Why Responsive Websites Beat Adaptive

Websites-Responsiveby: George Nenni

It seems there is no end to the growth in smartphone and tablet website browsing.  From 2012 to 2013, North American website traffic grew 10%, to represent almost one-third of all global internet traffic.  Safari is now the #1 browser that we see in our website customer results which suggests that iPhones and iPads are driving high incremental traffic.  Now more than ever, it is critical that dealers make the right decision for their long-term mobile strategy.  As we have seen in the press and at the recent NADA expo in New Orleans, the debate between responsive vs. mobile websites has reached a crescendo.  Ultimately, this is the choice each dealer must make. They should make sure to make an informed decision as the consequences of choosing poorly will impact their results.

Responsive website design is simple.  It is a single website that transforms its display based on the device on which the user is browsing.  A responsive website is built with triggers that automatically detect the device being used, and adjust the look, feel, menus and navigation for the various screen widths the site might encounter.  It is a bullet-proof solution.  There are no clumsy redirects, no multiple instances of the site to manage.  Alternatively, Mobile websites are duplicate, separate sites that are built to mirror the desktop website.  You’ve got two versions of your site, and the two sites need to constantly “adapt” to one another to keep themselves synched (hence the new coined term Adaptive when describing this technology).

I believe Responsive website design is superior to Adaptive for a number of reasons, all relating to reducing complication and instead choosing simplicity.  Would you prefer to have a single website to maintain and index with search engines, or would you rather juggle two?  Would you prefer to have a single URL, or would you rather have two URLs that constantly redirect to each other hoping something doesn’t break down in-between?  Would you rather pay for two websites to be built, or just pay for one?  Easy math, a single website is cheaper than two websites.  In addition, the Adaptive approach of a separate mobile website is not universally compatible with all mobile devices, since some use touchscreen while others use a keyboard to navigate.  The experience won’t function the same for these two groups.  For me, all of these reasons point to Responsive being the clear choice.

The detractors of Responsive website design might claim the websites are slower than Adaptive, but this is a broad assumption that is next to impossible to demonstrate.  A Responsive site built properly with progressive downloads, will outperform and out convert other websites.  In fact, the recent AWA Awards did a speed test of leading automotive website providers, there was a tie for first place.  Interestingly enough, one company used Responsive web design, the other Adaptive.

I suspect this debate will continue to rage on, and smart dealers should research and compare to make sure they make the right mobile technology decision.  Dealers should compare the consumer side, as well as the back-end of Responsive vs. Adaptive, and determine which one suits their needs best.  Which choice gives the best consumer experience, and which one is easiest to maintain?  Automotive research and shopping on mobile devices is expected only to continue to grow, and now is the time to make sure your dealership is positioned well.  Please let me know if I can help you in that process.

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