Phil Dunn

Did you know 65 percent of today’s smartphone users use their devices to make purchases? Additionally, tablet penetration in the U.S. market is up nearly 50 percent since 2012. It is even expected that tablets will outsell PCs as soon as 2015. Within this expanding and unavoidable mobile device market, however, almost half of tablet users are complaining that retailer websites are not proficient enough for online tablet shopping, according to TheFind. This may be due to pages that take several minutes to load, sites that have strange formatting on users’ devices, or webpages that are just not supported by the shopper’s device.

Whatever the reason, it is clear that businesses cannot further postpone adapting their websites’ compatibility for mobile devices any longer. We’ve been talking on our blog about the content side of things that we are experts in here at Onboard Informatics, but display is just as important as content. So how do we provide these mobile users with the best experience possible? For the companies that already have successful mobile device platforms, they have either adapted a responsive or an adaptive Web design approach.

A Responsive Web Design, or RWD, is a singular webpage coding that adapts to the screen size it is appearing on. More specifically, the approach utilizes pre-determined size brackets that designate when and how the site will change as it passes through each bracket. Cycle to Work Calculator’s webpage is a perfect illustration of RWD in action. The main benefit of RWD is that it is remarkably easy to manage. As opposed to having multiple different codings, the programmer needs only one. The main deterrent, however, is that advertising space and the attached potential revenue is quickly eliminated on smaller devices and screens.

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