Not long ago mobile optimization could provide a competitive advantage. But as the mobile internet has grown, responsive websites are no longer optional. They are essential to doing business online.
WompMobile is a provider of mobile web solutions. I recently spoke with its founder and CEO, Madison Miner, about new mobile technologies for ecommerce businesses. What follows is our entire audio conversation and, also, a transcript of it, edited for clarity and length.
Armando Roggio: Tell us about you and your company.
Madison Miner: I’ve been a software engineer for about 20 years. In 2010, I started WompMobile to help businesses adapt their desktop sites to be more mobile friendly using adaptive and responsive technologies. In 2015, we pivoted from helping businesses make their websites look good on mobile to actually performing well in terms of speed and functionality.
Today, WompMobile’s platform allows us to take an existing website and convert it to both accelerated mobile pages and progressive web apps.
Roggio: Can you explain accelerated mobile pages and progressive web apps?
Miner: Accelerated mobile pages are a new way to create websites. The technology is a code base with a subset and a superset of HTML along with a validator that confirms that pages that are built using AMP comply with rules that are in place to ensure performance. Basically, they are guaranteed to be fast. They can’t have any dependencies on external files, or anything that blocks the critical rendering path of the page.
Progressive web apps, on the other hand, are technologies that might not work on all mobile devices. For example, one popular PWA component is a service worker. PWAs include service workers, payment requests, app manifests, and app shells — technologies that can progressively enhance a website if the user’s browser supports them and fall back to more traditional technologies if it doesn’t.
Roggio: You mentioned service workers. Can you explain?
Miner: Service workers are fairly simple. They provide a lot of benefits. They allow you to work offline, to strategically cache content. They also allow you to do push notifications. So they are very important.
Roggio: How can an ecommerce business benefit from a progressive web app?
Miner: The primary benefits are increased conversion rates and revenue. One PWA component that has a direct impact on revenue is the payment request, which is a new W3C-standard browser API to collect payment information. It allows a website to display a prompt to the user wherein the user can share her credit card information that’s already stored on her device without having to type it in. We’ve seen [mobile] cart abandonment from a billing information page drop by about 50 percent when the payment request is added to ecommerce pages. It has a direct impact on revenue.
Overall, the primary benefit of PWAs is mobile conversion rates that rival desktop. All of our clients come to us with the same problem. The majority of their traffic and the majority of their growth is on mobile, but the majority of their sales is still on desktop.
Roggio: For a consumer, how does a PWA differ from a normal web page?
Miner: PWAs provide an app-like experience just by going to the URL. Consumers no longer have to go to the app store, find the app, download and install it, and give it permissions. With a PWA, they can simply go a website and use features that are similar to apps. A PWA can be added to the home screen, it can work offline, and it can process payments quickly and efficiently. It loads very quickly with a persistent header and partial page reloads. From a user’s perspective, it looks and feels just like an app.
Roggio: What about AMPs? How do they help ecommerce businesses?
Miner: Accelerated mobile pages offer two benefits, mainly. First, they increase a site’s discoverability, because Google promotes AMP-enabled sites in search results via the AMP icon. Thus you’ll get more traffic from using AMPs. We typically see a 20 to 30 percent increase in mobile traffic from organic search.
The next benefit is speed. AMPs look and function exactly like the non-AMP versions. But AMPs load much, much faster.
Roggio: Is there a reason to use both technologies on a single website?
Miner: They work extremely well together. In fact, last year at the Google IO developer conference, Google announced a new combination called a progressive web AMP, or a PWAMP. This merges the two technologies. You have a PWA shell that loads in AMP pages and uses the AMP pages as the content sources. You can pre-fetch them and pre-render them and display them instantly. You get all the benefits of AMP.
Roggio: Anything else?
Miner: We’re excited about a new technology called web packaging. It’s different from web packing, which is a way to compress files. Web packaging is a technique that allows you to take an asset group, such as an AMP and its associated images, and package them like a zip file and then sign it with an SSL certificate. It then can be distributed from content delivery networks. When it’s loaded into a browser, it has the original URL of the site that signed it, but not necessarily the same site that served it. It allows for excellent performance.
For example, if you click on an AMP listing on Google search, you’re still on Google when you’re viewing the AMP page because it’s loaded from the Google cache and Google has to do that to guarantee instant load times.
With web packaging, when you click an AMP listing, it will look like you’re on the website that you clicked on. In the URL bar, it will be your domain, even though the content is still coming from the Google cache, which allows Google to guarantee these fast load times. Web packaging will also improve performance in other areas.