TechTales: Knowing the difference between adaptive, responsive or oblivious websites

May 31, 2018 at 10:30 am by tchoate


It is commonly accepted that more than 55 percent of web traffic now originates from mobile devices.

Certain types of websites, restaurants, retail, etc. may see much higher mobile usage due to visitors being away from their desktop computers when searching for their products or services.

All organization leaders want their website to work great on mobile devices but, depending on design, their website visitor's actual mobile experience may vary.

Generally, how websites handle visitors on mobile devices can be placed into three categories.

  1. Adaptive – this type of website design detects the type of device accessing a website and “adapts” the web page content before returning it to the visitor. This approach is simple in concept, but adds some overhead related to managing the variations of pages returned to different devices.

  2. Responsive – a similar, but more trendy, technique where the same web page content is returned regardless of visitor's device. The page contains instructions for the web browser about how to “respond” to various screen sizes. Responsive websites will often hide busy menus, sidebars, etc when displaying of mobile screens or on smaller desktop browser windows.

  3. Oblivious – this type of website ignores the existence of mobile devices and presents the same website pages regardless of device or screen size. For mobile users, this can lead to a bad experience where they have to scroll around excessively to view content and quickly move on to competitive sites providing a better experience.

To apply this knowledge directly to your organization's website, you might try accessing the website via a mobile web browser on a smartphone and see if it is easy to access.

Next, you might try accessing the website on a desktop browser while resizing the window larger-smaller-larger and notice if the presentation of the website content “responds” for better viewing to a smaller browser window.

Most importantly, when working with the professionals managing your website, you should feel comfortable asking questions about what percentage of your website visitors are on mobile devices and how the website handle that to ensure a good visitor experience.


Tim Choate is President/CEO of Bondware Web Solutions, a web-based software company in Murfreesboro.



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