“2 seconds is the threshold for e-commerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under a half second.”
Maile Ohye, former Developer Programs Tech Lead at Google
The quote above was extracted from a video published by Google Webmasters in 2010. It was then when Google started to use site performance as a factor in Google Ranking. Google was already indexing web pages by their responsiveness in web browsers. However, Google knew the impact mobile devices will have on daily behavior. In 2015 they shifted their attention towards mobile website acceptability with the “mobile-first” movement. The movement was the start of making “mobile-first” the new index, meaning that, soon, web pages will be tested first on mobile devices and then on desktops.
In February 2017, 49.74% of worldwide web page views came from mobile devices. At that time, the global average mobile penetration rate for mobile broadband subscriptions was 50%. Europe and the American continents led the industry with 76.6% and 78.2%, respectively.
However, a survey conducted by Clutch.co in March 2017 showed that 29% of small businesses do not have a website. Out of those who do have a website, only 79% actually have a mobile-friendly website. So, as a second step of their initiative, Google announced that starting July 2018, page speed in mobile search will also be used as an index.
Mobile friendliness vs. mobile responsiveness
Before diving into the AMP project and what that means, let’s discuss the two terms used frequently, mobile friendly and mobile responsive. Most people don’t know that these are two different terms describing different functionalities.
Mobile friendliness applies to websites created specifically for desktop, that can be accessed by mobile devices. These websites use one mobile-friendly template and are scalable so they adjust the size of UI to fit any screen, like zooming in and out. This functionality offers a relatively seamless user experience and a smooth transition between devices.
However, many times this feature can be problematic as content needs to be carefully created to be scaled down. Font faces have to be clear and large enough to be readable and pictures and videos need to be high quality.
Mobile responsiveness or mobile responsive design describes strictly the User Interface (UI). While UI also aims at enhancing the user experience, mobile responsive websites are created for desktop AND mobile devices. This means that instead of only one template, these platforms use two. One for a desktop interface and another for mobile. Mobile responsive pages do not shrink when visited on a smaller device but instead, adapt to the screen size.
Both mobile friendliness and mobile responsiveness have the same mission to provide a better UX to consumers. However, mobile responsiveness is different than mobile friendliness, when it comes to interface design. Mobile friendly design basically zooms pages in. Mobile responsiveness design feels like it is created for the exact size of the device. This way content is easier to read and maintains the quality of the media components.
What is the AMP project?
The next step to improve mobile performances, as a response to the “mobile-first” movement, was launching the accelerated mobile pages project.
Accelerated mobile pages (AMP) project is an open-source initiative aiming to improve the overall user experience for internet browsing on all devices or platforms. AMP is based on three core components:
- AMP HTML – a restricted subset of the markup language, HTML
- The AMP cache – retrieves, caches and validates AMP pages without relying on going back and forward to the source. This improves page performance and ensures that only valid AMP pages are shown.
Most developers’ skill sets include these three components. As a result, a company does not need an extensive developing team to create and maintain a website using AMP. Also, AMP websites can be created on top of CMS such as WordPress and Shopify through plugins.
AMP means to help companies maintain their identity but increase conversion rates. Therefore, monetizing their product. AMP is flexible and supports a wide range of layouts and styles. It allows functional elements, such as hamburger menus, social media buttons or embeds. Moreover, it supports forms and blogs real-time updating, ensuring users always receive ongoing, fresh content. Developers can select the format of ads, avoiding the irritation of invasive ads or pop-ups, implement payment systems and subscription models.
In shorter terms, the AMP project intends to increase the responsiveness of websites without restricting developing options. AMP websites provide everything that regular websites do, but much faster.
How can that affect your business?
Our expectations for pages loading faster increase exponentially with the progress of technology. Our impatience shows easily from the bounce rate of websites due to loading page. According to a Google Survey from February 2017, 53% of visits on mobile pages are already abandoned after 3 seconds.
Having a slow or unresponsive web page may mean a bounce rate considerably higher than normal. Moreover, according to the study conducted by Google and Microsoft in 2010 unresponsive websites have lasting consequences.
For start-ups and small businesses, it may mean the breaking point, as this factor reduces traffic significantly. Also, as almost 50% traffic and consequently exposure comes from mobile devices, having a mobile responsive website is as important.
Google is pushing technology forward, taking mobile website acceptability to the next level. The AMP project will revolutionize web development in the future and change our perspective of mobile-friendliness. If successful, the AMP project is certain to give users the seamless experience every business can only dream of, for now. However, this means that in the future, websites that don’t comply with the AMP‘s structure will not be visible on Google. Thus, developers and business together need to decide if they want to be part of the future or become history.
Internet users around the world, hang on, it’s only going to get better. Webmasters, remember, aim for under half of a second!
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