The Growth of Mobile-First Consumption

Have you ever noticed those white lightning icons within a circle on Google’s mobile search results pages? Give it a try by Google searching something on your phone right now. I first saw them a few years ago in the beta version of the Google app on my phone, and felt immediately curious about what it stood for. Tapping on the link next to the icon brought me to the site in question like any other link would. However, I immediately noticed two things different about the web page: 1. The entire page loaded within three seconds, 2. The page was formatted to be viewed perfectly on a mobile screen with no zooming or fitting required. I think the use of this subtle icon, while seemingly minor, acknowledges a tectonic shift in the way we, as a society, consume information. No longer do we sit hunched over our laptops or desktops at home or in a coffee shop. Today, we flip through articles primarily on our phones while sitting at a bus stop, train station, or while walking to our next class. In fact, we are so accustomed to mobile consumption that Google has recently changed their search rankings to acknowledge this new trend.

Google’s AMP Project, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, serves to provide faster content delivery in a format that is best-suited for garnering increased user engagement in the mobile-first era. This means no obstructive pop-up ads, spending minutes for a page to load, or dealing with annoying autoplay videos. More importantly, this also means a standardization of web page formatting. This is so crucial because, as our attention spans become ever-shorter, we are becoming less inclined to wait for a content-heavy page to render properly on our devices before impatiently tapping the Back button to look for another option. While we may find some suitable substitute, this could mean forsaking richer and more accurate content for the sake of accessibility, which shouldn’t be a tradeoff we have to make. With the abundance of misleading news sources and erroneous headlines taking center-stage as of late, a substitute these days could lead to formulating an incorrect opinion about a trending topic, leading us to believe the wrong kinds of information due to the biases we create.

To me, what makes these initiatives special is that we are experiencing a great leap in accessibility for accurately-created and responsibly-sourced content that empowers us to make decisions at an even faster rate than we have ever been able to. In our fast-paced lives where each new story clamors for our attention, it has become increasingly important that the sources we choose for our information are formatted in a way that allows us to effortlessly view them on our primary medium, which are now phones. This decreases the chance of misinformation spreading, and encourages responsible journalism and content-creation for those in the publishing field, characteristics that have sadly become less abundant in the news industry than they once were. While I’m sure there are merits to using Twitter as a news source, some stories can and should take a longer length to properly develop. To this end, I think AMP-compliant pages will bridge the gap between Twitter-length headlines and full-length news articles, a comfortable middle ground that allows us on-the-go information-addicts to be richly informed without being overloaded.

3 comments

  1. Nice post. I definitely think AMP is an interesting trend and indicative of Google wanting to remain viable in a mobile world.

  2. jennypenafiel11 · ·

    This is a change that has been happening for a couple of years now and most of us haven’t even noticed. In fact, I didn’t even really think about it until I read your post. I did a quick Google search after reading your post as you suggested and saw the AMP symbol on a couple of the first results. That being said, I thought about how I have noticed in the past when pages load quicker than others and some are easier to scroll through thanks to the mobile-friendly layout. Yet, I didn’t go far enough to research what was behind this initiative. As you mentioned, this project makes things more efficient when trying to go back and sorting through the options that came up to find what we are looking for and we can all appreciate that. I also found your point about our attentions spans becoming shorter very important. This point connects to the low patience people have when waiting for pages to load but also to the patience they have for headlines. In an age when there are attention capturing headlines left and right, people click on the shortest and seemingly most important headlines. News sources and journalist have always stayed on top of the challenge of coming up with the best headline but now technology has taken that challenge even further and pushes them to make it attention catching but also brief. It is that capacity for conciseness that has allowed sites like Twitter to be a source of news for people. However, I think Google’s AMP project allows it to stay competitive and relevant as always. Great post!

  3. kylepdonley · ·

    I am sure Google is paying attention to mobile use now more than ever with the release of the Pixel. The fact that people consume most of their daily information on a mobile format comes as no surprise as smartphones have become powerful enough to be a mini-computer. I was just working on a Google Sheet on my Pixel the other day and had to take a moment to remember my old Nokia brick phone and how it used to be amazing that it could download ringtones – today I am calculating an amortization schedule on my phone. I had no idea about AMP until your post and now after testing it I am pretty impressed as well as perplexed that I never noticed it before. Seems to me that this sort of tech will need to become the norm as more pages are supported and consumers get used to it.

%d bloggers like this: