Time to AMP your college website?

New standard holds promise for mobile web developers, but may not make sense for all colleges and universities

There’s no doubt mobile devices anchor our technology-enabled lives. We may not use their small screens on the go, all the time, but when we do, we have high expectations.

If a web page takes more than a few seconds to load on mobile, many of us move on to another website. Patience has never been in shorter supply.

No matter the screen size we use to access the web, we want speed and we want it now. Yet the average loading time for web pages on a 3G connection is 19 seconds with an average of 200 server requests. A recent Google survey found that 53 percent of visits were abandoned if a page took more than three seconds to load.

When you lose more than half of your sessions from a growing segment of your audience, it’s not a minor detail. That’s why the giants of the web—Google, eBay and Twitter, among others—have invested time and resources to find a scalable and comprehensive industrywide solution to make the web faster on mobile.

Enter AMP

Launched in October 2015, the open-source Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project is spearheaded by Google and backed by several content publishers, e-commerce websites, advertising networks and analytics solutions providers.

It’s designed to fix performance issue on mobile, but what is it exactly?

The AMP Project is a restricted subset of HTML, a new standard designed for a better, faster mobile browsing experience made possible by a combination of streamlined mobile-friendly code and cloud caching. It’s a technical solution to a technical issue.

The idea behind the AMP Project is to let websites publish once to distribute everywhere on the mobile web. With AMP, your content providers won’t have to change anything in their workflow. Your AMP pages will be indexed, displayed and cached by third parties—including Google Search—to offer your content at lightning speed to mobile visitors.

Why should your school care?

While Google chose to focus first on news stories when rolling out AMP in its mobile search, new developments indicate that was just the beginning. In September, Google announced it will start to index non-news AMP pages.

“From what I have seen, AMP seems to provide a nice SEO boost, which makes sense since Google has been prioritizing mobile friendliness and speed,” says Joshua Dodson, the digital marketing director at Bentley University in Massachusetts, who also teaches SEO for higher ed.

Moreover, Google is not the only one invested in this project. Twitter has announced it will soon use AMP for its Twitter Moments pages.

Test-driving AMP

It’s very early in the life of this new format, so it doesn’t make sense to drop everything else to implement it on your school website.

However, if your school uses Drupal or WordPress, both open-source platforms are part of the AMP project, so you can experiment. “We have begun rolling out AMP pages on some of our news content pages, as we use WordPress,” says Mike Richwalsky, executive director of marketing and creative services at John Carroll University in Ohio.

If you use another CMS, check to see whether AMP is on a list of future developments. If you use a homegrown solution that relies heavily on JavaScript libraries, you’ll need to perform a benefit/cost analysis before investing resources in AMP. Still on the fence? Check your pages in the AMP validator (http://UBmag.me/val) to see how much work would be required.

Whether you decide to implement it, the AMP project should stay on your radar. If a new technology can have a deep impact on mobile user experience and search engine rankings, it deserves your attention.

Karine Joly is the web editor behind www.collegewebeditor.com, a blog about higher ed web marketing, public relations and technologies. She is also the founder of www.higheredexperts.com.


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