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Normal websites look exactly the same to everyone who uses them. All visitors get the same information - every time. But if you had a meeting with someone to talk about your business, you wouldn't say exactly the same thing to everyone you meet - and repeat it every time you saw them.
In the real world, you would make sensible assumptions based on what you know about them. You'd find out which aspects they are most interested in and what they are hoping to achieve. As you discussed this with them, you'd find out how much they already know and where they wanted more detail. You would constantly adapt what you tell them as you learn more about them and their context.
Is Adaptive the Same as Responsive or Interactive?
A responsive website adjusts the size, layout and formatting to suit the size of the visitor's screen - from a small mobile phone to a massive desktop monitor. An adaptive website would also adjust the content based on the context of what they are trying to do. Knowing what type of device they're using can help to understand if they are commuting, at home, or at work - so you can send them more relevant content.
Like an interactive website, adaptive websites respond to users. While an interactive website will use information explicitly provided by the user, an adaptive website will use a wider, more subtle set of data to understand what a user is trying to do.
An adaptive website can collect information from the visitor's browser:
- Where they are
- What the local time is
- What type of device they are using
- Do they have a slow connection
- How they found the website - which link they followed to get there, or what search term they used
It can also track:
- How often they have been here and for how long
- Which pages have they been reading and how far they scrolled down
- Which ones they spent time on
- What they have searched for
- What else they have done on the website
When Your Website should be Adaptive
- Your website could recognise regular visitors and present a customised page without the general introductions and a focus on the areas they have been interested in.
- If they seem to be commuting you might want to show them information about local travel, new jobs, or the benefits of working at home.
- You could show different information if they appear to be: at work, just back from school, in a shopping centre, surfing late at night, or on a weekend.
- If they seem to be quickly flicking through pages or on a slow connection you might decide to show them a summarised version.
- When people have found your website by following a link from LinkedIn, then you could assume they are looking for a job.
- If they are using the latest most-expensive iPad, you might offer them the luxury version of your products.
- After they have read every page on a particular topic, you could suggest they read your eBook or sign up for your newsletter.
Learn more about practical use cases where “adaptive” can make websites more intelligent.