Five years ago we ran an analysis of how the web’s top brands delivered web content to mobile. We found that 82% of the Alexa 100 used Adaptive Web Design (AWD, or server-side adaptation) in their websites to cater to different device classes.
Since we ran this analysis RWD has become decidedly mainstream, an indispensable set of techniques in our web toolbox. So has this changed how the web’s top brands deliver content? No. We ran the analysis again and found that the number of sites using AWD has barely changed: of the Alexa 100 sites, fully 80% use adaptive web design in their delivery.
This is not to say RWD is not being used on these sites—the two approaches are not mutually exclusive, far from it. Many sites combine techniques to achieve the best results. A typical pattern is to utilise server-side adaptation for wholesale changes e.g. deciding which content to include and resizing images while RWD techniques are used for visual fine-tuning on the client side.
There is no single silver bullet for delivering content to today’s web devices. Use all of the tools at your disposal!