MASTERCLASSING

Steve Jobs knew it and Core Web Vitals agrees: it all starts with user experience

Mobile Marketing - Member Content

Alex Taylor, Partnerships Director at Picnic, says Google’s introduction of Core Web Vitals is great news for publishers and advertisers who care about the user experience, but it's not the end for AMP.

Steve Jobs said it in 1997, and many memes have repeated it since, sometimes with epic mountains and tranquil boats in the background: you've got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.

It remains a pretty unbeatable principle, and while the Apple Co-founder may have been talking about phones, computers and music players, you can make the same case for ads: take care of the user experience and you give yourself the best possible chance of achieving your other goals.

For companies like ours, user-first inventory has been the priority since day one, as we have built ad formats around the speed and clean user experience of Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages. And Google’s introduction of its Core Web Vitals (CWV) test indicates that many more operators are now sharing the same point of view.

The search giant’s new ranking system, designed to measure how users experience the speed, responsiveness and visual stability of web pages, is intended to pave the way for publishers to create high-ranking and UX-compliant sites outside of AMP, focusing on three key metrics:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – the time it takes for a page’s main content to load
  • First Input Delay (FID) – the time it takes for a page to become interactive
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – the amount of unexpected layout shift of visual page content

The aim is better user experience, and in essence, CWV is driven by a very similar impulse to AMP, Google’s open-source HTML project to improve UX on mobile web pages. AMP pages are four times lighter than standard mobile web pages, making their loading speeds six times faster, and preventing many of the frustrating UX features, such as jumping content, that plague many mobile websites. In doing its job well, AMP has radically improved user experience across billions of mobile webpages for 25m publishers.

The stakes are high
CWV is Google’s full-web approach to the same problem, and as is often the case with Google rankings, the stakes with CWV are high. To be eligible to appear in Google's top stories carousel, news pages must pass CWV criteria.

At first glance, this might look like purely an issue for publishers, but in practice, CWV will directly affect all industry players, including advertisers and agencies. Any formats that don't comply can drastically affect delivery and scale on the open web, ultimately leading to poor performing campaigns for advertisers and their agencies.

So while to some eyes AMP might seem like yesterday’s initiative, it in fact represents a very sturdy approach to CWV in its own right. Google has said as much, and a recent analysis shows that 60 per cent of AMP domains already pass the CWV metrics, compared to 12 per cent of non-AMP domains. AMP has plenty of life in it yet.

The importance of experience
But the principle here isn’t really about technology at all, and it goes back to the fact that user-first should be a key aspect of any great campaign that aims to produce results. The one thing all this technology is driving at is the importance of experience and of user-friendly environments.

So the proper reaction among agencies and advertisers isn’t to flap about the onerous requirements of CWV – not least because AMP compliance represents a good start. It is to think harder about how and where their adverts will appear to the user. Do they stand out? Are they beautiful? Do they work the way they should? Do they enhance their environment, and does their environment enhance their impact?

And if the answers to all of these are yes, then the customer experience is a good one, and as Steve Jobs might have confirmed, you’ve got your priorities the right way round.

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