Adaptive vs. Responsive Design: Which Is Best for Your eCommerce Store?

Not sure whether adaptive or responsive design is best for your eCommerce store's website? Learn more about which aspects to consider when making your choice.

Ali Shah - Writer for Fast Simon
By Ali Shah
Kelly Hendrickse - Editor for Fast Simon
Edited by Kelly Hendrickse
Olivia Kashti - Writer and Fact-Checker for Fast Simon
Fact-check by Olivia Kashti

Updated November 14, 2023.

Adaptive and responsive design, a feature of visual merchandising, can impact the user experience of your site on different devices. So, choosing which is best for your eCommerce store is imperative. To help you make your decision, compare the pros and cons of adaptive vs. responsive design and learn which additional factors to consider.

What Is Adaptive Design?

Adaptive design auto-detects a user's device and selects one of the multiple layout templates to best fit the screen.

This ensures your website is optimized for a seamless user experience. Think about the following factors when deciding:

Pros


  • Improved performance on slower devices
  • Better SEO alignment
  • Flexibility for future devices

Cons


  • Time-consuming to create
  • Complex for beginners

For example, BestBuy's adaptive design uses different templates that adjust the page elements to fit a smaller screen. Making the content easy to scroll through across devices can help encourage conversions. You can see (image on the right) that the navigation pane in this particular instance requires the user to scroll to see all options when using the site on mobile.

BestBuy's desktop and mobile sites using adaptive design.


» Discover these essential online visual merchandising strategies to drive sales now



What Is Responsive Design?

Responsive design uses one layout template and adjusts all design elements on your site to accommodate the user's screen size.

This allows for more fluid site navigation and changes in appearance based on the user's device. Some aspects to consider include:

Pros


  • Consistent user experience
  • Cost efficient
  • Ease of maintenance
  • SEO-friendly

Cons


  • Risk of poor performance on slower devices
  • Complex for some websites
  • Focus on content prioritization over screen-specific design

This 401 Games example shows how responsive design adjusts to different screen sizes by shifting design elements of their site based on which device is being used.

In the mobile version (on the right), the navigation pane is relocated to a collapsible menu on the top left, and the category blocks on the site are moved to a single column for easy scrolling. This user-friendly change can foster customer satisfaction and drive more sales.

401 Games's desktop and mobile sites using responsive design.



Which Design Should You Choose for Your eCommerce Store?

The design choice for your eCommerce store depends on your specific circumstances and merchandising preferences. Several elements should be taken into account when making the choice, including:

  • Budget
  • Target audience
  • User intent and behavior
  • Product types
  • Overall store goals

For instance, if you have a smaller budget and a predominantly younger audience, responsive design may be more beneficial. Or, if you have a larger business with bigger budgets and a very diverse audience in terms of age and device usage, an adaptive design could be best for you.

» Check out the top eCommerce apps to optimize customer experience

Fast Design

Whether you prefer the layout adjustments of responsive designs or the template assortments of adaptive designs, the choice is yours. Selecting the appropriate design to best appeal to your audience's site search habits and your product offerings can help you achieve higher customer satisfaction, more engagement across a range of devices, and boosted sales.