Providing quality web experiences is an endeavor for publishers and a benefit for their end users and audiences. As our digital presence increasingly mediates our interactions with each other and the world around us, delivering great user experiences on desktop and mobile is key to success on the web platform. To define and make quality web experiences a standard, frameworks and initiatives like AMP and Facebook Instant Articles have emerged to streamline the ability to create content that is user-first.
The AMP project is an open source initiative to provide faster, better user experiences for the web ecosystem. Its framework consists of dynamic web components that are easily assembled to create web pages that can be paired with existing content or used standalone for desktop and mobile content. For websites, stories, ads and email, AMP provides a pathway for these formats to be sustainable, instantly optimized, and visually appealing. The AMP for WordPress plugin takes this a step further with automated transformation and validation of websites to be AMP-first or by making a complementary AMP version available.
Instant Articles is a format native to Facebook with a similar endeavor. The goal is to provide faster, seamless reading experiences for articles accessed on Facebook through mobile devices. Leveraging the RSS feed format, web articles are instantly imported from the original website and integrated into Facebook social content. After a review and approval process, content can be customized with interactive components and monetized with ads for audiences in the Facebook ecosystem.
Publishers may want to use both, the AMP framework for building their sites, and Facebook Instant Articles for their users on that platform. We may ask then: can we have both an AMP site and Facebook articles? The good news is that both can work together as a two-fold strategy to improve audience experiences, increase reach, and reduce bounce rate to provide content that delivers.
AMP-first and Instant Articles
Our goal is not to do an exhaustive analysis of AMP and Facebook Instant Articles configurations. Instead, we want to look at some examples in the wild of how the AMP plugin and Instant Articles work together to deliver these experiences.
Erizos.mx is an entertainment and pop culture website featuring fun viral content. This image-rich site also uses ads as part of their content strategy. Traditionally, images and ads would have an impact on performance. Given the site is fully AMP, fast experiences on both desktop and mobile are a standard.
And the 500K followers who visit their Facebook page can access their posts as Instant Articles and enjoy a fast, clean interface on the Facebook platform.
Another nice site is Lichfieldlive.co.uk, which has a content strategy composed of news, information, and editorial opinions on the city of Lichfield in England. This site is an example of how going AMP-first benefits publishers even with a local reach.
In a similar way, mobile visitors of their Facebook page get a seamless reading experience from Instant Articles for every news post.
AMP and Instant Articles in WordPress
In general terms, what does it take to leverage both AMP and Facebook Instant Articles on my WordPress site? Let’s briefly answer this question by looking at the components needed.
The official AMP plugin is the best way to enable AMP content on your WordPress website. There are three modes to choose from and correlate with how AMP should be used on the site. Standard makes a site AMP by default while retaining the theme’s look, feel and compatible functionality. Transitional also provides this experience while serving AMP content alongside the site’s non-AMP version. Reader is a fully turnkey solution to enable AMP content paired with the original content. The plugin is free and open source, so making your site AMP is only a few steps away.
There are several ways to convert and import content into Facebook Instant Articles. While there is an API available, publishers who desire a less technical solution using WordPress will first need to connect the website to a Facebook page and generate a RSS feed for articles. While WordPress provides a RSS feed by default, a custom RSS feed is recommended for Instant Articles. A custom feed can be achieved by either manual customization or using a plugin. Once the website feed is formatted and connected through the Facebook page admin, published articles will automatically post to your mobile audience.
Using a plugin made for the job specifically can streamline the process. There is the official Instant Articles for WP plugin and others that can simplify connecting the website to the Facebook page, feed creation and the import process. Before being able to publish regularly, a multi-step review and approval process is required to start using Instant Articles on your Facebook page. This process entails evaluating the current site for the amount of content and readership, review of 10 sample Instant Articles for formatting, content quality and if it adheres to the polices. The review is manual so expect a waiting period before you can start using this optimized format publicly.
How we create experiences and who we create them for is a central concern for both publishers and developers alike. Users and audiences prefer content that is quick and easy to access. Optimized formats like AMP and Instant Articles are a bridge to address these desires for the web ecosystem and Facebook platform respectively. These formats can also lend themselves to lessons learned about the way we build and consume content on various devices and platforms. By implementing standards and improving user experiences, the trajectory of these projects could contribute to a better web for everyone.