Docs

Real User Monitoring: A Complete Guide

Sooter Saalu · Oct 26, 2022 · 7 min read

As a web developer or a business owner, you can deliver a better user experience with the help of real user monitoring (RUM). You get more in-depth insights into your users, easier troubleshooting and faster customer segmentation, and tailored experiences toward individual customers.

Your websites and web applications generate data as they are used by your audience, and some of this data is user-specific. RUM is the process of collating, analyzing, and evaluating all this data generated from users interacting with your website or application. It is a type of digital performance monitoring focused on metrics that can be used to gauge the user experience of your audience.

Example real user monitoring tool

This article explores real user monitoring, what it is, how it is used, its benefits, and its importance.

What Is Real User Monitoring?

Real user monitoring, as the name implies, involves monitoring your users’ experiences and interactions with your platform. This is usually done with tools that can collect and analyze data on your application’s performance and how it is being utilized by your users.

RUM is often used interchangeably with digital experience monitoring, real user measurement, real user metrics, user monitoring, and end-user experience monitoring. Though these terms are not exactly the same, they do share a reliance on the use of key metrics and performance data such as page load time, transaction paths, or application crashes to evaluate the user experience on your website or web application.

Synthetic monitoring also differs from RUM, as it uses simulated data to test the performance of your system. While synthetic monitoring might be useful when you need to simulate audience and user interactions, RUM is more accurate in terms of your user experience, website usage, and optimizing interactions.

RUM also differs from marketing-focused website analytics as it is not limited to website content or user segmentation; rather, it focuses on the holistic user experience, including content loading speed, uptime, latency, interactivity, and visual reliability.

Why Is Real User Monitoring Important?

Data from your website visits and interactions can provide invaluable information about how your site is performing and where visitors come from. People visit various pages on your site with widely different intentions, and these intentions influence how they interact with your site. This data allows you to see which areas of your site are performing optimally, which need optimization, where your quality traffic comes from, and where you need to improve so your customers can experience the best you have to offer.

Monitoring your website and user-interaction metrics is especially important as changes you make over time may introduce flaws to the user experience despite your best intentions. Users can be easily irritated by slow websites, confusing user interfaces, and strange website-navigation patterns. As a result, it is critical to monitor user experience and performance issues constantly.

With the right set of tools, you can better understand user intent and whether your site is fulfilling its purpose. You can then utilize alerting features to help you respond in real time to surges or downtimes in user traffic, fixing or optimizing the website to improve overall user experience.

No two visitors to your website are the same, some may be looking to purchase a product while others might be researching a topic. However, visitors can often be grouped together by how they interact with your site.

With RUM tools you can segment your traffic and compare metrics for one such group of users vs another. This is useful to surface new insights and optimize your site for your main audience. For example, you can compare whether visitors from one country are more likely to purchase a product vs another or whether visitors on mobile devices spend more time on your site than those on desktop.

All these insights and areas for optimization have an observable impact on your bottom line, whether that is engagement, impression, or conversion. For example, by using research and monitoring their users, Amazon has found quantitative proof that every 100ms of latency cost them 1 percent in sales. Google had similar results when looking at the load time of the search engine, where a .5 difference in load time resulted in a 20 percent drop in traffic. Another research that is widely known is the ten-second rule in website usability. Basically, a delay of ten seconds or more in page load time is immediately noticeable to users, and they can drop off unsatisfied.

How Real User Monitoring Works

Depending on the data being collected, your website would have to be instrumented or added as part of a monitoring job. For example, uptime data and information on page load times can be obtained without changing any website code as monitoring tools can create scheduled jobs to simulate entry into your website and record these details.

However, for details about users and their interactions, a script should be added to your website code. This script will be specific to your user monitoring solution and would be placed within the head tag of your HTML. For example, Cronitor RUM, a performance and traffic analytics tool, offers a JavaScript snippet that can be inserted in your HTML code to send raw data about your users and website interactions to be processed.

<!-- Cronitor RUM -->
<script async src="https://rum.cronitor.io/script.js"></script>
<script>
    window.cronitor = window.cronitor || function() { (window.cronitor.q = window.cronitor.q || []).push(arguments); };
    cronitor('config', { clientKey: 'b79fade0c14cc819f20a7' });
</script>

The script added to your HTML collates data on your user experience automatically; this data is then aggregated and sent to a central dashboard where you can analyze and evaluate all the generated data over time.

Dashboards are also often segmented across traffic, performance, and other telemetry data.

Page load time chart

You can switch and scroll through the various visualizations and metrics to have a holistic view of your websites.

For example, you can also wrap your functions or methods with monitoring SDKs to report custom events and conversion rates.

<button ... onClick={() => cronitor('track', 'ViewCart', { value: 129 })} />

You can then segment traffic for these events, and view conversion metrics to help you prioritize your team efforts.

Conversion rate chart

Real User Monitoring Use Cases

RUM enables you to understand your website audience and how they interact with your website. This is useful to all kinds of websites, whether e-commerce, business, personal, or blog websites.

Website Analytics

Real user monitoring offers data points that are valuable across website use cases. For example, as a website owner of an e-commerce or blog website, you would want to know how large your daily audience is, your most popular page, and whether users are viewing from a particular location or opening your website mostly on phones or other devices.

With this, you have an authentic picture of your customer base, how and where they found your site, and their interests on your site based on their interactions. This data can be correlated or paired with other data points relating to your performance and business outcomes such as conversions, bounce rates, and drop-offs. All this information could be obtained through unique visitors, top pages, and device data and utilized to optimize your business, website, and marketing thrusts.

In advertising or publicizing your websites, you could also optimize your marketing channels through the referrers’ data, showing which source brings the most users to your platform.

Performance Enhancing

On the back end, performance metrics such as page load time and your core web vitals can be analyzed and benchmarked to gain insight into how users experience your site. With these metrics and data, you can explore why some of your pages are underperforming, being slow or frustrating to users, and receiving fewer visits as a result. This could be due to unoptimized images and videos, a badly structured website, or a feature on the user side.

From a development standpoint, you can utilize these performance metrics to quickly assess the health of your website as well as taking it a step further to diagnose website failures or predict those failures based on your website benchmarks and trends.

A bank website portal would have monitoring data to assess traffic times and page load times. This is important for efficient processing and scaling during traffic surges and downtimes. It also helps spot collapses or failures that could lead to time-outs and a decrease in customer satisfaction.

Time spent during breakdowns or excessive page loads can be translated or visualized easier as money or value lost with RUM as the results can be quantified with better precision, allowing for easier optimization and therefore increased user engagement and conversion.

Alerting

A really useful RUM feature is being able to get notified when something important happens. For example, if your site is receiving a lot more traffic than usual, or a page is suddenly loading too slowly and causing users to abandon your site.

A team of developers could set their own alerts and receive a notification as soon as something important happens. That way, the time to detect and resolve an incident is reduced, and the number of impacted visitors is kept to a minimum.

The RUM process can be greatly simplified with visualizations and dashboards, allowing product managers and stakeholders without coding or technical knowledge and experience to benefit from the available insights and utilize them to troubleshoot problems, create fixes for poor performance, and allocate resources in ways that would efficiently hone user experience.

Conclusion

This article explored what Real-User Monitoring is and how it helps website owners measure and improve their end user’s experience.

If you’re looking for a RUM tool that also covers your backend monitoring needs, Cronitor is a monitoring platform that boasts monitoring capabilities for any application with SDKs, in a wide range of programming languages and an intuitive user interface with in-depth documentation. In terms of real user monitoring, Cronitor offers website uptime monitoring and alerts. It also offers traffic and performance metrics monitoring. You can keep track of your website’s most important metrics from a single dashboard, in real time.