More than 19.6 million Australians have access to the Internet on their mobile, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported a 43% increase in mobile traffic in the first six months of 2013. Taking your digital presence mobile is crucial for your organisation's online development. But when it's all about delivering the best possible user experience, there's more than one way to skin a cat. And the case of mobile, that means adaptive or responsive.

Adaptive design

Adaptive designs use different versions of the site for each device – we literally adapt the design to suit. Separate, mobile friendly templates are built and sized according to device type (for example, one design for iPhone and one for iPad). You have complete control over the content and functions you want to make available to mobile users to optimise their experience.

Going adaptive doesn't mean you have two separate sites. This design technique still allows you to maintain all your content in the one place and the same content is delivered to all users. It's just delivered in a template that's primed for the device.

If you already have a website, adaptive is also probably the most cost effective way to "go-mo".

Responsive design

In responsive design, the website is built to respond to the size of the device and changes in the width of a browser window. It works by fluidly adjusting the placement of elements of a web page to best fit the available space.

This experience is best demonstrated in real time – take the Butterfly website for example. Drag the browser window and you will see that as you make your browser larger or smaller the design responds accordingly.

As a responsive design delivers all of a site's content and functionality to users regardless of device, a bit of planning is involved. But there is no need for specific mobile templates for separate devices; a responsive site is device proof.

The pros and cons


In a nutshell, if you have a lot of content or complexity on your site and you want complete control over how that content is delivered, then adaptive is probably the best solution for you. If you have less complexity in your website and would like to future proof against new devices, then responsive is a trendy solution for you.

Neither solution is one hundred per cent perfect. It's all about choosing the right solution for your organisation. Be sure to carefully weigh up the pros and cons before making a decision: how well do you know your audience and how do they engage/want to engage with you online? Review your content and think about how it would fit into each approach. Last but not least, make sure that you talk to the experts (that's us!) to get some advice.

Whether you go down the path of adaptive or the path of responsive, just make sure you're mobile!

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