When we talk about website creation, we now must take into account smart phones, tablets and all nomadic ways to navigate on the web. We can then construct either “Responsive” or “Adaptive” websites. But the two terms are not synonymous, and are in fact, totally different conceptions of mobility.
The major difference is in the design of the web site and the development of the presentation of its contents. A Responsive site will download all the content on the mobile device and then present it on the size of the screen. An Adaptive site however, is the contrary. No download is required and info will be presented only in the content useful and chosen by the developer of the mobile device.
For example, an Adaptive site will not load content in flash for a site on a mobile device, while the Responsive site will. In other words, one could summarize the difference by saying that the Adaptive site is better thought out for a mobile device, while a Responsive site is merely able to display on phones and tablets.
Another significant example, the Adaptive site provides an organizations’ content for each device, while the Responsive site has the same ‘template’ for each mobile device.
For integrators, an Adaptive site takes longer to develop since it is necessary to design a presentation of content for each device. A Responsive site is easier to develop, but is less flexible than an Adaptive one.
How to choose between them? There isn’t really a better solution. It must first of all, identify the needs of the client and the target of the website. If the target is completely nomadic and visits to the website come mainly from mobile devices, then an Adaptive site is more suited. Otherwise, a Responsive site remains an excellent compromise!