According to the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project many people reading on the mobile web can be a slow and frustrating experience. Especially in South Africa, we can’t deny that mobile experiences are very varied depending on service providers and handsets even more so than in the so-called ‘first world’.

The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project claims it doesn’t have to be that way. They have a vision that publishers can create mobile optimised content once and have it load instantly everywhere.

The mobile web is at odds with what everybody does on the web… which is surf and browse. That should all be fast and easy, right now it just isn’t.

Paul Maiorana, Vice President, Platform Service, WordPress.com

Definition of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Accelerated Mobile Pages are just like any other HTML page, but with a limited set of allowed technical functionality that is defined and governed by the open source AMP spec. Just like all web pages, Accelerated Mobile Pages will load in any modern browser or app web view. AMP files take advantage of various technical and architectural approaches that prioritise speed to provide a faster experience for users.

The goal is not to homogenise how content looks and feels, but instead to build a more common technical core between pages that speeds up load times.

Now you might ask yourself – why should I care?

The first and most important reason would be that whether or not your page is ‘AMP’ enabled will influence the way you are featured in search results. That being said this mostly would apply to content publishing sites – but most sites these days feature some semblance of a blog – so for the vast majority of us it will make a massive difference especially in our mobile search results.

How does Google AMP work?

There are three parts to Google AMP:

1AMP HTML has a strictly defined set of pre-processing tags. Those are mainly limited to text formatting and image embedding tags such as amp-ad, amp-embed, amp-img, amp-pixel, and amp-video.

2AMP JS is a severely limited Javascript file. It loads all external resources in an asynchronous (in the background) way. This keeps “render blocking” from interfering with how quickly what the user came to see renders on the screen. Everything extraneous to the actual words and images in the article loads last. AMP JS also grabs and pre-renders the content by predicting which DNS resources and connections will be needed, then by downloading and pre-sizing images. This is all done to alleviate work for the mobile device to economize data use.

3AMP Cache, or the AMP Content Delivery Network (AMP CDN), is Google’s system of servers doing the heavy lifting of grabbing your most recent content and pre-positioning it around the globe. This ensures that a page requested from, say, Italy doesn’t need to be sent over the wire from Mountain View, California each time it’s requested. Instead, Google places a pre-rendered, optimized copy of that AMP page on a server close to or in Italy. The CDN is refreshed each time an article is updated or added.

How to get AMP working for your WordPress site or blog?

We’ve followed Yoast’s advice and used two plugins to get it up and running on a few of our sites that post a lot.

  1. The first plugin you will need is AMP, the plugin is not currently without flaws but considering how new the whole AMP movement is it’s not surprising. In essence, this plugin will append your post pages with a /amp/ at the end indicating an accelerated mobile page. It won’t work for pages at the moment.
  2. If you are already using Yoast for SEO then you need to install Glue for Yoast to ensure your metadata is, in fact, the carefully crafted data you’ve assembled whilst using Yoast. The other really cool thing about using Glue for Yoast is that you can style your AMP output. At least as far as the header colour, font colours, hyperlinks, and block quotes are concerned.

What do we think about AMP?

At best it seems like a great attempt to make mobile content more accessible, which is fantastic for South African content owners and bloggers, where our audiences are still very concerned with the cost of data. The real test will be to see how Google Search rankings are affected for those sites that are AMP compliant.

It does, unfortunately, strip away all the pretty fancy things we love to create as web developers. At the end of the day, we need to remind ourselves that users are interested in content first and foremost.  As a brand, it’s more important that your content loads quickly and consistently instead of looking pretty on only a few handsets when the internet is really fast.

So for the time being we will keep testing AMP with some of our blogging clients to see if it makes a difference in their traffic and user engagement on their content.

Search