Let’s face it. Mobile devices have long overtaken desktop, in terms of content access. If you’re reading this on a smartphone, you’re one of the hundreds of millions who probably prefer to access mobile web and apps on their devices than their desktops. In emerging markets even, most people’s first computers are smartphones and not desktops nor laptops.

For content producers, it might be overwhelming to keep tabs on all the developments on the technical side of running a website. You can never simply ignore these new trends. Even if your main focus is producing and developing content, you will eventually run into trouble if you don’t adapt well to the needs of your audience and platform.

For one, digital content consumption has shifted to mobile, and this means catering to some new sets of usability considerations. Among the top user experience (UX) concerns today is mobile speed, for example. Mobile users want their content to load quickly. A study by Google has revealed that users are likely to abandon slow-loading mobile sites if they load for more than 3 seconds.

In order to address this, Google launched the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project. However, this might involve an added complication, which can be cumbersome for most content producers who would rather worry about creative ways to engage followers than worry about the “web stuff”.

Is AMP just a buzzword, or is it going to be one of those things that you just need to deal with inevitably?

What is AMP?

What exactly is AMP anyway? Google intends for AMP to be the new standard for mobile pages. The goal, essentially, is to speed up page load times for mobile. However, instead of focusing on optimizing existing web development approaches, they’re offering their own way of doing things.

AMP works by limiting the elements that sites can use to ensure that pages load properly. AMP is made up of three components – AMP HTML, AMP JS, and Google AMP Cache. These are all tweaked and streamlined versions of the existing HTML standards and JavaScript libraries. It sacrifices visual richness for a minimalist look, but page load times can be blazingly quick.

Many visitors are attracted to plenty of visuals and design eye candy. Thus, many websites today can be filled so much bloat that some mobile devices find it hard to load the content. To speed things up, AMP trims the fat and keeps pages as light as possible. While mobile devices are getting faster, keep in mind that Android is the dominant mobile operating system especially for inexpensive albeit globally popular off-brand phones. That comprises a significant market that Google doesn’t want to lose out on.

Why bother with AMP?

Aside from faster loading times, what actual benefits could AMP bring? Google has been teasing everyone about how page load times will eventually factor in their search algorithms. Their previous changes, like penalizing pages with mobile unfriendly designs have been instrumental to compelling site owners to use responsive design. This means AMP should help sites load faster and become better-optimized for search results.

But this is where the image of Google rubbing their hands with glee comes in. Obviously search visibility is a compelling reason to implement AMP, but as far as integrations are concerned, you may find yourself looking at limited options. AMP works perfectly fine with Google AdSense and Analytics, although it may support other services later on.

This can be a tough choice for those who rely on non-Google integrations. If your best earning ad network isn’t in the list of supported services, then tough luck. And it isn’t as if putting ads on AMP pages is just a matter of pasting snippets like in “regular” HTML pages. Integration with tools such as marketing automation and forms will also be limited. So it appears that using AMP means sticking to Google’s other products, as well.

Are there alternatives?

The problem with AMP is that implementing it may require significant redevelopment of your website, especially if your system is a customized one. Those using popular content management systems like WordPress may find it easier to transition with add-ons like the AMP plugin. However, this only works if you need a straightforward generation of AMP pages without customization. AMP for WP is an alternative plugin with some customization allowed, but some site owners still find it tedious to comply. For now, it appears nothing beats a targeted development for AMP to ensure 100% compliance and validation. But this may mean additional investment on your end.

There are, of course, other options for optimizing content for mobile. For instance, using a content delivery network (CDN) can readily give your pages some increase in performance. CDNs work by caching your site resources on servers in different parts of the globe, in order to reduce latency, effectively distributing your content over the cloud, regardless of where it is hosted. CDN services like Incapsula even provide added security bundled with its CDN service, which protects your site from bot and DDoS attacks. These features are available even with their free tier.

If page load time is all you’re concerned about, there are optimization techniques and performance services that can help speed up your website. Fixing issues and optimizing elements found by a PageSpeed Insights scan can keep your mobile scores up and may very well be enough. In fact, switching to a faster server or webhost can significantly have an impact on your site’s performance. So will simply reducing the images and other media on your mobile and web content.

So should content developers go with AMP?

The jury is still out with AMP. For now, Google isn’t exactly penalizing sites that aren’t built on AMP. For the meantime, here’s a compromise. Optimize your site and put it on a CDN. These should give you enough of a performance boost to keep within the 3 second load time demand. It can also be difficult to lose out on your existing revenue streams just because integration with AMP isn’t supported, so why gamble on that if there’s no immediate harm from not shifting to the platform.

However, keep a watchful eye on Google AMP and search developments. If you can make the investment, you can start working on an AMP solution for your site. Hopefully, there will be better tools and better integration before Google drops the bomb and requires sites to run it.

Featured Image: Pixabay

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