What is AMP and Why Should You Care?

Both very good questions which we recently asked ourselves. Here’s what we found after using it.

Posted by • 23.11.2017

Spicy Web Website Design Melbourne Accelerated Mobile Pages

Have you ever Google’d something on your phone, only to find the result you chose to click on took 15 seconds to load and turned your phone’s battery into a temporary heater?

It’s not fun. As a mobile user, you’re on the go and want results quick. You don’t want the speed of some website to stand between you and your goal.

It’s shown that mobile users have much different goals than desktop users. Desktop users are more happy to browse around, while mobile users are much more goal orientated – they’re there to do something, whether it’s looking for a phone number, reading a funny article, or finding the name they can’t remember of that actor who plays Sherlock. So mobile users are affected much more by slow websites, because they want results, and they want them now.

Some attentive engineers over at Google noticed this, and decided it was their responsibility to do something about it. They saw a user facing problem (slow websites) as a result of poor engineering and thought, “we can fix that”.

Amp Brand Black

AMP is a project that aims to certifiably improve the speed and performance of websites on less-powerful devices.

See, although websites are a very visual experience, they’re mostly a combination of three different programming languages – HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

If you don’t know what they do, here’s a crash course: HTML describes what the content is, CSS dictates how the content looks, and Javascript controls what happens when you interact with the content.

The problem is, these languages can do things that severely affect the performance of a web page.

For instance, HTML can tell the browser to load resources like images and CSS/Javascript code from anywhere on the web. This means that your website might actually be cobbled together and delivered to your users from all corners of the internet. Imagine having a lot of these resources, all various distances from your users computer – your site is then only as fast as the slowest moving resource! And the more of these spread-out resources you have, the more chance you’re delivering a poor experience to your users. Ideally, all these resources should come from one place.

As for the other two languages, CSS and Javascript, they each have their own subset of “features” that if used improperly can severely affect how fast your device can render and run the website.

How Google themselves describe the AMP Project

Wouldn’t it be better for the users if developers just avoided using those features altogether?

Enter AMP. The AMP Project is an initiative by Google which is a set of programming standards that helps build reliably fast websites. It’s accompanied by software for the developer to use when building an AMP Page. It addresses the issues described above by putting limitations on the developer.

These limitations basically amount to: don’t do that.

Search Result

What a cool icon, I bet you're super jealous

If you listen to Google well enough, they’ll be happy to certify your web page as “AMP ready”, as signalled by a little lightning bolt in their search results. Now, Google likes fast sites, so they’ll also give you a little boost in ranking on mobiles as thanks1. Not only that, but they will also re-host the entire page on their own servers, because – let’s face it – they can serve your site quicker than you ever could. Not a bad deal.

All in all, for a desktop machine, the performance increase from AMP might be insignificant. However, on mobile devices where internet reception is often slow or spotty, and processing power is much less, AMP may have a very significant effect. AMP itself is not without controversy, but at the very least the message it sends is noble.

And at most you’ll have happier users and a better SEO ranking.

 

Notes:
  1. Technically Google doesn't boost pages because they're built with AMP, but rather that they're fast loading. You can achieve these better rankings yourself if you build your site to be fast with or without AMP. Using AMP has a better chance of results.