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What are Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)?

Paul Hudson August 3, 2016

 

What are Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)?

We’re back today with more acronyms!

Accelerated Mobile Pages are an important development to be aware of. We’ll be going through a rundown of what AMPs are and how you can incorporate them into your digital marketing strategy for best results.

So what is it?!

AMP is a project launched by both Google and Twitter with a simple main goal: make mobile faster.

The technical explanation is that AMPs are stripped down versions of HTML code that improve faster page load and responsiveness. It’s also open source, a great thing as we all know when it comes to extending the shelf life of a product through user provided enhancements and tweaks.

Commonly thought to be a response from Google and Twitter to recent projects such as the Facebook instant Articles piece, AMPs are designed to respond to the massively increasing trend of mobile usage for the entire internet when compared to desktops.

So how can an AMP be so quick?

Good question.

We mentioned above that the core of AMPs is that they are lean versions of HTML. This comes with positives and negatives – certain HTML functions and tags won’t work with AMPs. Forms are one such function that has been cut out in the name of speed.

You’ll also need to be aware of the limitations of your CSS, as AMPs will need a more streamlined approach when it comes to this language.

JavaScript also didn’t make the cut – you pretty much can’t use it at all on these pages. A library is available by default which does let you use some functions like the ability to have lazy loading on your pages.

This all means that while certain functionality and integration of the usual coding languages is restricted, the end result is that the page both loads quickly and is also able to be cached to a very high degree.

This results in a page that loads extremely fast even on a desktop device but is especially well suited for phones where connectivity and display are common hurdles towards having a page load fast.

How this all works with your mobile

Let’s take a closer look at the actual interaction with mobile devices.

AMPs can be seen clearly by the end of the URL showing an /AMP tag.

You can often take a look at HTML pages that have these available simply by adding the AMP tag to the end of the normal URL.

The way it functions is that part of the work is with Google and the user loads part of it.

The hosted AMP is not done by Google – the user can do this and it’s all about speed.

A free platform is available also – when you see page results showing on Google these are usually hosted on a gstatic page, basically a cache version that is Google hosted.

Both of these can contain the rel alternative which is of course important in the mobile world.

So we know it’s fast because it’s streamlined and trimmed down to the barebones. But it’s also made to work so that caching can be done without needing a rel=canonical directed back towards the user.

It’s a good point to make here that whatever version of your visited page you’re on, even a cached version, it’s stated by Google that you will be able to control adverts and fill your own in.

This is big news and we know that Google are working on their own platform that integrates with services such as Outbrain and Adsense while still allowing the user to reap the profits. Nothing is taken by Google.

While it might be an obvious point to state, AMPs are only available on mobile devices.
Validating your AMP pages can be done by using a tool integrated into the Chrome browser. By opening the developer tools you can see the appropriate system that works with AMPs and a link to the project website.

The reasoning behind AMPs

A key consideration for the rollout of Accelerated Mobile Pages is content.

With publishers increasingly relying on rich content such as videos and plugins for various social media platforms as well as image carousels, cutting out dead weight and keeping sites mobile friendly is trickier than ever.

Ads and analytics also need to work with shared components that let them still deliver a good experience for their users while retaining the features that draw people to their pages in the first place.

The open source nature is also a boon as we’ve discussed, giving AMPs a better prospect for being relevant and updated as time goes on.

The ability to distribute content is also a consideration. It’s fair to say that if you have a website you want as many people to see it as possible. The fact that mobile users are starting to take over desktop users for all the internet and dominate the figures month by month is explanation enough by itself.

The use of a lightweight and agile page that combines its trimmed down nature with clever cache abilities makes it perfect for enabling publishers and site owners to reach as much of their target demographic and existing customers as possible.

Ads are a final point that’s critical. Often a problem with pages that aren’t optimized for mobile users, AMP HTML will allow a page to still keep its ad network choices as well as retain any particular formats that are tailored for their user experience.

The goal of allowing subscriptions and paywalls that work with all formats is also a great draw for AMPs, making it less of a headache to keep your revenue consistent regardless of the device used by viewers.

What’s the advice?

First and foremost be aware of the limitations of Accelerated Mobile Pages before you build too much of a strategy up. They’re fantastic for reaching the full spectrum of mobile users such as those on older 3G phones or without access to high speed networks.

They are however somewhat limited in terms of what they can do with coding languages like JavaScript as we discussed above.

Be sure to avoid the trap of planning a feature that you want to integrate with your AMPs only to find out that it won’t work once the prep is done!

You’ll also want to make sure that your AMPs work with any content management system you have in place such as WordPress. This is fine with most platforms having a range of available plugins that are compatible. This should undoubtedly be a priority to avoid any clashes.

The ultimate point to make is that Accelerated Mobile pages make your work less of a headache. It’s a smart move to retain your planned features across the full range of devices.

As more different formats for smartphones and desktop devices saturate the market the comfort of knowing you’ll still reach your demographic with a unified customer experience will help you rest easy. No more fantastic desktop pages that are a train wreck on mobiles!

It’s all about making our jobs easier, something we can all get behind in this hectic industry. Great stuff.