AMP vs Responsive Design. Is AMP a valid replacement?

Former Google Employee, Pedro Dias stated on Twitter that AMP should not be used as a replacement for a mobile-friendly website. John Muller and others disagreed confirming that it is possible to use AMP as your main mobile website version.

AMP and responsive websites are very different, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t the ability to choose between them or use them both at the same time.

AMP pages work, by creating a version of the page that is highly optimized, and adhering to rigorous coding standards. The idea is that the whole page is optimized just for speed, which is then cached by Google close to the end-user.

Responsive web design is where your web page automatically resizes to the size of your screen. This can create a great user experience no matter what device you view it on.

You can also have a separate mobile version of your site, which will be served to mobile users. However, in March 2019, Google’s John Mueller recommended that with mobile-first indexing, responsive web design is recommended.

The 2016 debate on whether users should replace mobile and responsive websites with AMP

The whole AMP vs. responsive design debate first started with a comment by Google’s Maile Ohye at the SEJ summit and developed on Twitter as other Googler’s chimed in.

In April 2016, at the SEJ Summit, a few months after the official launch of AMP pages, Google’s Maile Ohye was asked whether webmasters should replace their Mobile and Responsive websites with AMP.

According to TheSempost, Ohye rejected that approach. She said that you should not replace your mobile website with AMP.

The whole conversation kicked off again in November 2016 after the announcement by Google of mobile-first indexing.

When a question was asked on Twitter whether the AMP page has to have the same content as the “regular” page, implying that the user was using AMP as their mobile website version, an interesting conversation developed.

The initial response implied that if you are using AMP pages as your primary mobile version, then you should treat them as just a mobile version of the page.

Another ex-Googler then chimed in stating in no uncertain terms that “AMP is not a replacement for a mobile-friendly website.”

Another ex-Googler replied to Pedro’s assertion saying that he is wrong. If all of your content fits within the restrictions laid down by AMP, then it is not a bad option. John Mueller, a webmaster trends analyst at Google, then chimed in confirming that it is possible and that AMP is a high-speed framework.

The Webmaster View - AMP is a valid replacement

The position in 2019 has matured significantly from those early discussions.

Essentially, you can do whatever you want as long as the various versions of your site are substantially similar.

Sure, separate mobile sites are no longer recommended, but they do still work. I suspect Mueller’s comments are just trying to encourage different website versions to have the same link structure and content, rather than anything else.

As of 2019, separate mobile sites are still supported. As such, you could use AMP for your mobile site, rather than responsive design.

My first recommendation though is to use responsive design with AMP as an alternative version.

A decent developer can even duplicate the whole responsive design in AMP with very little code, although it probably requires a custom solution. The Bootstrap framework, for example, is not compatible due to using multiple !important tags, among other reasons.

Secondly, if you don’t want to develop two different versions, then you could make a responsive AMP site. An example of this is the AMP documentation site itself.

But, if your heart is set on using AMP as your mobile version, then do it. AMP is fast and would be great on mobiles with slower internet connections. I see no issues here.

Jonathan Griffin. Editor @ The Webmaster

Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.

Jonathan Griffin is The Webmaster's Editor & CEO, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all our publications. Jonathan writes about Development, Hosting, and SEO topics for The Webmaster and The Search Review with more than nine years of experience. Jonathan also manages his own SEO consultancy, offering SEO developer services. He is an expert on site-structure, strategy, Schema, AMP, and technical SEO. You can find Jonathan on Twitter as @thewebmastercom.

Read more about Jonathan Griffin on our About Page.