Adapt or respond? How to make your website design work for you


In a digital age, it goes without saying that every hotel that wants to succeed needs a website with an online booking facility. Being able to check out a hotel’s details and swiftly set up the transaction to bag a room for a night (or a few) is important because that is how so many people buy things now.

Of course, before anyone gets their debit or credit card out of their wallets, they will need to be convinced that the hotel meets their needs. This may be determined by a number of critical factors, such as price and location, but will also be influenced by extra elements such as good testimonies from satisfied guests, or attractive decor.

Elements like great photographs showing the hotel in a good light and written content that provides effective SEO are also very useful in both attracting people to the site and deciding the hotel looks like a pleasant one to stay at. However, all these are just the most basic aspects of a website. The question of whether a site should be adaptive or responsive is an important one.

A key distinction

The adaptive versus responsive question is a hot topic in the area of contemporary web design, but it is one where those devising a new site for a hotel will need to decide which is best for them. Quite simply, the issue is how the design of a site deals with the fact that the kind of devices it is viewed on will vary, with laptops and smartphones having screen sizes that differ substantially.

There are, of course, many websites that effectively operate as two sites, one for PCs and laptops and a smaller, bite-sized one for smartphones, with easy access shortcuts and a smaller array of items on the front page. This enables a lot of information to be put on a large screen, while the inevitable compression of text size this would entail in fitting a lot of information on a small screen would make it harder to read. The trade-off, however, is less information being accessible on the smartphone-based site.

Responsive design is a fluid system of website creation in which a CSS3 media queries module is used to respond to different screen sizes. This is designed to make the site user-friendly whether it is being accessed through the larger screens of a PC and laptop, mid-sized tablets or the small interface of a smartphone. It means a flexible grid can be created, in which text wraps and shrinks in accordance with the browser being used. By contrast with the shrink-to-fit design of responsive sites, an adaptive site will use a series of different static layouts. When the type of device accessing a web page is identified, it will supply the layout tailored to it. So, for example, a page of 320 pixels will be provided for mobiles, 760 pixels for tablets and 960 for desktop PCs and laptops.

Make a decision

Both of these systems have been designed with the development of smartphones in mind. That being the case, it is important to consider whether the hotel website is actually up-to-date to begin with. Some may be accessible by small-screen devices, but the text will be very small. This reflects the fact that many sites have not been updated and are still using technology dating from before the arrival of the smartphone. If this is the case, the importance of updating a site will be paramount, as anyone using their phone will surely decide they are better off looking at hotel sites they can read without reaching for a magnifying glass.

Which is best?

Either a responsive or adaptive site will offer a much better solution and help ensure your site is accessible by smartphone users. However, there are pros and cons of using either choice, so it is worth considering the question from the perspective of matters like how much time you have and how user-friendly you want the site to be. Responsive design has the advantage of being faster on average than an adaptive site, because the system does not have to identify the device accessing it before downloading the page, since each page will automatically load up and then adjust as necessary. The exception to this rule is if the responsive site has a lot more pages in it than an adaptive site. This gives a responsive site the advantage of being more user-friendly from the viewpoint of a potential customer, and it will be the best in most cases. However, this is a caveat; a responsive site does require more attention to ensure it has a CSS that works well with any possible screen size. That is harder to do than simply to have a small set of pre-made screens that are tailored to each type of device.

This means that for smaller sites and in cases where the amount of time available to work on it is less, adaptive may well be the easier and better option.