Mobile Website: AWD or RWD?

When developing a website, it is important to do so with your users in mind. Will they access your site via desktop, smart-phone, or tablet, or is it possible they will use all three? Two of the most popular ways to design a website is Responsive Web Design (RWD) and Adaptive Web Design (AWD). Differentiating the two can be confusing. Here’s the scoop:

What is Responsive Web Design (RWD)?
RWD is a technique that results in a website being displayed properly on any size screen. The only thing that changes the design is the CSS and JavaScript code. In addition, RWD uses a grid type layout to determine break points (the points at which your website responds to provide the best layout for its content). For a desktop platform, content is designed to be viewed on one, solid screen, where as on a smart-phone, content is broken up into rows for better readability to accommodate changes in size and shape.

What is Adaptive Web Design (AWD)?
AWD is when a website is optimized per device. The site is built based off of different versions of code. The basic idea is to allow for the site’s code formats to be able to acknowledge on what device the site is being viewed (desktop, phone, etc). Once it determines what device you are using, it will then choose which version of the site to appear on screen.

At the end of the day, RWD is by far the more popular approach to take when building a site. There are two main reasons why:

  • Front-end changes can be updated regardless of how the back-end was developed.
  • Designers do not need to update code when new devices or smartphone screen sizes change.


Not sure if your website is mobile? 46% of Fortune 500 Companies are not mobile. 29% of Top 500 retail sites are not mobile!

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