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What is Adaptive Web Design?

By July 4, 2013July 17th, 2014Conversion Rate Optimization

Have you ever seen those TV commercials for Sonic with the two nerdy guys and then thought to yourself the ad was so lame that you should have gone into advertising just so that you didn’t have to endure another one? It has crossed my mind more than once.

The problem with TV commercials is that there is no do over if they are bad. You can’t change the message the same day. You can’t improve upon it to drive more sales. Sure a TV ad is scrutinized over by the company, ad agency and focus groups, but it is still just a one time shot. You have to get it right the first time.

Companies often treat their websites in a similar way. Companies launch new websites and then leave them alone for an average of two years before really changing the user experience. They assume because it is generating leads that it is working.  Sure new content is added, or maybe a new billboard on the homepage, but rarely anything drastic. In two years, significant changes will occur in both design style and technology. Websites can go out of date pretty quickly. This is the primary reason that companies keep changing their websites every two to three years. Unfortunately, they just don’t keep up with the constantly changing needs and expectations of customers and prospects.

But there is a better way.

An Introduction to Adaptive Web Design

Adaptive web design is a process of continually improving a website based on company needs, customer interactions and changes in technology (read our ebook for more detail).

Lets go back to the example of the TV commercial. What if you could show the commercial to a group of people, watch their response and be able to change it in real time before the next group watches? As you continue this process you can see how people respond to your changes and continue to adapt the commercial until your target audience is completely in love with you at first sight. The same can be done with your website, landing pages, email, campaigns and ads.

So how does this impact what you are doing now?

  1. New Processes. Traditional web updates are usually driven by the need for a new campaign, new piece of content or poor conversion results. Adaptive web design takes a different approach in that changes and updates are still part of process, but they are tested like everything else. Components of an adaptive site are always being changed to find what works better to drive more conversions and increase engagement. This is a significant change for most web teams that needs to be thought through. Agile management is a great methodology to use for adaptive websites.
  2. Increased Customer Awareness. One of the results of adaptive design are the insights gained about visitors, leads and customers. By constantly analyzing how people interact on the site, what are stumbling blocks and the paths they take, greater insights can be gathered to improve customer personas for web personalization.
  3. Greater Lead Generation. Because the website is constantly adapting to visitor interactions, you have a greater chance at improving your overall conversions.

(NOTE) I have seen a few people getting mixed up and thinking adaptive web design is the same as responsive design, but it is not. Responsive design is the technique of making websites look good on mobile devices. Adaptive web design is a process of continuously improving a website.

To learn more about the ideas of adaptive web design, download our e-book for marketers on creating high conversion websites.

John Paul Mains

John Paul Mains is the Chief Marketing Scientist at Click Laboratory. He loves all things digital, but especially SEO and analytics. If you're interested in learning more, his LinkedIn profile is

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