Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for Small Businesses

Web development trends are consistently moving in new directions. Trends that were relevant last year might be rendered completely obsolete within a matter of months. Being the first to adopt new web technologies can add substantial value to your business and customers so it’s essential to know what current trends are applicable to your business model.

Among the most talked-about trends is AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). AMP is a stripped-down HTML web page that is significantly more lightweight than its standard web counterpart. As a result, mobile users get a much-improved browsing experience.

In the modern web, the use of AMP is a contentious topic. For many web enthusiasts, it is thought of as a dumbing down of the effort gone into the web design and web interactivity of a website. As a web developer myself, I wanted to get a good overview of AMP and layout the good and bad for my clients. 

In particular, I want to see how exactly it benefits small businesses as I have been queried about it on multiple occasions. So let’s explore AMP.

AMP was originally created with content publishers in mind, but more and more industries have started to adopt this technique in order to provide an improved browsing experience for mobile customers.

Additionally, there is also pressure coming from Google who has now officially sent notifications for mobile first-page indexing. The benefit for large businesses has already been established with prominent content publishers such as the Washington Post having great success.

According to the Washington Post’s head of ad products and technology, Jarrod Dicker:

“The Post publishes over 1,000 articles in AMP every day, and they’re already seeing concrete benefits…We have seen load times average 400 milliseconds, an 88% improvement over our traditional mobile website. This has made readers more likely to tap on Washington Post stories because they know our articles will load consistently fast”.

While it was previously seen as a technique utilized by large business entities it is now just as important for small business owners to use AMP for their own customer’s experiences. Determining the value of such an implementation can be difficult so lets breakdown how AMP can add significant value for your business.

What exactly are Accelerated Mobile Page?

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) can be thought of as the minimalist version of a website’s desktop version. This is not to be confused with responsive design, as responsive design tends to concentrate on a refined mobile layout. AMP nearly reduces all the website’s assets into the bare minimum of whats required.

  • HTML
    • Some conventional HTML tags are removed completely
    • Most of the markup is stripped down to the bare minimum and typical HTML elements are replaced with new unique tags
    • For example, <a> is replaced with <link>
  • CSS
    • Styling files are limited to 50KB.
    • This is thought to be sufficient for a singular article or document
  • JavaScript
    • JavaScript files are limited to 150kb 
    • Modern websites/web app tend to pile the amount of JavaScript required for complex user interactions
    • AMP will reduce the amount of additional render on the page caused by JS

Reduced Loading Time

As websites are becoming more bloated, the necessity for implementing techniques that improve performance has significantly increased. Make by no qualms about it, Google will penalize your site without hesitation if the user is waiting too long for the assets to load.

According to KPCB, the time spent browsing the web on mobile devices has surpassed 51%. Additionally, mobile audiences have come to expect instantaneous content which puts a lot of pressure on businesses to optimize for mobile. Thankfully, AMP lends a helping hand in ensuring the reduction of loading times.

Google has stated that AMP is not a direct ranking factor in search results. However, it is evident that loading speed is a massive factor in your SEO rankings. As a result, the use of AMP is an inherent factor for improving your page ranking.

SEO plays such a huge role in any companies growth and AMP can help in improving how search-friendly your website is. Utilizing AMP in this way does not guarantee top results in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPS). However, Google recognizes an improved user experience and will analyze your site’s speed as an important contributor to where should your business rank.

The importance of this is highlighted by an alarming statement claiming that a 1-second delay in page loading speed can decrease website conversions by up to 7%. If we are using this state as evidence then a user browsing a site using AMP has the potential to:

  • Stay on your site longer (increased session time)
  • Navigate to another piece of internal content ( A better bounce rate)
  • Increased overall engagement (Higher rate of conversion on ads and leads)

Improved Accessibility 

Because of AMP’s minimalist presentation, users are being provided with a more accessible way of digesting content. This shouldn’t be overlooked as users suffering from migraines or that are sensitive to flashing images can really benefit from AMP’s format.

In the modern web, there are all kinds of website components that comprise of flashing content including:

  • Animated GIFs
  • Blinking cursors
  • Transitioning animations of images and text
  • Zooming
  • Parallax scrolling
  • Modals

While these aspects can add a lot of benefits to the design of a website, they still might cause issues for some users. This is why AMP is can provide a lot of value to those that are more sensitive to these web techniques. It will essentially serve the bare essential version of the content, which regardless of website speed, is the most optimum way for some individuals to consume content.

What are some concerns for AMP?

It’s not all smooth sailing when it comes to AMP. There a wide range of valid concerns when it comes to its use and implementation. The primary concern revolves around the content loading off Google’s own servers rather than the web itself.

This enables Google to control all requests to a publisher’s content. Whether this is good or bad is quite a gray area.

  • All requests to the mobile version of the content will appear to come from a Google URL
  • Google’s dominant role in delivering content will strengthen even further, therefore, giving themselves even more influence on the consumption of content.
  • An AMP webpage replaces the website URL with a generated Google AMP URL. This makes it difficult for users to see the original URL for the page.
  • AMP pages are temporary, so saved linked and browser histories are at risk of disappearing. Your reader/user might be left with no trace to your original website.
    • Google has started to fix this issue.
    • Due to AMP being stored in a cache on Google’s server, publisher ads have the chance to be hidden
  • The layout of your content is at risk of being misrepresented. Since your content is stripped down, there is always a chance that this minimalist version strays too far from the original design of your website.
    • This can leave a user with the wrong impression of how you wanted to display your content
  • Blocks Reader Mode in Safari browsers

  • Injects an obtrusive sticky block at the top of the page that covers up 15% of the screen, showing the domain of the original article, but with no way to click to the original source

These should be taken into consideration when deciding to use it for your business or brand. When implementing AMP there is an element of control given up to Google. However, choosing to ignore AMP on this basis runs the risk of reducing returns on your mobile traffic. The loss in conversions and views might not be a risk worth taking for your business.

Additionally, your article/content on your website will be far more likely to provide a seamless and fluid reading experience for your user which is extremely valuable for your overall communications.

Conclusion

I hope I’ve given a fair overview of AMP from both sides of the coin. There is certainly a lot to consider when deciding if it suits your small business. So, should you convert your content pages to an AMP focused website?

Well, that depends, Google’s AMP project has offered exciting speed benefits with only a few usability sacrifices. If your website is cluttered, slow and unoptimized then AMP is a valid option to consider. 

It’s a relevant option for every small business that focuses on online conversions. If your business publishes content regularly the use of AMP is a simple enhancement for that content. It gives the opportunity for content to appear at the top of the search results in 

However, if you looking to keep the design of your brand consistent for all users AMP might not align with your vision. It’s also important to note that the prerendering techniques used for AMP are on the cusp of coming to ordinary webpages/ web apps. So it might be more beneficial to wait it out.

AMP is relevant for every business with a core focus on online conversions. Primarily, AMP is focussed on online publishers who generate new content regularly. These AMP-integrated content pages are the ones that show up first in mobile search results. 

I hope this helped in assessing if AMP is the right option for your small business. To summarize, you ideally need to have a large quantity of content being consumed by your users to get benefit from this technique.

Gareth Dunne

Senior JavaScript Engineer and creator of JSdiaries. Passionate about the latest in web technologies and how it can provide value for my clients.