Google Accelerated Mobile Pages: What is AMP?
Mobile internet traffic has recently been outpacing desktop internet traffic, causing an earthquake that has shaken up the whole internet market. Google and other search engines have adjusted their algorithm to give precedence to website that are mobile friendly, increasing the demand for websites to have responsive design. Something is still missing, though, for many modern responsive designs. Even some of the most popular websites can not resolve this one nasty issue. What is it? If you answered “mobile page speed optimization”, you are correct! An open source project named “Accelerated Mobile Pages” has recently been moving towards a roll-out date, which should to help resolve the long loading times in mobile device browsers. Accelerated Mobile Pages (or AMP for short) is an open source project that gives developers the framework to display optimized static content for mobile users. Utilizing the AMP JS library, developers can load their external resources for a fast rendering of the page and use AMP HTML components that implement common practices in a speedy process.
Responsive design is generally a good idea for mobile friendly websites today. One shortfall of a responsive design, however, is that it does not discriminate between a desktop and a mobile device’s processing power. A responsive website will still deliver the full asset payload in a disorderly fashion for mobile users. Mobile phones have nowhere near the processing power that a modern desktop possesses, so it takes a mobile device a lot longer to load assets (which load relatively quickly on a desktop). While responsive design is great and still a fantastic idea to include on your website, it may not be the best route for mobile devices, at least until the hardware for phones advances to a level on par with today’s desktops.
On the other hand, an AMP website is nothing like a responsive design. AMP is more like a mobile website, where the desktop version and the mobile version work off completely separate theme files. This allows developers to create a separate, more optimized experience that takes advantage of all the goodies that AMP provides. Of course, there are some downsides to using AMP as well, which tend to mimic the downsides of a mobile website. Two themes means more maintenance, which means more money. However in this case, an AMP version of a website would be well worth it. At the current moment, Google’s search algorithms are not focusing separately on your mobile load times, but you can bet they will be in the near future. As mobile traffic becomes the common denominator, a website that is optimized for mobile devices will be a necessity.
Should you be creating an AMP version of your website right now? At the moment, the main benefit of using AMP is to provide your users with a superior experience when reading articles and other static content on their mobile device. AMP is still in it’s infancy, but more features and functionalities are currently in development. For these reasons I only recommend it for blogging and news websites. I also only recommend it for websites that have the disposable resources to throw at developing and maintaining an AMP version of their website. The best option for most sites is probably to wait and keep an eye on the development of AMP and the processing power of upcoming mobile devices. AMP is a great tool for the current smart phone, but new advanced processors are being rolled out for all types of devices. AMP could potentially be a project that is just not worth it when upgraded smart phones hit the market. It’s a decision that takes careful consideration, but if you decide to use the AMP framework for your website, your user’s experience will most certainly be improved.