Mobile

PWA & AMP: Shaping The Future of Mobile

Marketing, at its most basic, is the attempt by advertisers to get their message in front of consumers’ eyes.

Or ears, for those of you that listen to podcasts (or remember a thing called radio).

The point being, marketers are generally on a never ending quest to find out where those eyes and ears are going to be. These days, marketers are finding them through mobile devices because, let’s face it, that’s where we’re spending most of our waking hour.

But mobile isn’t just a new medium that broadcasts to a passive audience. Mobile users want their experiences to be dynamic and interactive. More than that, though, users want these experiences to be fast proven by the fact that 53% of users of mobile users leave a site that doesn’t load in 3 seconds!

For better or worse, mobile has raised our expectations of the online experience, and for marketers the challenge has become twofold. Yes, they need to meet people where they’re at. But they also need to give them what they want, and quickly, if they hope to hold consumers’ attention.

Let’s take a look at the state of mobile and what to expect in 2018.

Mobile is as Mobile Does

For the most part, mobile apps have been the way to people’s hearts—85% of time spent on a mobile device is spent using an app. This is the kind of statistic that raises eyebrows in the marketing world. Apps are where customers focus, so apps are how we will get their attention.

But think hard on this stat for even a second, and you realize it’s kind of silly. It’s like saying 100% of automobile passengers spend their time sitting down. Of course they do: that’s how you ride in a car. So, of course mobile users are using apps—that’s how you interact with your device. But they’re not the main attraction.

The real allure of smartphones and tablets isn’t the mobile apps. It’s just because they’re mobile. Research shows that 60% of all search queries are made from these devices.

When people aren’t entertaining themselves with a fun app, they’re using their phones as tools to find information.

This is why Google announced its algorithms would start prioritizing mobile sites in their results, likely beginning in 2018. This should be important information for marketers, for two reasons.

First, pretty much every business has a website. If it isn’t mobile-friendly, your search rankings will suffer. Second, even using an app starts with a search most of the time. This could be because someone is explicitly looking for one—”best iOS meal planning app” or “Android apps for task management.” But even a web search for “good pizza near me” can end up in a download for ordering a delivery.

In all cases, we want to find what we’re looking for quickly, without obstacles, and in a way that’s easy to use on our devices. This drive to improve and refine the mobile web experience has been constant since the first time a cell phone connected to the internet over cellular.

Now, over 20 years later, two technologies are poised to change all that—and marketers are paying attention.

Prediction: Accelerated Mobile Pages And Progressive Web Apps Become Standards

If everything starts with a search, then the goal is to make sure you’re found. That’s nothing new—we’ve all watched an entire industry blossom around getting websites to rank better in web searches. But what’s working today isn’t going to be the same next year.

Google’s mission has always been to serve the most relevant websites based on a search, but there’s more to it than that. The algorithms are also concerned with user experience—does the page load quickly? Do pop-ups or interstitials obstruct the content? Are there broken links? Anything that detracts from the usefulness or enjoyment of a web page knocks you down in the search results. That won’t change with their new mobile-first strategy, so businesses can’t afford to keep mobile on the sidelines any longer.

But more than just optimize for mobile, they’re going to have to deliver great user experiences, and that’s why we see AMPs and PWAs going mainstream in 2018 and beyond. If you haven’t heard of these new-ish web technologies, here’s a quick primer:

 

  • Accelerated Mobile Pages are basic, static web pages hyper-optimized for mobile. Using stripped-down versions of HTML and CSS, AMPs deliver a page at—you guessed it—accelerated speeds. It isn’t just that the code is pared-down and free of any bells and whistles. The pages themselves are cached on Google’s servers, so it’s a split-second from clicking on the link in the search results to seeing the content you want.
  • Progressive Web Apps are web pages that look and feel just like a mobile app on your phone. They can do nearly anything a mobile app can do—with a few notable exceptions—and there is zero friction for users. There’s no app store to visit, nothing to install. Users simply enter in (or click on) a URL from their browser and—voila!—they’re using an app.

The appeal of AMP is readily apparent: fast loading sites, designed specifically for the mobile experience. For web content that only needs to be delivered and then read, there’s simply no reason to use straight HTML. AMP plugins already exist for browsers, which creates a much cleaner reading experience for news sites and blogs.

PWAs are another story, though. The current discussion around them is whether or not they are “the future of mobile.” More specifically, will they replace native apps? But asking only that question ignores another possibility. Will they become the standard for interactive web pages? We think they will, and will do so on the back of AMP becoming more of a standard on its own.

Remember, AMP is great for static sites. But we, the web browsing billions of us, have grown accustomed to websites being more dynamic than that. It’s great that we can read a speed-loaded version of an article that answers our questions. But if we’re going to spend any more time at the site serving that article, we’ll want something more.

Earlier this year, Forbes Magazine totally revamped their mobile site, deploying a combination of AMP-formatted articles on an interactive PWA-fueled website. As the lines between mobile and PCs continue to blur, we’re going to see more websites wholly reconstructed using this model.

Prediction: Mobile Commerce Will Revert Back to e-Commerce (So to Speak)

As mobile apps grew in popularity, especially as a marketing tool for retail and hospitality businesses, the focus on e-commerce (shopping on a website) shifted to mobile commerce (shopping with apps). But for as many outlets that found success with their mobile app strategy, there are dozens more that have failed miserably.

Apps are easy to use, but there’s still a process involved in getting them on your device. It’s hard enough to convince someone to download a free game from the app store; that challenge is doubled with retail apps, which are designed to market and sell to potential customers.

With PWAs, mobile commerce is brought back to the web, albeit in an attractive, app-like form. Businesses no longer need to invest in the creation of an app and a website and manage them separately. And don’t forget that the creation of an app is itself a double undertaking: you need one for iOS and one for Android.

By folding it all into a new, SEO-friendly mobile website, this issue of compatibility goes away, too: whether they’re running iOS or Android, everyone has a web browser (also known as “that one app all your customers already have”). Meanwhile, those customers are getting a richer, more dynamic experience without being asked to download, install, or register for anything.

In the mobile web of the future, everything will still start with a search. The big change is that it will end there, too.

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Jamie Fuller @AppInstitute