New Mobile Tech—AMP

What You Need to Know

 By: POV Editors, with Justin Hamlett, Web Application Developer

Google’s AMP Project is generating serious buzz in the dev community. But, despite putting up some solid numbers when it comes to mobile user growth, retention, engagement, and conversion, it’s also brand spankin’ new with plenty of wrinkles still to be ironed out. So is AMP worth adopting this early in the game? Here’s a quick breakdown to help you decide if your business should jump on the AMP wagon.

What AMP Is

AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. The AMP Project is an open-source initiative aimed at creating a drastically faster mobile experience for users without sacrificing styling and monetization for businesses. It’s sponsored and led by Google (maybe you’ve heard of them?) in collaboration with other tech bigwigs like Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and WordPress.

Why AMP Is a Thing

If you haven’t been residing under a rock, then you know we now live in a mobile-first world. The number of people accessing the web via mobile devices is gargantuan … and ever-growing.

That means businesses have to meet potential customers where they already are. But the building blocks of engagement and conversion (ads, forms, paywalls, embeds, videos, etc.) often lead to bulky, sluggish mobile sites. Google reports that 75 percent of mobile sites take more than 10 seconds to load, and that more than half of mobile visitors bounce after three seconds of load time. We’re no mathematicians, but that doesn’t sound promising for mobile marketers.

The AMP Project aims to eliminate those user experience pitfalls plaguing mobile sites, like slow load times, unresponsive pages, and obtrusive ads. The key to doing that lies in the coding.

How AMP Works

AMP is built on three core components, the combination of which yields that lightning-fast experience:

  1. AMP HTML – A restricted subset of HTML supported by 70-plus ad servers and networks. Designed for readability and speed, as opposed to interactivity, it prevents the use of certain HTML tags; forms, for example, are a no go.
  2. AMP JS – A JavaScript library that implements AMP’s “best practices for performance” and manages resource loading for quick rendering.
  3. AMP Cache – A proxy-based delivery network that fetches and caches AMP pages and validates pages to ensure only sites playing by AMP’s rules are displayed.

AMP Explained, courtesy of ampproject.org

In a nutshell, the AMP Project strips away the elements that make code clunky on mobile devices by using a streamlined version of CSS and cutting out author-written JavaScript. AMPs are lightweight, bare-bones versions of traditional pages that typically load in less than a second and use 10 times less data than comparable non-AMP pages.

Of course, that’s an extremely simplified explanation for a crazy complicated topic. You can delve into the nuts and bolts of how AMP works here.

The Verdict So Far

In May, Google said more than 2 billion AMP-enabled sites had been published globally. And, plenty of reputable, “major player” sites (including Gizmodo, MSNBC, Time, Teads and Wego) are reporting impressive mobile results since implementing it, not only in terms of faster load times but also related to jumps in new visitors, time on site, and average click-through rate.

A Small “But…”

Anything this new and (potentially) revolutionary is going to hit a few snags. In AMP’s case, those include working out bugs in analytics tracking; extending supported ad formats, platforms and tracking; and broadening support for video and e-commerce sites. Not surprisingly, Google and its collaborators are all over these issues, and they continually and transparently address them via this roadmap.

Transitioning to AMP in a way that’s in keeping with your business’s look and feel can also mean a lot of work. There are plug-ins designed to auto-create AMP pages for you, but they probably aren’t the best option when it comes to maintaining your carefully cultivated styling. That means adjusting your templates to generate custom AMP code that meets the project’s strict criteria while fitting your brand. And, that means time and money.

The good news: There’s a wealth of support out there for this hot-topic, open-source initiative. Check out ampproject.org, GitHub and Stack Overflow.

The Bottom Line

AMP sites are fast, and the tech is coming on strong. Whether or not you should adopt it now depends on several factors, the most important of which is the flavor of site you operate and what kind of AMP support exists for it. Speed doesn’t mean much without functionality, after all.

Our Advice

If you’re not ready to fully adopt AMP right now—and, unless you’re purely a news site, it’s probably smart to hold off—you should at least begin experimenting with it, preferably on pages that aren’t part of your core site, like landing pages for marketing initiatives.


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Justin Hamlett_cropped.jpg

University of Kentucky graduate Justin Hamlett has been one of iostudio's rockstar web application developers for the last year, working on a huge range of projects for our Army National Guard and Navy teams. He’s also not afraid to get a little dirty—on a race course. Along with his skills behind a keyboard, Justin is a force to be reckoned with on a BMX bike.