AMP: A Backwards Step for the Web

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Recently I was asked my thoughts on AMP — Accelerated Mobile Pages. I’m not alone, but I don’t like AMP at all. I think it’s Google trying to fix a problem that isn’t theirs to fix, and perhaps taking advantage of a bad situation.

The idea is that AMP by design provides users with high performing fast websites, which it does. The problem is so many sites aren’t built well. They insist on having lots of adverts, tracking tools, popups and content that really slow down the site and disrupt the user experience. For example, how many sites have you seen that are overloaded with adverts? Ask for your feedback or to sign up to a newsletter within seconds of first landing on the site? Hide most of the article and insist you click a “continue reading” button even though you’re on the article page? AMP solves that. Or does it?

A Step Back in Time

It’s a bit like going back to the days before responsive design. The days where you had a “desktop” site and a separate “mobile” site. The desktop site would have everything, and the mobile site would be stripped back to the bare minimum.

That’s what AMP is - a totally separate version of your site that limits you with what you can do in terms of popups, adverts, auto playing videos and so on that slow the site down. That way users get a much better experience. The site loads significantly faster, and they don’t get anything that disturbs them from the content. The results might seem good, but how they’ve been achieved isn’t and that’s not the only issue.

The Problem

As I suggested earlier, this isn’t a problem for Google to solve. It goes against the principles of responsive design - where your content is accessible in one and only one place by any and all devices. It’s fragmentation. But Google is taking advantage of these poorly designed and built websites.

AMP is only good for Google. AMP allows Google to lock people into their service. All AMP pages are hosted by Google, with minimal branding from the content provider. AMP has limited analytics, and you lose out on user interaction such as maps or photo galleries. Since these pages are hosted by Google, they’re not even available with their own URL on your own domain. Google doesn’t care about you, it cares about content. It’s taking your content, stripping your branding, and showing it to users of their service, with their adverts so they can make more money.

“Google doesn’t care about you, it cares about content. It’s taking your content, stripping your branding, and showing it to users of their service, with their adverts so they can make more money.”

There is definitely a problem. Slow sites are bad for business. They rob you of users, which costs you money from sales, subscriptions, leads and ad revenue. Numerous studies have shown how even the smallest of improvements in load time can have drastic impacts on conversions rate and user interaction.

The Solution

If you want a fast, high performing site then invest in one for everyone not just users of a specific search engine. Clean up your act and build your own decent website. AMP is not a solution. It’s a problem built on top of a problem. You have to realise that AMP is nothing special. You have to remember that all websites at their very core are HTML, CSS & JavaScript and they are fast and responsive by default. You, as someone responsible for the website, chose to flood your pages with adverts. You chose to create those popups. You insisted those auto-playing videos were absolutely necessary. You have chosen to make it slow. You chose to create a disruptive user experience. You chose to throw away money, by throwing away users.

“If you want a fast, high performing site then invest in one for everyone not just users of a specific search engine.”

Despite all the advances in technology that afford designers and developers to create amazing experiences, so many people keep finding ways to make sites even slower and more disruptive than ever. What does it say about our industry that something like AMP, and Instant Articles by Facebook, exists?

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