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Adaptive Content

Adaptive content is digital content that is optimized for multiple devices. It may include text, images, video, and other types of multimedia. The content may simply adapt to your screen size or may appear differently depending on the device on which it is accessed.

The most popular way to display adaptive content on the web is through responsive web design. By using CSS media queries and fluid layouts, web developers can create websites that adjust to the size of your browser window. When you load a responsive webpage, a media query detects your window size and your browser displays the corresponding layout. Media queries are often used in combination with fluid layouts, which define sections of a page in percentages rather than fixed pixels. This allows the content to fill different screen sizes more evenly.

Another way to display adaptive web content is to detect what device a person is using. For example, when you access a website on your mobile phone, it may direct you to a separate mobile site that is designed specifically for smartphones. The layout may include larger text, more simple navigation, and larger buttons to make it easily accessible with a touchscreen. Mobile sites often use unique URLs, such as m.example.com.

While websites are the most common example of adaptive content, they are not the only kind. Software, for instance, can be adapted to multiple devices and screen sizes. Many productivity programs, such as Microsoft Office and Apple's iWork applications are now developed as mobile apps alongside the traditional desktop versions. Many games that used to only run on desktop computers are now available for mobile devices as well. Some programs now come in three different versions – for desktops, tablets, and smartphones.

Adaptive content extends other mediums as well. For example, a smart home thermostat may have a digital interface that displays temperature and humidity information as well as outside weather data downloaded from the Internet. You might be able to access this data by logging into your account thorough the web or an app. Similarly, the information displayed on your automobile's LCD panel might also be accessible through the web or a mobile app interface. In each case, developers must create adaptive content that displays the information correctly on each device.

Updated: January 21, 2015

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