Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) & Progressive Web Apps (PWA) – Is Faster Better?

by Jack Grimsey on Friday 16 March 2018

With the recent announcement that Google is set to use page speed as a ranking signal in their mobile search results (beginning in July), the phrase ‘mobile-first’ is as poignant as ever.


According to Google, the new ranking algorithm labelled the ‘Speed Update’ will ‘only affect a small percentage of queries’ impacting ‘pages that deliver the slowest experience to users’.


AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) & Associated Benefits


Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP, for short) is an open-source initiative designed to allow mobile website content to load almost instantaneously. In essence, the AMP Project enables the creation of websites and ads that are lightweight, compelling and exceptionally quick to load.


Since its launch in 2015, AMP has progressed rapidly. It’s expanded far beyond just publishers with a surge of performance-orientated companies also utilising the ever-evolving technologies. Aided by the customisation and interactivity that an open source project allows; elements such as the 'AMP date picker' have facilitated this rise in growth, particularly for travel brands. ‘AMP analytics’ also allows you to track every click whilst ‘AMP bind’ adds custom interactivity with data binding and expressions.


Looking at mobile in a broader sense, earlier this year Google provided an insight into load times and the consequent impact on user behaviour. The crux of the research pointed to the fact that faster is better and less is more. Why? The average time it takes to fully load a mobile landing page is 15 seconds (fully, being the operative word) yet 53% of mobile visitors leave if a page takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Although mobile devices are ultimately performance constrained, users’ expectations and demands are higher than ever before. Research concluded that 79% of the mobile pages tested were over 1MB whilst 70% of pages took more than 5 seconds to load the visual content above the fold. Is there a quick win? Luckily, 25% of the tested pages could save 250KB by simply compressing images and text.


AMP, however, could be the game changer that raises the bar for mobile experiences. There’s no surprise that speed is undoubtedly at the top of a whole host of AMP benefits. After all, speed equals revenue in the mobile world. Not only does AMP allow visitors to access your content faster, it can also help to reduce page abandonment rates due to a quicker page load time. Delays are ultimately detrimental and even delays as little as 100ms can negatively affect conversion rates. A study assessing the economic impact of AMP across publishers and ecommerce sites also highlighted a number of other advantages. From the websites interviewed, results showed a 20% increase in sales conversion rate, a 10% increase in AMP site traffic and a 60% increase in pages per visit. AMP is enjoying premium placement on Google; the search results news carousel, now followed by AMP stories is certainly increasing motivation to use AMP. The dangling carrot of improved visibility (and the likelihood of increased click-through rates) is encouraging brands to chase the lightning bolt of approval.



AMP stories – what’s new?


AMP stories, announced last month, is a new AMP format designed to offer ‘new, creative and visually rich ways of storytelling, specifically designed for mobile’. Created to encourage user engagement, AMP stories are built on the technical infrastructure of AMP, employing familiar techniques such as pre-renderable pages and optimised video loading. Check out some of the latest stories circling the web here and watch this space!


AMP vs. PWA (Progressive Web Apps)


Whilst AMP is an open-source initiative allowing the creation of fast loading web pages, PWA uses ‘modern web capabilities to deliver an app-like user experience’. Effectively, PWA helps to bridge the gap between mobile applications and websites. From the initial first visit in a browser tab, PWA can evolve into immersive, top-level apps providing push notifications and fullscreen app experiences with web APIs.


Despite many preconceptions, PWA and AMP can complement each other on a number of different levels. Although PWA isn’t required for fast loading, native application features from the PWA checklist can be added to AMP pages. Preloading Progressive Web Apps from AMP pages can also improve the user journey, taking advantage of the ‘Service Worker’, which, if implemented correctly, can make links from AMP to PWA feel almost instant. Progressive Web Apps can also be audited with Lighthouse, an open-source, automated tool designed to improve the quality of web pages.


If you’re still unsure whether AMP and PWA is right for you, take a look at Google’s recent case studies and discover how other developers have fared since the introduction of the new web pages/apps. Advertisers can also utilise AMP for AdWords, benefiting from the speed advantages that AMP landing pages provide – further insight can be found here.