Site performance and how it impacts Search Ranking

Search engines are in the business of helping people find the things they’re looking for. However, with over 1.6 BILLION websites, chances are there are multiple very valid options the search engines can present to the searcher. And no one looks at page 2 of the search results. This is where ranking comes in. Search engines, like Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo, run a bunch of tests against web pages to determine which is going to give the searcher:

  1. The best information
  2. The best experience

We think about point one a lot, but what about point 2?

Search engines want to deliver pages that will give the searcher the best information in the best way possible. This means the searcher has a “good experience” with the search engine and will continue to use it. With the business value of the search industry, it’s no wonder a good experience is so important to the search engines.

We’ve talked many times before about how performance is one of the biggest contributors to overall user experience. The evidence clearly demonstrates how a site that performs well is one that engages better with its visitors.

Google et al are not blind to this. They clearly see that people appreciate better performing sites and therefore give ranking preference (not absolute preference mind you) to sites that perform well.

If we look at the past decade we can see that Google has rolled into their ranking algorithm multiple updates around performance

  1. Using page speed in mobile search ranking
  2. Using site speed in web search ranking

Page performance, for a long time now, has been a big factor in search engine page ranking.

WordPress and Page Performance

WordPress, the web’s favorite CMS, has occasionally been labeled as a low-performant platform, sometimes due to its age and PHP roots.

  • Are there “more modern” CMS available? Yes.
  • Are they more performant? The CMS has very little to do with performance.

You could use a modern JavaScript/headless CMS and completely butcher your performance through poor front-end development. You can use WordPress and with great development practices to comfortably sit in the top 1% of all websites.

Your website’s performance is dependant on how you use WordPress, not WordPress itself. Following best practices alone can push you into the upper tiers of page performance. Implement modern tooling with WordPress (PWA, Image optimizing CDN, efficient caching, etc), and you’ll lead the pack and have the search engines love you.

It’s good to know that server-side rendered pages still have the lead over single-page applications. Even if you are having a super modern SPA, spend the time to implement server-side-rendering to not fall behind old but fast applications. The guys at Frontity are leading the SPA/PWA trend well with a Node backed server-side rendering implementation.  

AMP

AMP has been a direct response from Google to the world’s desire for a better performing web. Launched in late 2015, the open source project provides web developers with a simple and restrictive framework for developing highly performant web pages. The strength in the project is not that it produces perfect 10/10 performant pages, but that it makes high performance attainable for developers with less know-how. In their words, AMP is about democratizing speed.

The AMP plugin for WordPress brings the power of AMP to WordPress site owners in a way that lowers the barrier-of-entry even further through automated AMP template generation and a number of other tools.

Is AMP for everyone? No! If a development team has the talent and capacity to produce highly performant code independently of AMP, this can often be best for their needs. For a large portion of the web without those resources and talent, AMP, especially AMP via the WordPress plugin, brings a level of performance in to reach that they wouldn’t have otherwise.

Google specifically, within their search experience, visually identify AMP web pages on mobile.

The visual indicator of AMP content in the Search Results Carousel

As a route to performance, AMP has a couple of unique search specific upsides that should be considered.

What can you do? What should you do?

Benchmarking!

Understanding your current state of performance is something anyone can do. There are a number of highly insightful tools (WebPageTest, Google PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix, Lighthouse) that can shine a light on areas of your site’s performance that could be working against you.

Elevate Performance

Your development team should have performance as a filter for their architecture workflows. As they’re working on your site, they should be actively considering the potential impact on performance and working to. You can even use CalibreApp (uses an instance of webpagetest) to automate performance checks while developing and ensure metrics are kept in-check:

  • Find ways to actively improve performance as part of their day-to-day work
  • Mitigate the risk of negatively impacting performance when implementing new work
  • Measuring, preferably automatically, performance changes at regular intervals as well as pre/post changes to the platform

Measure Impact & ROI

As with all incremental changes to your site, measuring the impact on search ranking after performance work helps you understand what your ROI is on the work and if/how you should invest further moving forward.

Do something about Performance Today

We’ve developed a comprehensive audit process that leverages our 10+ years of experience in building for speed. Contact us to find out how we can help you improve your page ranking through performance optimization.

The Problem of People

The Problem of People and how we solve it with our new engagement model.

At XWP we’ve been serving our industry for close to 5 years. As part of the larger X company family, it’s been closer to 13 years. We’ve learned a lot of things over this time. It’s actually been so long that we’ve even had to “unlearn” some things due to the pace of change we see in our industry. One constant though is a problem we’ve observed, year in and year out, across every one of our client and partner engagements.

The problem of finding the right people.

Finding the right people to work on a team is hard. There’s absolutely no shortage of talent out there, but finding, connecting, and onboarding them is hard. No surprise the size of the recruitment industry.

We’ve seen this problem regardless of the type of engagement we’ve had with our clients. Be it:

  • Project engagement
  • Support engagement
  • Consulting engagement
  • Placement engagement

The underlying issue beneath all of these is that the company wants to do something and they need someone, or a team of someones, to come on board and help them get it done. Break it all down and this is literally why agencies exist.

We’ve also learned, sometimes the hard way, that the typical “agency way of doing things” just gets in the way. Our industry is amazing at producing complex proposals, SOWs, contracts, etc. Granted, clear documents and contracts are necessary to a safe and rewarding b2b relationship, but we’ve realized these are not what set a project up for success. They just mitigate risk. We’ve become clever at muddying the water and dressing up the “problem of people” as something else as we go about positioning, pitching, and growing our businesses.

The more we review the last decade we identify our biggest wins and best projects have 99.9999% of the time come down to having the right people on the project.

With all our learning we’ve decided to change things up. We want to establish a simple foundation that brings the right people to a project fast and sets them to work on the things that are important to our clients.

Effectively we’ve reworked our engagement model so that it simply enables work to get started and clearly outlines the parameters of the engagement in a way that scales rapidly. Up and down.

This works internally by:

  1. Having a highly optimized recruitment and resourcing model that includes rigorous vetting and onboarding.
  2. Engagement contracts that aren’t blocked by project scope definition but are rather geared around the number and type of team members joining a project.

With these two pieces in place, we can quickly bring the right people to a project and quickly set them to work. We can get the right people working fast. Whether an individual joins a team, a whole team joins a project, or a team manages a project, our engagement model sets the stage for doing great things with WordPress. And we do this by gearing the engagement parameters around the people.

If you’d like to learn more about how we’re facilitating this, we’d love to hear from you.

What you need to know before you AMP

The AMP HTML framework continues to gain attention and the v1.0 release of the official WordPress plugin has made it even easier to implement AMP on WordPress. Even though the plugin provides the ability to just flick the switch, AMP implementation should be carefully planned for. For projects that we work on, there are a series of things that we consider and understand before we kick off any development.

The following is a summary of these things. If you’re looking at AMP, take note of these points and build them into your planning.

1. Understand your existing site performance and what could be reasonably achieved with AMP

Performance is as performance does. Benchmarking performance on the existing site and understanding:

  1. Where it sits as far as bad<—>good goes
  2. How much AMP could realistically move the needle

This will give you an idea of the gap you may be able to bridge with AMP and whether or not the investment is worth the potential return. I.e. moving from a 7 to a 9 performance score means something quite different than moving from a 3 to an 8.

If you’re looking for modern tools for assessing performance (amongst other things), we turn to:

Each of these tools provides agnostic metrics that you can use to track your performance trends over time. We recommend learning the nuances so you can master each of them.

2. Understand the different implementation types of AMP

With the AMP for WordPress plugin, there are 3 different modes for implementation. These are:

  1. Classic
  2. Paired
  3. Native

Each implementation has a different impact on the way your site will operate. Native and Paired modes use your theme’s templates and styling. They often look just like your non-AMP URLs. (Classic mode uses a template bundled with the plugin. Based on changes to SEO best practices and the lack of a “canonical” experience with Classic Mode, we don’t recommend you use Classic Mode.)

The value these 3 different modes bring varies and the choice between them can often be influenced by the technical limitations of how your site is set up. Understanding these will help frame your thinking as you move towards more technical discovery.

The AMP Modes & The WordPress Plugin section on this page cover these 3 modes in more detail. You can also read more over on the plugin’s documentation.

3. Audit asset optimization infrastructure (CDNs, Caching, etc) and define what could be removed and what could conflict with AMP

There are a thousand ways to skin a cache. Asset optimization takes many forms and their friendliness with AMP varies. Auditing what you have active on your current site means that when you move into testing AMP compliance, you’ll be better equipped to identify where issues (if there are any) come from and how to resolve them.

4. Understand performance-related revenue streams

This is different for every site. Revenue streams can come from:

  • Ad revenue: Both programmatic and manual
  • Subscriptions
  • Ecommerce
  • Affiliate and Sponsored Content

Review how page performance, and the resulting user experience, can influence conversion rates and technical implementations on these.

5. Audit current Ad-Tech implementations

AdTech implementations deserve their own point here as it varies greatly and is usually Javascript heavy. AMP offers AdTech-specific components for working with this, but the implementation can vary. Understanding your AdTech stack will help you:

  1. Determine how to implement the ads in AMP, like with amp-ad
  2. Help inform you on how you should go about testing AMP and its impact on ad revenue

6. Audit current Javascript

From tracking codes to frontend features, Javascript is everywhere. Knowing the what and how of it on your site will help you determine:

  1. What you can actually say goodbye to (you’ll be surprised how often we are able to remove JS from sites we work on without impacting functionality or integrations)
  2. What you can reimplement in AMP, like with amp-bind, amp-ad, or amp-analytics

Once you get to testing, the simplest first step is simply turn off JavaScript in the browser and get a sense of how your site functions without it.

7. Audit tracking/cookie implementations

This is part of the JavaScript step as well but can be considered on its own. Tracking snippets on websites are easily one of the biggest contributors to poor performance. We’ve seen many cases where turning off tracking, without doing anything else, has improved page performance by more than 50%.

However, tracking is an important component of modern website management. An audit of what you have though can help you determine:

  1. What could be safely removed from your AMP pages
  2. How to leverage existing components like amp-analytics, amp-bind, and amp-list

AMP have components available to help facilitate tracking. The Google Tag Manager service actually has AMP specific features to help implement tracking while maintaining AMP compatibility.

8. Audit the total amount of CSS on URLs. The plugin can remove unused CSS, but it can still exceed AMP’s maximum of 50KB.

One of the restrictions AMP places on a page is a maximum file size for CSS of 50KB. The AMP for WordPress plugin through a feature called tree-shaking reviews a page and produces a minimized file of only the required CSS. However, this feature doesn’t guarantee that the file size will be under the threshold. Reviewing key page templates, particularly for complex pages, will help you scope the project around the need to refactor CSS on the site.

9. Your current state of AMP compatibility

This actually falls into more of the discovery stage of a project but is actually something that can be done, at least at a high level, quite easily. S0 if you’re in the exploratory stage of looking at AMP, doing this can give you a serious head start.

The process basically involves working on a staging/testing/alt version of your site, installing the AMP WordPress plugin and using its features to identify validation errors.

The step-by-step for this can be found here.

10. Understand the Roadmap for AMP & the AMP Plugin for WordPress

Knowing what’s coming, even what’s just around the corner, can help inform your decision around an AMP implementation. A no-go factor about AMP or the plugin may actually be something that could be resolved in the near future. The Roadmap is public and can be easily reviewed over here.

 

These 10 points are what our teams move through when scoping an AMP implementation project. Considering, understanding, even implementing them yourself will mean you’re highly informed about AMP and its potential value for your website.

With Google, we’re the lead developers on the official AMP for WordPress plugin

If you want to know more about what AMP, or performance gains in general, can do for your website…

let’s talk.

 

How Tech Companies Should Invest in WordPress

This article is the second in a series where we unpack WordPress and the space it should occupy within a tech company’s product strategy. The first article looked at why WordPress should be on the radar in the first place, and this article looks at how a WordPress project should be approached.

A brief recap

WordPress should be considered by any web tech company wanting to grow their market impact and influence on the Open Web. It makes sense because:

  1. Customers are already there and they don’t intend on leaving
  2. Leveraging the strengths of WordPress frees a company to focus on its own strengths
  3. WordPress integration factors in to the decision making progress of site owners
  4. Investing in WordPress means investing in the Open Web

So how should it be done?

Being in WordPress is not enough. Having a plugin in the WordPress.org repo will only get a company so far. There are nuances to what works (and what doesn’t) when engaging an ecosystem as broad and diverse as WordPress. There are over 55 thousand plugins in the WordPress.org plugin repo, many solving similar problems in unique ways (just do a WordPress.org search for Marketing Automation). Standing out in this crowd takes careful planning and a commitment to ongoing execution. With this article we cover 5 things, identified through our work with technology clients and partners, that should be considered carefully when investing in WordPress.

1. Committing (and staying committed) to Best Practices

Following established best practices is a common denominator amongst the most successful WordPress plugins. These plugins have found users through their reliability, as well as the features they provide. In contrast to closed proprietary systems, the open nature of WordPress means there is a wide variety of installable packages of code. Coding and user experience best practices set a baseline that, when adhered to, significantly improve the performance, stability, security, and accessibility of a WordPress site. Straying outside these guidelines increase the risk of a plugin conflicting with others and putting the site at risk.

Coding and user experience best practices set a baseline that, when adhered to, significantly improve the performance, stability, security, and accessibility of a WordPress site.


Source: The WordPress Coding Standards

With the addition of Tide to WordPress.org, code quality will be even more visible to site owners and weigh heavier on their decisions.

2. A Native WordPress Experience

WordPress historically hasn’t had a standardized design system for the WordPress admin. This means there’s a massive variety of interfaces provided by plugins. Many of these adopt the branding of their parent company and, sometimes, conflict with the native experience. There are efforts by our team and others in the ecosystem to develop and define a common design language that can be reused within admin interfaces and across plugins. In the meantime, plugin authors can improve user experience by considering how their plugin interface can adhere to existing WordPress design patterns.

Variation examples of in-Admin UI from some of the most popular WordPress plugins.

By adopting familiar WordPress admin design patterns, you can:

  • Reduce the design/development burden
  • Rely on established, user tested, and refined UI components
  • Encourage user adoption through a familiar interface
  • Reduce onboarding friction
  • Contribute back to the larger WordPress & Open Source UI narrative

3. An Integrated Experience

The more WordPress site owners can engage with a product within the space they are already in, the greater the value they’ll receive from the product. The nuisance of context switching (switching back and forth between “places”) gets in the way of product adoption and ongoing use more than any other factor. Most users will use only a handful of applications day-to-day, so rather than compete to take one of these few spots on the roster, a better and easier route is becoming part of one of them.

An integration where the value of a product or tool is delivered directly within the WordPress admin will accelerate adoption and ongoing use.

4. Engaging the Community

WordPress has a strong and vibrant community of developers and users, and success in the ecosystem is largely informed by the perception of this community.

Support Forums

Every plugin in the WordPress.org plugin repo has a support forum. Companies can make the mistake of ignoring this space, preferring to shift support focus to another platform. This makes sense for general support, but WordPress users are familiar with the WordPress.org support forums and will, as well as submit tickets here, review the activity within them as part of their assessment of a plugin.

INDUSTRY EXAMPLE

Google recognized the importance of engaging with user feedback on a plugin (the AMP Plugin) that at launch had quickly become a lot more successful than was expected. There was a lot of feedback coming in and not enough support to go around. The positive side of this was that it offered the perfect reference point for understanding the real needs and desires of WordPress users. The support forum heavily influenced the build out and prioritisation of the v1.0 project backlog.

Addressing and responding to the needs of the support forum was also identified as a necessary step to demonstrating care and support for the plugins users and the larger ecosystem.

“We strive to make our open source projects successful and getting them into the hands of the largest possible number of users. Such success depends in good part on how we address the needs of our users, and how we steer the direction of our projects towards satisfying those needs as the project evolves. In WordPress, achieving this requires the proper handling of the support forums, and the right level of engagement with our users in them. In the context of the AMP plugin for WordPress, we assigned a high priority to this goal, and doing so paid off because it allowed us to, in turn, prioritize the resolution of issues and the execution of feature requests.”

– Alberto Medina, Developer Advocate at Google

Example Plugin Support Forum

WordCamps & Meetups

WordCamps & WordPress Meetups are local WordPress focused events where users and developers gather to learn, share, debate, and contribute back to the project. More than any other corner of the ecosystem, WordCamps and WordPress meetups are the most visible examples of the nuances of what is unique about WordPress. I.e. try and find another 2 day tech conference where, in the name of accessibility, tickets are only $50 apiece.

Web technology companies looking to break into the WordPress ecosystem and engage at these events should understand what effort it takes to refine, refactor and grow loyal customers. Hard sells, unstrategic sponsorship, and swag alone don’t cut it, and sometimes might scare away potential businesses looking to integrate with technologies.

Give first. Always!

WordPress is and always will be a flag-bearer of the Open Web and Open Source software. Efforts in the space should have the intention of contribution back to and increasing the quality of the larger ecosystem. Efforts otherwise are quickly identified and largely seen as unfavorable.

WordPress is GPL licensed. Unless there’s a great reason not to, we believe all code in this ecosystem should be shared onward for reuse, examination and repurposing. That last mile of integration is likely to have many people interested in helping shape it, so let the community help. Further, there are quite a few examples of open source plugins that extract premium business logic and features outside of the core plugin: Premium offerings can be compartmentalized, but as much as possible should be given away.

5. Integration with other Plugins

Your plugin definitely won’t be the only one installed on a users site. There are often ways to integrate with other plugins that move beyond simple adherence to code best practices. The potential of Open Source is truly multi-dimensional and offers opportunities no closed-source platform could. Integrating with WordPress Core is good. Integration with other Open Source plugins is even better.

Examples of how some web technology products could be integrated with other plugins include:

  • Marketing Automation apps that integrate with popular WordPress Form building plugins
  • SEO apps and services that integrate with popular SEO plugins
  • CDN’s that integrate with AMP and media compression plugins
  • Web hosts that integrate with backup and dev workflow plugins
  • Plugins with tracking codes optimize for performance and reduce reliability on Javascript to become AMP compliant

Wrapping things up

There are plugins and there are plugins. Success in WordPress depends on so much more than having a plugin that connects a product or service with WordPress. Understanding and working with the nuances of the WordPress ecosystem, across development practices, community, and user experience, contributes towards engaging WordPress users.

If you have questions about specific use cases, our team are more than ready to have a chat.

Why Tech Companies Should Invest in WordPress

WordPress now represents a third of all websites. If you opened a web browser today, chances are you visited a WordPress site.

Data Source: w3techs.com

This “it’s everywhere” reality is making waves in the larger tech industry. More companies, especially those with web-focused technologies, are investing in WordPress to achieve product and company goals. However, just throwing resources at WordPress won’t necessarily move the needle. A “first class” user experience and a clear understanding of the WordPress ecosystem is key to achieving success.

This article is the first of a series that unpacks why we believe that WordPress should be central to product strategy and what we have seen, learned, and applied as we have worked with web tech companies.

So, why invest in WordPress?

1. Your Customers already use WordPress

WordPress hasn’t reached its Content Management System (CMS) market share by chance. Fifteen years of iterations mean its use cases have been tested by millions of users on millions of sites.

The platform has evolved beyond its blogging and basic CMS roots. Its modern flexibility means it comfortably serves large segments of the market.

WordPress site owners, whether solo bloggers or enterprise companies, have embraced this flexibility and have customized WordPress to solve their needs their way. Each implementation serves its creator in the way they uniquely prefer. When adopting tools and products, site owners seek those that complement and work with what they have, not those that unravel their established systems.

Your customers are invested in WordPress and don’t want to undermine their investment.

Products that plug into existing workflows, including established CMSs, mean minimal friction and simpler onboarding, ultimately leading to better long-term adoption.

INDUSTRY EXAMPLE

Marketing Automation apps are a go-to example of a web tech product that makes sense for WordPress integration. Tying site visitor interaction with content means Marketers are able to trigger a variety of actions and insights.

The CMS of the site owner is set up to handle content, ecommerce, users, etc and they will be looking for a Marketing Automation solution that works well with their setup. The experience of setting up workflows/sequences should be tied to the space where the content creation occurs.

Marketing Automation apps that require a user to pull their established content creation and management practices away from their CMS, or even just toggle back-and-forth between the two platforms, will lose out on adoption. On the other hand, Marketing Automation apps that embrace the CMS of the user will be rewarded with adoption, simpler onboarding, and richer long-term use.

To succeed, a WordPress integration needs to offer more than just “drop in your tracking code.”

2. Leveraging WordPress frees you to focus your Product on what it does well

Some of the fastest growing web tech products are gaining ground because they do less than their competition. Their narrow focus means their users can implement faster and achieve ROI sooner. This same focus means product teams can implement at a higher standard on the product features that set them apart in their market.

INDUSTRY EXAMPLE

An example of a company applying this strategy is BigCommerce. They recognized their ecommerce platform has specific strengths and would be valuable to a wide range of WordPress users. Because of this, they are developing their integration plugin to bring BigCommerce features/value into the WordPress admin for a native WordPress experience. WordPress users will be able to run their website on WordPress, leveraging all the flexibility of WordPress, while using the class-leading ecommerce functionality of the BigCommerce platform to manage their store.

We asked BigCommerce, a client of ours, for their thoughts on why they invested in WordPress and they shared the following.

“The worlds of content and commerce are now, more than ever before, inextricably linked. We know just how powerful WordPress is as a CMS, but we were seeing that existing commerce solutions didn’t match that scalability. Our goal was to build a plugin the WordPress Way that helped bring together the best of both platforms: the flexibility and extensibility of WordPress and the scalability and security of BigCommerce. Build and manage beautiful front-end experiences on WordPress and tap into the security and scalable commerce engine of BigCommerce in the background. Best of both worlds.”

– Travis Balinas, Director of Product Marketing, BigCommerce


A screenshot of BigCommerce’s WordPress plugin Admin UI

3. WordPress Integration factors into your customer’s decision making

“Will this work with WordPress?”

Site owners are invested in WordPress and they want their tools to work with WordPress. It goes beyond this though. The quality of WordPress integration is an essential factor. Web tech companies should invest in WordPress because their audience are not just assessing if they have a WordPress integration, but how good it is.

Features are important, but how and how well those features work with their existing tech stack, including their CMS, are also important. The considerations include code quality, UI (WordPress Admin) integration, integration with other plugins, etc. Introducing new tools to a team includes friction. A cleaner, richer, and simpler integration reduces friction. Users know this and will judge the standard of WordPress integration when selecting new tech products.

4. The Open Web matters

The Open Web has changed the world and we have all benefited. We’ve learned skills, launched careers, formed friendships, championed causes, and experienced the outputs of infinite creativity. We’ve also built businesses – many of them centered in web technologies – that wouldn’t exist without the Open Web.

WordPress is a product of the Open Web, built on the four core freedoms of open source software. It represents a multi-billion dollar economy spread over a wide range of ecosystems across cultures, languages, and geographies. For businesses relying on or connected to the Open Web, WordPress matters.

Of everything covered in this article, this is perhaps the most philosophical point. Investing in WordPress and Open Source should be a component of every able web technology company. Companies in this space wouldn’t have been able to build what they have without the freely-given contributions of others. In part, “investing” in WordPress is simply giving to the people and projects that formed the foundation on which every web technology company stands.

Feed the giant whose shoulders we stand upon.

Wrapping things up

Web technologies and companies that offer technology-based products should invest in WordPress. From direct integrations that meet specific customer to creating entire sub ecosystems (e.g. hosting, services, and marketplaces), WordPress is the best vehicle for expanding the reach and impact of a web technology.

Investing in WordPress impacts the bottom line through the sheer size and potential of the WordPress economy and the success of WordPress means a stronger future for the Open Web.

If you’re part of a company that should be investing in WordPress for all these reasons above, we’d love to talk.

 

Convinced WordPress should be a part of your product roadmap? This article covers the “how”, because just building a plugin doesn’t quite cut it.

An Introduction to Native AMP

Remember m-dot sites? You know, the ones where you would design and build a whole separate site for your mobile visitors and serve it under a subdomain (e.g. https://m.xwp.co). Two sites; one for desktop visitors and one for mobile visitors. Sure, in a world getting its feet wet with mobile devices, this got the ball rolling for better mobile experiences. However, it certainly didn’t represent DRY development.  Now we can be thankful for modern responsive design and development. Single sites that deliver content to all screen sizes.

The technology evolved to serve the changing needs of the market.

Almost 3 years ago, Google announced the open source Accelerated Mobile Pages project (AMP). A clearly defined set of development practices that, when adhered to, produce a highly performant experience for site visitors. Through a clever layer of caching, Google began both encouraging and facilitating the adoption of AMP, with a natural focus on the publishing industry.

The experience of AMP these past few years, particularly with WordPress, has been like those ye olde m-dot sites. You would have your regular site and your AMP site. Sometimes called Paired Mode, AMP WordPress plugins have let users set up an AMP version of their site that delivered AMP compatible content, under the right circumstances, to users with the standard non-AMP site ready in the background to fill in the gaps.

There have been a few problems with this.

  • Like with m-dot sites, 2 sites needed to be maintained.
  • The upside of AMP was only available for certain content types under certain circumstances.

AMP is designed to offer an optimized performance experience for end users, achieved through strict adherence to a set of coding and performance best practices. The upside of AMP, blazing fast performance, isn’t something site owners just want for a select few pages for select mobile visitors. They, we, want that for the whole site!

A single site, built on AMP, for all device types and all visitors. Blazing fast across the board. Yes, please!

This is what Native AMP is.

Native AMP is the application of AMP across a whole site. This has been technically possible for some time, but only recently have we (web developers) been able to both work with AMP as well as adhere to the unique frontend styles of our brand. Additionally, AMP now provides several components that allow us to create the rich interactive experiences that we otherwise would typically have to build using custom JavaScript. When custom scripting is required, there is amp-bind which provides an increasingly-familiar way of creating state-managed reactive interfaces. The gap between what can be done with AMP and what web developers would like to do is reduced to the point that the upside of AMP performance often offsets any lost functionality.

The follow-up question, I hear coming from the developers, is

“That’s great, but are we going to have to refactor our entire WordPress theme to bring it inline with AMP standards?”

Nope!

V1.0 (currently in beta) of the AMP WordPress plugin does something special. It includes a post-processor that converts a theme’s templates and stylesheets into AMP-compatible templates.

In principle, it’s (almost) plug and play. If you enable AMP and do nothing else, the baseline experience is as if the user has visited your site with JavaScript turned off; so if you have no-JS fallbacks then these are served in AMP.  Practically, there will need to be a few tweaks and changes, but the barrier to a site achieving AMP compatibility and realizing the serious performance gains has been significantly lowered.

One of our team architects Thierry, alongside Alberto Medina from Google, has given a couple of fantastic presentations at AMPConf and at WordCamp Europe in recent months, demonstrating these capabilities.

Native AMP, the ability to build an entire site in AMP, is now possible and offers site owners a fantastic path to better performance. Evidence? This site is Native AMP. We’re writing up what the experience was like of taking a theme that wasn’t initially built to be AMP compatible and how through working with the plugin and some minor fixes we were able to get up and running on AMP within about 10 hours of dev time.

The documentation for AMP is here, and the documentation for the WordPress plugin is here.

We’ve been working with Google and Automattic on this plugin for several months, and if you have questions, feedback, or need further direction, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

P.s. 1.0-beta of the plugin ready now for testing.