Poor application performance, besides being a sign of potential problems, is a strong predictor of unhappy users—and unhappy users are likely to become former customers. So software organizations are always searching for ways to improve the performance of their applications. One of the most effective of such ways to improve performance is obtaining visibility of your app’s behavior—which is something that can be achieved through monitoring. This post is about a specific type of monitoring: end-user monitoring.
More specifically, we’ll talk about end-user monitoring best practices and some tools you can use to perform it. We’ll start with the basics, defining end-user monitoring and explaining why it’s needed. After that, we’ll move on to the main part of the post, covering some important best practices to adopt while also talking about tools that can help you achieve them. Let’s get started.
End-User Monitoring: Definitions and Fundamentals
What Is End-User Monitoring?
End-user monitoring (EUM) is one of the several types of web performance monitoring available. Also known as “end-user experience monitoring,” this technique consists of monitoring end users as they interact with the application. You can then use the data gathered from monitoring those sessions to identify and fix problems with the application’s performance.
The Benefits of End-User Monitoring
You already know poor performance affects your bottom line negatively—and vice versa. So, the things you do to improve the performance of your applications is beneficial. But there are further benefits in adopting end-user monitoring specifically.
End-user monitoring can help your organization identify the reasons why particular pages are slow. So end-user monitoring also helps you with detecting which parts of the application perform poorly. With that information, you can identify performance bottlenecks in your application, making smarter decisions regarding where to focus on optimization efforts.
End-User Monitoring vs. Real User Monitoring vs. Synthetic Monitoring: What’s the Difference?
People might confuse end-user monitoring with other types of monitoring that have similar-sounding names. Let’s clarify some of the confusion by explaining the differences between some of these.
End-user monitoring is the overall category. It refers to monitoring the interactions between users and the application, so we can obtain valuable knowledge. “End user” doesn’t have to refer to a human being, though. We can simulate user interactions, and in this scenario, we say we’re using synthetic monitoring.
If, however, we’re monitoring real human beings, we call that real user monitoring (RUM).
Both real user and synthetic monitoring have their advantages and differences. There’s no winner between the two: each one of these types of monitoring has its specific use cases, and they’re not interchangeable.
End-User Monitoring: Best Practices to Adopt and the Tools to Help You Do So
Before wrapping up, let’s cover some best practices you should be aware of when it comes to end-user monitoring. We’ll split the tips between synthetic monitoring and real-user monitoring. However, keep in mind, the most important best practice of all is to use both real user and synthetic monitoring. In the same way that unit testing and integration testing aren’t interchangeable—since they serve different needs in a testing strategy—real user and synthetic monitoring are both valuable as each has different use cases, advantages, and limitations.
Synthetic Monitoring Best Practices
We have another post dedicated to synthetic monitoring best practices. We recommend the reading, but what follows is the short version.
Set Up Alerts
Synthetic monitoring tracks your website in an active way to identify performance problems. It does this by simulating real interactions with web applications. During those simulations, the monitoring tool will check the app against several criteria, including whether the page is up, its loading time, and more.
However, it’d be no use performing all those checks if you remained none the wiser about the results. So an important step in this process is setting up alerts, ensuring the right people at the organization get notified when potential performance problems are found. SolarWinds® Pingdom® is an end-user tool offering several alerting options. You can be notified via email, SMS, push notifications to your phone, or even chat apps such as Slack. Pingdom also allows teams to customize who should receive which alerts and when.
Set Up Transaction Monitoring
Transaction monitoring is a form of end-user monitoring that goes well beyond merely verifying availability and loading times. Instead, transaction monitoring can simulate complex and real interactions with the application, such as registering as a new user or performing checkout on an e-commerce website.
Test From Many Locations
How your users experience your application might vary depending on their geographical location. So, it’s important you can verify how the application performs as if you were at those various locations.
Pingdom allows you to test your app from various locations with its more than 100 probes located around the world. That way, it’s possible to detect and fix problems affecting users from a specific location even before they experience the issue.
Real User Monitoring Best Practices
Verify the Performance of Recently Added Features
Real user monitoring can—and should—be used in testing or QA environments to determine how new features have impacted performance. The advantage of doing that is you can detect and fix problems before they have the chance to make it to production.
Adopt an Integrated Approach to Performance Monitoring
An application is like a complex puzzle made of many parts: application code, database, infrastructure, and so on. Problems in any of those components can impact the application, resulting in downtime. So being able to use your real user monitoring tool along with other visibility initiatives—e.g., infrastructure monitoring, log management, and so on—is valuable since it can provide you with a performance monitoring experience that’s more comprehensive and integrated.
Mitigate the Damage of Performance Problems
The adoption of RUM tools can improve an organization’s bottom line in diverse ways. As we’ve discussed, poor performance drives customers away. So being able to identify and fix performance issues does the opposite: it drives customer satisfaction, conversion rates, and revenue up.
Also, real user monitoring might help an organization when it comes to opportunity costs. Think about it: if engineers start spending less time troubleshooting performance issues—because those are being detected by the monitoring tool—they’ll have more free time to dedicate to other pursuits that might generate more value for the organization.
When it comes to application performance, guessing isn’t enough. You need to know what parts of the application don’t perform well. You’ve got to be able to clearly identify your bottlenecks and focus your efforts there. Otherwise, you might divert too many resources into optimizing an area of the application that only results in marginal benefits for the overall performance.
In this post, we’ve offered you a guide on end-user monitoring. You now know what this term means and why this type of performance monitoring is important. You’re also now aware of some of the best practices you need when it comes to end-user monitoring and how adopting SolarWinds Pingdom can help you achieve those. We invite you to give Pingdom a try by starting your free trial today.
This post was written by Carlos Schults. Carlos is a consultant and software engineer with experience in desktop, web, and mobile development. Though his primary language is C#, he has experience with a number of languages and platforms. His main interests include automated testing, version control, and code quality.