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Responsive Web and Adaptive Web Design: The Pros and Cons

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Both responsive web design (RWD) and adaptive web design (AWD) enhance the user experience across different devices. But digital teams ramping up their web development and test coverage efforts should bear in mind the key differences between RWD and AWD.

RWD uses one layout and scales down website elements to fit the screen. Conversely, AWD doesn’t use a single layout that changes with each screen size, but rather multiple layouts designed for various screens. This is more expensive to build, but AWD delivers a more precise mobile web experience because pages are rendered based on what mobile users care about the most. For instance, airlines often have a completely different website layout for mobile than desktop to provide quick access to “check-in”, “flight status” and “book a flight” features.

Related post: Responsive Web: The Importance of Client-Side Performance Testing

With AWD, images are resized rather than scaled down, and ads and JavaScript that are not needed on a mobile website are eliminated. Therefore, when AWD code is written efficiently, load times are faster than RWD.

However, AWD is not always speedier. Adaptive websites will only work on screen sizes for which there’s an existing layout and an organization may not have a layout for every new device. On the other hand, if responsive web design code is written efficiently the site will work well on any new device and screen size.

The Pros and Cons of RWD and AWD

Responsive Web Design and Adaptive Web Design Comparison

For more on responsive web testing, watch a recording of our on-demand webinar: “Responsive Web Design: Testing to Deliver a Consistent User Experience”

Testing Responsive Web Design Across Different Platforms

Perfecto customers benefit from a digital lab that allows them to test their websites and apps across different devices, browsers, OSs and even network carriers. The key benefits includes:

  • Side-by-Side Testing of Web and Mobile
  • Run Functional Tests and Test Under Real-User Conditions
  • Support for Selenium Testing
  • An Enterprise Grade, Secure Test Lab
  • Ability to Isolate and Resolve Problems Faster

Learn more about our one digital lab >

Guide to Responsive Web Testing

Shane is Perfecto's Content Marketing Manager. He oversees the company's content production, including the corporate blog, white papers, podcasts and infographics. Shane brought with him to Perfecto 12 years of technology journalism experience in roles such as Managing Editor for InformationWeek and Assistant Managing Editor and Senior Writer at where his writing garnered an ASBPE Award for his blog, "Eye on Microsoft" and a min Editorial & Design Award. You can find Shane obsessing over mobile technology, sports and pop culture on Twitter @smoneill.

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