Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for School Websites: Positives and Considerations

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Another day, another new web technology! Today’s topic: Accelerated Mobile Pages, or for short, AMP. AMP is an initiative originally proposed by Google and Twitter, which aims to enhance the way in which websites work on mobile devices such as phones and tablets. It’s no secret that websites are getting a little fat. As internet speeds have increased, website designers and content publishers have been granted the freedom to use more and more rich media such as high-resolution photography, video and sound. At the same time, web technologies have progressed at break-neck speeds with interactivity and functionality being pushed to new boundaries on a daily basis. We’re also now producing very advanced responsive websites that give a great user experience to mobile device users, adjusting layouts and content architecture to fit an ever-expanding range of device sizes. There’s just one problem; whilst mobile devices are constantly being iterated, they aren’t quite moving at the same speed as desktop technologies and internet speeds on mobile networks aren’t always as fast or reliable as we’d like.

The proposed solution: let’s create a super lean version of any given web page that loads much faster for mobile devices.

How exactly does the Accelerated Mobile Pages technology work?

AMP pages will only contain a set amount of functionality. There’s predefined limits on the types of HTML tags that can be used and styling is kept within certain limits. JavaScript, which is often used to add interactivity to a website, is almost entirely excluded.

So do Accelerated Mobile Pages replace a responsive website?

In short, no. The AMP project aims give us a better experience in certain situations such as clicking a news story on a social network or opening a link from Google’s Knowledge Graph results (such as in the sample below). Rather that loading the full website up, the slimmed down AMP result is returned almost instantly. In this situation, a user is looking for a particular piece of information rather than a whole website.

Who will be using Accelerated Mobile Pages

Large publishers who are pushing forward with the AMP project include Twitter, Google, WordPress, The New York Times and The Guardian. However, the technology behind AMP are completely open source and can be implemented on any website.

What are the benefits for schools using Accelerated Mobile Pages?

Although the specifics of how Google will integrate AMP in search results aren’t finalised, there’s a good chance that pages taking advantage of the technology will have a better chance of appearing in Knowledge Graph results and generally within search results on mobile devices. Specific examples of applications could be events appearing in search results from a school calendar, blog posts from a school website appearing in news results and parents clicking links shared on social networks. These pages will load almost instantly for users clicking these links, even on a poor connection.

What are the implications that might be worth considering?

The largest implication for websites that roll out the AMP technology will be branding and control over the user experience. With such strict functionality and style limits imposed, are publishers confortable having this slimmed down version of their site? More importantly, do you want a user not engaging with your website’s intended user experience? Whilst these implications are worth considering, it’s also worth noting that the speed at which these pages load is dramatically faster, perhaps outweighing the perceived negatives of limited styling.

What are the next steps?

Whilst the rollout of AMP enabled website isn’t quite upon us yet, it’s worth getting everything built, tested and validated ahead of the switch being flicked. Several of the websites we manage now have AMP enabled and we’re finalising our implementation within our own website at the moment.

For more information, there’s a dedicated Accelerated Mobile Pages website – www.ampproject.org – and I will be more than happy to answer questions via email or on Twitter @ckdNat.