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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Nenni

Why Responsive Beats Adaptive (aka Mobile Websites)

Updated: May 1, 2020

It seems there is no end to the growth in smartphone and tablet website browsing. Over 23% growth from 2012, to now almost a third of global internet traffic for North American websites in the 4th quarter of 2013. Safari is now the #1 browser we’re seeing for our website customers, so clearly 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. With the many website vendors at the recent NADA expo in New Orleans, the debate is clearly on regarding Responsive vs. Mobile websites. It will truly come down to these two choices for dealers, and they should make sure to make an informed decision as the consequences of choosing poorly will impact their results.

Responsive web design is simple. It is a single website that morphs (like a chameleon!) for any device on which the user is browsing. When the website is built, automatic triggers are built in that adjust the look, feel, menus and navigation for the various screen widths the site might encounter. It is a bullet-proof solution since there are no clumsy redirects, or multiple instances of the site to complicate and break down. 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 is superior to Adaptive for a number of reasons, all relating to reducing complication and instead choosing simplicity. Would you rather have a single website to maintain and index with search engines, or would you prefer to have two? Would you rather have a single URL, or would you rather have two URLs that constantly redirect to each other hoping something doesn’t break down? 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 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 outconvert 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, and the backend 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 will only 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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