What’s all the fuss about Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages?

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is currently buzzing around the web dev sites, but what does it all mean for you?

Your content gets cached and served up super-fast on Google’s servers, straight from Google’s search results

Sounds great right? Well, there are some content restrictions. If, for example; you are planning on releasing html5 games on the web, chances are, you’ll be relying on javascript to do some heavy lifting. Amp then, isn’t for you.

On the other hand, if you are a blog owner or own produce content for a publishing website, there is a lot to be gained.

Obvious speed improvement is obvious

Google pre-caches this AMP enabled content, providing  faster loading times. Faster loading times are a great way to gain reader respect and return visits.

You can check out AMP enabled pages right now!

  1. Go to google
  2. search ‘Guardian’ and take a look at that new Top Stories AMP driven feed.Best thing about this Top Stories feed is, if you have multiple items in there, a user can simply swipe through them almost instantaneously getting at your other content remarkably fast.

So what drove the whole AMP initiative?

Your JavaScript is slow

Well, maybe not your JavaScript but the publishing/blogging sites in general, they are. Over time, more and more real-estate has been swallowed up by ads. Ads use more and more JavaScript to deliver rich media creatives. This shift in page weight has increasingly hindered web performance for mobile users.

Imagine this common scenario

You are at the pub/coffee shop using the public wifi / your slow 3G. You are trying to access content and… you are, but it is terribly slow. All you really want to look for are some news posts/articles to pass the time.  Your selected content comes up, but it is a WPOD for maybe 10 seconds. Whilst your phone is downloading fonts and assets for the main content, ads are also being loaded asynchronously and eating at the bandwidth that your phone has even further. Crucially, this will infuriate you, and you’ll probably give up.

Although publishers are entitled to place ads where they want and to earn money to support themselves and their businesses, it has become massive data/time-sinks for mobile users.

Something had to be done.

Enter AMP

Amp is a proposed solution to this problem, allowing publishers to respect user-data by creating pages with preferred standards and best practices.

These web best practices have been around for a good while now, whilst penalizing sites that don’t respect them, they were seen increasingly  as a rule of thumb.

Web developers trying to meet ever demanding business needs would sometimes give way to rigorously abiding by these best practices for more features. With AMP, you have to play in their stadium. This means you have to respect their rules.

Although these standards have been around for a good long while, AMP asks you to implement them slightly differently. The markup is near identical to html in most places, but you really need to ensure that the content validates to the standards set out by the AMP team. I will cover this in more depth with a future post regarding implementation.

What can AMP do for me?

With AMP you get a component list. The standard list is pretty extensive. Some off the shelf components are:

  • amp-img – AMP’s image markup
  • amp-ad  – AMPS’s ad markup
  • amp-pixel – AMP’s pixel tracking markup
  • amp-embed – AMP’s content embed markup
  • amp-video – AMP’s HTML5 video embed markup

On top of this, you also have access to a great extended components library, allowing you to deliver rich content that also follows best practices.

AMP respects reciprocal links

The good news about AMP is that you can setup pages away from your main content to facilitate the amp-html markup. This means you can leverage the ecosystem without buying into it completely.

Say you had an article “this-is-why-xyz-is-amazing.html“, you can add a link tag into this content that points to the stripped back, amp-powered page that delivers the main content of this article.

Then, in your amp-powered page, just add a canonical link back to your main article.

This should provide the benefits of AMP without losing the ability to opt-out with certain content.

Some additional features supported in AMP

We touched upon there being some great extended components for use within AMP.

Among these, you have YouTube/Brightcove video embed components, carousel galleries, embedded tweets and more. You can also add AMP approved ad units on these pages that follow strict amp guidelines.

What kind of content is AMP best suited towards?

AMP is best suited towards implementation in news articles, blog posts, publications and videos. So if you have a good loyal readership, there is probably something in this for you. The content should preferably be considered a news article or a consumable piece.

Can you link to non-AMP Pages?

Yes, and this is important. With AMP, you have been given a tool to reach out to you audience, providing them a fast responsive experience for when they are on the go using their mobile device. Consider your AMP pages as a beacon of convenience which can entice readers to pick up more of your offerings off of the back of reading an AMP enabled article.

You could have call to actions within your articles to richer content (maybe games?) that relate back into the subject of interest.

Well, that’s all I can offer on this subject for the time being. I will go through some implementation steps soon, so be sure to check back for that.