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Working on two formats throughout our website - PC and mobile. Each request will have a check who the client is. Then, two methods seem optional:

  1. Render the page accordingly.
  2. Redirect to a parallel site

Is there a difference in server load (i.e. maybe 2 has less load because requests are actually pointed at different pages)? Whereas, it seems having a single page would be easier to maintain.

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Althoug I'm no expert on the subject, I guess I'd go with a single page, and only switch the css used by the page. First reason is that you will have less work to do to maintain your website, compared to having two parallel sites. Second reason is better explain with this XKCD comic. Having one website with different css means that users will always have the same experience.

And using this technique, you can still have desktop only features by hiding/not loading the content if the user has a smartphone.

In term of server load, the CSS should get cached (depending on the browser) so there won't be any server overload.

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I agree, and I've edited the question to include this view. However, we are trying to think in terms of overloading the server. – JNF May 30 '12 at 9:09
If you add to that a JS library like Twitter-Bootstrap you can radically change the experience without relaying on multiple pages that are harder to maintain. To see what it does, check this example and try resizing your browser window: – Chepech May 30 '12 at 14:06

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