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What Is AMP? A Guide to Accelerated Mobile Pages

Aakansha Damani
Aakansha Damani  |  November 25, 2019

There are about 1.5 million accelerated mobile pages (AMPs) on the web. 

AMP not only helps to improve load time but also removes unnecessary JavaScript, CSS, and lazy loading. It has helped various organizations develop clean and streamlined web pages and triple their page speed.

In this article, you’ll learn about the components of an AMP, how it works, its benefits, its restrictions, and where it stands in comparison to progressive web apps (PWAs) and responsive web design

What is AMP? 

Let's unpack what AMP is to understand it better. 

A combination of the three core components and optimization techniques ensures a super fast user experience. 

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Core components of AMP

AMP is made up of three elements: HTML, JavaScript, and Cache. 

AMP HTML

AMP HTML is different from regular HTML tags as it contains AMP-specific tags as well. Also known as custom tags, these tags make it easy to execute AMP in the code. 

AMP HTML restricts some HTML code for the reliable performance of the website. Google search engine and other platforms recognize AMP through HTML tags.

AMP JavaScript 

The AMP JavaScript library implements AMP best performance practices to ensure fast rendering of AMP HTML pages. Best practices include inline CSS and font triggering. 

Everything from external resources is made asynchronous with AMP JS so as to prevent any delays in rendering. AMP JS also disables slow CSS selectors and pre-calculates page elements before loading resources to improve page performance.  

AMP Cache

Caching is a well-known technique for improving a page’s performance. AMP utilizes a proxy-based content delivery network in the form of AMP cache for valid AMP documents.

AMP cache comes with its own validation system. The system uses a series of assertions that validates a page’s mark-up against the AMP HTML specs.

A separate version of the validation system logs the validation errors directly into a browser’s console, enabling you to see changes in code that affect performance and UX. 

Optimization techniques 

Now that you know the core components that make up the AMP framework, let’s go over the optimization techniques that make the quickly-loading pages possible.

Asynchronous JavaScript execution

AMP only allows asynchronous JavaScript, because JavaScript tends to delay page rendering and block DOM construction. It is important to ensure that JavaScript does not delay rendering, otherwise it directly affects load speeds of the page.

Static size for all resources

AMP likes to determine the size and position of each element before the resources are loaded. That’s the reason why any external resources like images or ads have to state their HTML size. Utilizing this information, AMP loads the layout of the page without waiting for any resources to download.

Extension mechanism

AMP blocks a lot of unnecessary Javascript, CSS, and HTML for speed but it allows extensions for elements such as lightboxes and social media embeds.

No use of third-party JavaScript 

Third-party JavaScripts slow down load time due to synchronous loading. AMP pages allow JavaScript, but only in sandboxed iframes. Due to sandboxing, Javascript cannot block the execution of the main page.

Inline and size-bound CSS

CSS tends to cause bloating and it also delays rendering. AMP HTML uses inline style to remove many HTTP requests to web pages. There should be 50 KB kept open for inline CSS—enough space for sophisticated web pages. 

Efficient font triggering

A typical page consists of sync scripts and a couple of external styles. The browser doesn’t download the fonts until the scripts are loaded.

Running only GPU-accelerated animations

Heavy animations require GPU acceleration. GPU performs all its tasks in layers. Yet GPU cannot update page layout. It gives the task to the web browser, which is not as efficient from a speed perspective. 

Prioritization of resource loading

One way that AMP maintains fast speeds is by prioritizing resource loading. It only loads resources as needed and also pre-fetches lazy-loaded resources. 

Instant loading of pages

AMPs are loaded instantly because they are rendered even before a user points toward a page they’d like to navigate to. This is made possible via AMP pre-connect API without using a lot of bandwidth or CPU. 

Benefits of AMP

User experience gets improved when pages of an app load faster than standard. It improves the web experience at different devices and platforms. Because of these innovations, AMP has many benefits.

Engage more customers

Your website visitors will get the information they need instantly. This is possible due to the median load time of AMPs being under one second. Such a brief load time leads to increased page engagement and makes visitors are more likely to act on your CTAs.

Maximize revenue

Just like a second of downtime can determine the fate of a conglomerate’s market value, a one-second delay on your website decreases your conversion rate by 12%. AMP offers a faster user experience on websites, ads, and post-click landing pages.   

Maintain flexibility

When you use AMP, you have the opportunity to use optimized web components. You can use CSS for styling and retrieving data from the web pages then conduct A/B testing to ensure the best user experience. 

Reduce complexity

The process of AMP creation is simple and straightforward. Your entire archive can be converted to AMP with ease, including your CMS archive. There is no requirement of any special skill set for optimizing AMP pages. 

Maximize ROI

After AMP pages are created, they are distributed to different platforms simultaneously. This feature of AMP allows the ads to be used both on AMP and non-AMP pages. Thus, you can build ads and deliver your brand experience across all platforms, maximizing your ad-budget ROI. 

Create a sustainable future

As an open-source project, AMP aims to build apps that are committed to delivering faster and better user experiences. You can be a part of this sustainable future by deploying AMP in your mobile apps and websites.  

Improve user experience

Your ultimate goal should be to build a better user experience. AMP can make your load time 15% to 85% faster. Even if it means only a second’s improvement, it’s worth trying AMP—you might be surprised at how much it improves your UX.

Boost SEO

When ranking websites, Google’s algorithms recognize page loading speed and mobile responsiveness. Your mobile website’s load time will help determine your page rank. The faster it loads, the higher it will be ranked in the search engine result page. 

AMP-optimized pages feature a green lightning bolt icon under the title, indicating their fast loading speed. AMP-enabled pages also get featured in carousel form above paid ads on SERPs.

Restrictions of AMP

No doubt AMP pages provide a lot of advantages, but there are some shortcomings that can’t be overlooked. Here are a few of them.

No third-party JavaScript

Since AMPs restrict JavaScript, developers are unable to keep track of the analytic capabilities. As a result, it becomes difficult to provide a tailored user experience.

No Google Analytics tracking

The reason why AMPs are faster also restricts AMP from using Google analytics. Google uses a cached version of the AMPs instead of loading pages from the server. It does not keep a track on the number of visitors until and unless you make GA configurations and use separate tracking codes.

AMP vs. other optimized frameworks

AMP is an innovative way to achieve faster load times for your mobile pages, but it isn’t the only optimized framework out there. Here’s how it stands against the alternatives.

AMP vs. Facebook Instant Articles

Both AMP pages and Facebook Instant Articles speed up the process of loading information.  Even though AMP pages are more popular in comparison to the web alternatives, the engagement rate and speed of a Facebook Instant Article is much higher than that of an AMP. This is because Facebook started prioritizing text and video articles, leading developers to stop using instant articles.

AMP vs. responsive web design

Mobile websites have been ruling web applications since 2015 when google launched its mobile-friendly algorithm—an event referred to as mobilegeddon. Mobile web pages created with responsive web design provide flexible formats for different screen sizes and orientations. 

On the other hand, AMP came in 2016 to speed up loading time of the web pages. Both the pages use Javascript and HTML for the coding part, but AMP generally focuses more on speed and also introduced instant content rendering. 

AMP combines with existing responsive websites without necessitating the redesigning web pages, but to develop a responsive web page to combine with another one, redesign is necessary. Responsive web design scales web pages rather than working on speed. AMP has more limited functionalities that allow it to load web pages much faster than responsive web design pages.

AMP vs. PWA

AMP is optimized for speed, whereas progressive web applications (PWAs) emphasize the look and feel of the website. PWAs update web pages dynamically without interrupting user experience.

AMP and PWA, if used together, can help you create a dynamic website with a fast page-rendering process.

AMP up your mobile pages

With a range of optimized frameworks like AMP, Facebook Instant Articles, and PWAs, there is really no excuse for poor engagement and high bounce rates on your mobile pages. Utilize AMP optimization techniques to provide a powerful experience and meet Google’s speed expectations. 

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Aakansha Damani
Author

Aakansha Damani

Aakansha is a content marketing expert at Galaxy Weblinks Inc. Her expertise includes marketing content, blogging, social media, as well as strategic policy. She has an in-depth understanding of design and development processes and often writes about user experience, designing, web development, mobile apps, security, and more. She works alongside senior management to facilitate implementation of strategic policy and in-house training. She strongly believes communication is key to any system, algorithm, design, or life in general.