Why Real User Monitoring MattersPosted Jul 6, 2016 | 6 min. (1207 words)
Has anything similar to the following scenarios ever happened to you?
- You’ve worked somewhere close to ten sprints on an apparently much-needed feature, resulting in only two customers ever using it.
- You’ve spent hours on a production bug for an old browser (on its last throes of provider updates) that only a fraction of your customers use.
- You’ve worked hard on a site or mobile application, but have absolutely no idea who’s using it or if any of the features you’ve created for it are being used.
If you’ve found yourself experiencing any of the above scenarios, I’m sure you wish you experienced the exact opposite of them.
Imagine if your team released a feature that significantly improved customer engagement, and you weren’t surprised at that impressive result.
Imagine if you spent your time fixing a production bug, and knew for sure that your fix would help thousands of customers.
Imagine if you knew exactly how many customers used your mobile app every week, along with user location and the type of platform and browser they used.
All the scenarios share a common core – data (or lack thereof).
The good news is that you can take the guesswork out of feature updates, future features and bug fixes by using Real User Monitoring.
What is Real User Monitoring?
Real User Monitoring, or RUM, is the process of capturing live user engagement on a site or application.
A good Real User Monitoring tool should do the following:
- Performance metrics
- Capture user sessions
- Capture user browsers and platforms
- Capture user location data
- Give you actionable insights
The last bullet point is the cinch that ties all the data together. Real User Monitoring data is really only useful if it gives you actionable insights for continual improvement.
An example of good insights includes:
- Showing you the pages with the most traffic
- Showing you the pages with unacceptably slow load times
- Showing you where your target users are located
- Showing you where most of your users are located
- User sessions that drill into individual pages and the time spent on particular pages
What do I do with the data?
Everyone wants your data – from Facebook to the numerous data mining companies lurking out there.
That’s because data is precious.
Data has the power to tear down dynasties and fuel revolutions.
On a less dramatic tone – but no less impressive – data has the power to transform how you work.
Let’s take problem scenario #1 from above:
You work ten sprints on an apparently much-needed feature, resulting in only two customers ever using it.
With Real User Monitoring, you can keep one step ahead of users to see if there is a demand for a feature that will greatly improve user engagement or attract new users.
An example might be your company forum.
People are notorious for being serial forum lurkers. Have you heard of the 1% rule that states that only 1% of an internet community actual engages actively? The other 99% may be silent, but they are the majority of your users.
With Real User Monitoring, you can see if improving your company’s forum is a good way to invest sprint time by checking the real number of forum visitors, as opposed to counting new posts or comments.
You might be surprised at the number of lurkers you never knew you had.
Using this example, you can see how Real User Monitoring can change how you and your team works. You use Real User Monitoring data to inform future features.
So now you have data and an example of using actionable insights, let’s move onto…
The power of Pulse
At Raygun, we love Real User Monitoring too.
Pulse is our Real User Monitoring tool that will give you a better understanding of your users’ behaviors, as well as actionable insights so can take the guesswork out of your next feature or bug fix.
Let’s dive a little deeper into how you can use Pulse in practical ways.
The deployment process usually goes like this: test a release in a test environment, release to production, smoke test the release, forget about it.
Smoke testing only goes so far.
Sometimes the first you hear about a deployment bug is from a customer. About 96% of customers won’t inform you of bugs – that’s a lot of bugs getting through QA.
With Pulse, you can monitor the production performance before and after deploying a release. You can then see what areas the deployment impacts.
If you also have Crash Reporting enabled, you will also be able to pinpoint users affected by any bugs.
Plugins – such as Java, Flash and Silverlight – used to be the only way to add extra functionality to a site. Now they’re either legacy technology or on their way down that path.
Most mobile devices no not support Flash. Java has a raft of security concerns. Browsers are deprecating plugins in general, including Silverlight.
Furthermore, plugins are also the leading cause of crashes and security incidents on pages that utilise them.
However, there are still users who may need plugin support. With Pulse, you can see how many – and the type of – users that need plugin support.
Chrome doesn’t support older plugins (like the three mentioned above) after version 45.
You can then use the ‘Browser’ tab in Pulse and check how many of your users are using Chrome versions below 45 in the ‘Top 50 browsers’ table. You can then determine if it’s worth supporting these users.
Pulse gives you key data, but then you decide the next steps.
Mobile device usage for internet browsing is undoubtedly on the rise. Many companies, however, still do not provide seamless mobile experiences.
Do you have to support mobile users? As always, the choice is yours. However, mobile is a huge audience that you might want to cater for and Pulse can help you determine if it’s worth it.
In Pulse, go to the ‘Platforms’ tab to view the most popular platforms. You can then view mobile device traffic data and compare it to desktop data.
You can also track key customers and see which platforms they prefer to use.
Perhaps you’ve thought about turning on a specific feature for a particular country, or wanted to know how users in a location experienced your site or application.
Pulse makes this easy.
Just go to the ‘Geo’ tab where you can view where your user traffic is coming from. From here you can click on a country see to how your site or application’s performance stacks up compared to other countries.
If a country has a particularly poor performance rating, you can investigate further by drilling into recent user sessions. You can check several sessions to see the bugs users are experiencing. From here you can then decide what kind of action you’ll take.
Real User Monitoring matters!
Use real data to inform you of what features you should update, what features you should build next, and if fixing that IE8 bug for three users is really worth it.