← Return to Blog

2016: The year of speed

Avatar

Lots of new technology is hardly unusual in the world of digital, however the clear message from Google this year focuses on speed. We all know that in the digital landscape we as humans are an impatient bunch and with (un-optimised) higher quality images, more and more tracking codes, more visual ads, more complex user journeys and greater and more complex functionality, to name just a few, the impact on page load speed continues to increase. With that in mind 2016 is certainly the year to address this.

The two main website speed related technologies that you will be hearing much more about are Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and HTTP/2. So, what are they and why should I care?

At a macro level, AMP is a standardised and cut down HTML framework. This means that AMP pages are fully compatible with any mainstream browser and it works by limiting technical functionality (so for example available JavaScript functions are available) and priority caching by Google (so Google will store a version of your page that can be returned very quickly). AMP has been in beta testing with content heavy sites such as Buzzfeed, The New York Times, Daily Mail for a few months and was released into the wild last week. Current AMP articles are only being featured in the top stories carousel but Google have confirmed that this will be expanded to other parts of Google search soon and potentially could be rolled out for AdWords in the future.

HTTP/2 is basically the communication language used between your browser and the server a website is hosted on. HTTP in its current guise has been around since 1999 and it’s showing its age thanks to the plethora of new web technologies powering an increasingly personalised web. The specifics behind HTTP/2 are complex but in layman’s terms instead of the browser frequently asking the server for information, HTTP/2 works by establishing a constant connection which makes this retrieval of data much more efficient. So when will HTTP/2 be released? You may already be benefiting from HTTP/2 if you use Gmail through a modern Chrome browser so this is something that companies should already be considering. HTTP/2 is changing technical best practice and you will need a secure connection for your website; but thanks to Google giving secure websites a small ranking boost this change has picked up pace over the last few months.

Why should I care? Website speed should always be a high priority for any company that benefits from the web to operate and drive revenue. Website speed is agnostic of any acquisition channel whether you are running TV campaigns, paid search or are a leading force in your vertical thanks to SEO. A faster site load speed (an SEO ranking factor) will help drive increased traffic and increased conversions; a 1 second delay in page load speed can result in a 7 second loss in conversions. It is also expect that Google will apply a small ranking boost to AMP implementation although this has only been hinted at and I wouldn’t move over just for that.

Get the Dev team on the phone… ARM Viewpoint
So should you be adopting these technologies right now? Maybe. If you are in a highly competitive, information vertical then AMP should be an immediate priority. AMP seems highly suited to information heavy sites rather than regular e-commerce for now although as with everything in the digital space, keep an eye on implementation and performance in your vertical on an on-going basis. If you are not The Guardian, TechCrunch, Buzzfeed or similar, my current recommendation would be to starting planning for HTTP/2. If you are thinking of or creating a new website then you should be adding in specific HTTP/2 elements right now, if not then this is something you need to be seriously considering and planning for 2016.