Responsive web design is often confused with Adaptive design. While the former is said to be the most happening trend of the past two or three years, the latter is no less important. Both the design formats are essentially a way to showcase a website in a clear way on mobiles and other devices which are being used by people for browsing the net. Both of them respond well to the search engine optimization since there is no change of URLs (web pages) even if different devices are used. However, there are also some fundamental differences between the two and this fact would be appreciated more by the developers than the users.
Adaptive design is based on server-side detection of device which is being used to browse the website and, based on inputs, it delivers the right type of design to be shown on the device. So, it is the server which shows the right format of website to a particular device. However, this also means that the developers have to have pre-defined dimensions of website for particular devices. There is an element of discreetness involved here.
On the contrary, the responsive design is based on client-side detection of the device which being used and then displaying the website format which is appropriate for it. By client-side, we mean that the detection is done by the browser wherein the site is slated to open. However, the difference from adaptive design lies in the fact that these are developed on fluid grid layout which makes use of percentages. So, there is a lesser element of discreetness, which is limited to the ‘breakpoints’- the points where the design layout changes. The developers have more work on their hand to do in responsive designs and designs are influenced by the requirement of showcasing content in right format on various devices.
Having understood the fundamental difference between the two, there is a need to know which one would be right choice to be developed. Generally, it is responsive design which is hot favorite because it enables users to make use of any devices (current or to come in future) and get the right user experience. This is not possible to achieve in an adaptive one and limitations related to differences between device screen and discreet coding (devoid of fluidity element) do not permit good user experience. However, adaptive is a good choice when you have to develop a site fast and which runs on existing devices.