Is Adaptive Web Design the Next Big Phase in Web Development?

SitePoint contributor Aaron T. Grogg ponders what's next beyond the responsive web, and looks at Adaptive Web Design as the next solution for some of RWD's shortcomings.

There is no question that Responsive Web Design (RWD) is now the established best practice for designing web experiences that work well across a wide range of devices. It allows us to serve a single page to a user on any given device, with content that scales to accommodate the browser and screen size it is viewed on.

Although RWD has truly been a game changer for web design, we still face the challenge of serving the user only the assets they need, optimized for the browser or device they are using. With RWD, we often serve one large image file to all screen sizes and devices only to scale them down at smaller breakpoints, slowing down page load times and hogging up bandwidth for mobile devices. Adaptive Web Design (AWD), sometimes referred to as RESS (Responsive Web Design + Server Side Components) might be the solution we're looking for.

Adaptive Web Design: A Server Side Solution

Aaron T. Grogg expands further on the need for a server-side solution like AWD in a recent article submitted to SitePoint:

Irrespective of the device your user is using, as developers we should always be endeavoring to send them only the assets that they actually use

This all leads us to what I believe is the next growth phase in web development: Adaptive Web Design (AWD).

This concept has sometimes been called RESS, but regardless of labels, it involves making decisions on the server that determine what should and shouldn't be sent to the user, so that nothing is sent that will not be used.


He goes on to list some of the pros we can expect from a server-side approach to web design, such as faster server speeds for page rendering, reduced bandwidth, and faster page loads. There are of course some drawbacks to AWD as well, most of which are directly related to the device detection libraries we would rely on in order to serve the right asset to the right device.

Further Reading

Interested in learning more? Check out the Resources section below for links to Grogg's full article on Adaptive Web Design over at, and an article by Luke Wroblewski on RESS.

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