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To compliment my short post on Multi-Site deployment of Concrete5, I thought I would add to it with a candidate approach for generating a mobile site.


With this approach, I’m assuming a setup of a mobile site on a subdomain as opposed to sub folder. I would consider this best practice as URLs stay consistent between the desktop and mobile site, which is encouraged in the Mobile Web Best Practices Guidelines from the W3C (

I’m also assuming that the desktop site has been created already. I appreciate that this may not always be the case and that in some circles, it is encouraged to consider mobile first.

1. Set up another site on your mobile domain

Follow the steps in Multi-Site deployment of Concrete5 for your mobile domain. In my case, I’ll use the example but do not go back to the basic install steps at the end and do not set up your site by providing the name, URL, and database details.

2. Share the Desktop Site Content

With thanks to the great MVC design of the Concrete5 product, all the content resides in the database away from the templates and the controls, which affect the view or presentation. Therefore, sharing the database between sites is like sharing the content.

So, open up your site.php (e.g. /var/www/ and simply copy into it the contents of the site.php from your desktop site. This means you bypass the latter install steps.

3. Themes, Controllers, and Templates

Now that we share the content, we have a blank canvas for how we would like that to appear. I actually take a copy of the desktop site files as a starting point as I can then build into them the various mobile optimisations and at least have a starting point where all the theme templates and blocks exist so nothing breaks.

So at this point, the site will be effectively a copy of the desktop site but on a different domain.

4. Device Detection

There are different services available for device detection but they all are orientated around detection through reading the User-Agent HTTP Header.

I ended up using Tera WURFL ( as I didn’t want to pay for something and thought that I could manually update ok. This is working out fine for me but your needs may be different.

Based on the simple example available on the Tera WURFL site (, you can extract various properties about the device and make a decision about how you want to serve that device.

I chose to categorise devices based on certain screen resolutions and other capabilities meaning that I ended up with 3 different device profiles to serve: Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced. From this, I can make decisions based on the profile within my templates.


I don’t make any claims for this being the best approach but I sure would like to get the conversation going about this. I know there are other smart ways where people change the theme based on device (in comparison to the changing of domain based on device as exampled in this post).

As mentioned earlier in the post, I like this approach as it keeps a balance of URLs between the main and mobile site. Additionally, block templates are not tied to a theme and so the view.php or custom template for a block on the desktop version could be totally different than in the mobile version. This also means that you can use Concrete5′s great image helper in such templates to help optimise image sizes for mobile.

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