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.
However, AWD is not always speedier. AWD sites 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 RWD code is written efficiently the site will work well on any new device and screen size.
For more details on the differences, the pros and the cons of these two web design types, see the chart below.