Managing user experience has become more crucial then ever before! Real User Monitoring (RUM) plays an integral part in debugging an application from users point of view. Know more about RUM, its benefits, its best practices and more:

In today’s world, user experience defines online success. Real User Monitoring (RUM) steps in to ensure seamless interactions. This guide takes you on a journey through RUM, unraveling its meaning, advantages, functionality, and beyond.

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What is RUM (Real user monitoring)

RUM, or Real User Monitoring, is a vital technique used in the digital realm to observe and analyze how actual users interact with websites or applications.

By collecting and scrutinizing real-time data on user behaviors, such as page loading times, clicks, and navigation patterns, RUM offers valuable insights into the actual performance and user experience. 

  • Precise Performance Evaluation: RUM offers pinpoint accuracy in gauging page load times and overall responsiveness, allowing for meticulous performance evaluation across diverse user segments.
  • User-Centric Behavior Analysis: Unveil intricate user behavior patterns, from clicks to scrolling, enabling a deep dive into how users engage with your digital platform.
  • Geographical Performance Mapping: RUM’s geographical visualization lets you discern performance variations across different regions, aiding in targeted optimization efforts.
  • Immediate Issue Resolution: Detect errors and disruptions as they occur, ensuring rapid fixes.

Real User Monitoring vs Synthetic Monitoring

Often times people think, what’s the fundamental difference between real user monitoring vs synthetic monitoring?

Real User Monitoring (RUM) observes real users in real-time, offering authentic insights. Synthetic Monitoring employs scripted scenarios for controlled testing.

RUM mirrors real-world behavior, while Synthetic Monitoring ensures consistent assessments. Combined, they create a robust user experience enhancement strategy.

Real User Monitoring (RUM): captures authentic user interactions, offering insights into actual user experiences

  • Provides real-time insights into user behavior and performance.
  • Offers an accurate depiction of user experience, reflecting actual engagement.
  • Uncovers performance bottlenecks and areas for refinement organically.

Synthetic Monitoring: on the other hand, employs scripted scenarios to simulate user interactions. While it offers controlled testing, it might not always reflect real-world user behavior.

  • Employs scripted interactions to simulate user behavior.
  • Offers consistent and repeatable testing under controlled conditions.
  • Provides controlled insights into performance metrics.

Together, RUM and Synthetic Monitoring form a potent alliance, enriching user experience strategies with real-world insights and controlled precision.

FeatureRUMSynthetic Monitoring
Monitoring scopeCaptures actual user interactionsSimulates user interactions
Real-time dataYesNo
User segmentationYesNo
Performance insightsGranular view of user experienceOverall application performance
Root cause analysisYesLimited to predefined scripts/scenarios
Proactive alertingLimitedYes

How Real User Monitoring Works

Real User Monitoring (RUM) starts by embedding a JavaScript snippet into your web or mobile application. When users interact with your application, this script collects performance data directly from their browsers or devices. This initial step involves:

  1. Script Integration: A lightweight script is embedded into the application’s codebase, often within the HTML header. This script collects performance and interaction data as users engage with the application.
  2. Data Collection: As users navigate the application, the script captures information such as page load times, resource loading, clicks, and interactions. This data is then sent to a designated server.
  3. Processing and Analysis: The collected data is processed and analyzed to generate insights into user experiences, performance bottlenecks, and errors. Patterns and trends are identified to uncover areas for improvement.
  4. Visualization: The processed data is presented through user-friendly dashboards and reports, offering a clear overview of user journeys, performance metrics, and potential issues.
  5. Optimization: With the insights gained, organizations can make informed decisions to optimize application performance, enhance user experiences, and address any identified issues.

This process leverages user interactions to provide real-world insights, enabling data-driven decisions for optimizing user experiences and improving application performance.

Setting Up RUM with Middleware

Middleware’s Real User Monitoring (RUM) empowers you with extensive visibility into user journeys for both web and mobile applications. This enables the identification of significant issues that impact user experiences.

Let’s delve into how this work:

If you don’t like watching a video, here’s a simplified step-by-step breakdown:

  • Create a Middleware Account or Log In to: https://app.middleware.io/auth/register/.
  • Navigate to Real User Monitoring in the left-panel menu.
  • Initiate the setup by clicking on “Create Application.”
  • Add application name and origin.
  • After providing these details, you’ll receive a script that can be effortlessly incorporated into your application’s code.

After adding the script to your app, allow a few minutes for the system to gather data and initiate tracking. 

Once done, you’ll notice data populating the RUM dashboard, offering insights into user sessions, loading times, errors, and more.

Each tab provides detailed information, allowing you to analyze and filter data to derive valuable insights.

Key features of the Real User Monitoring Tool

Real User Monitoring (RUM) tools provide essential functionality for tracking and analyzing user interactions with websites and applications.

Here are some key features that make Real User Monitoring tools an essential component of any web management strategy.

1. Analyze front-end performance

The front-end performance analysis involves assessing the speed and efficiency of a website’s user interface during loading and interactions.

Metrics such as page load times, resource loading, rendering speed, and user interactions are examined to pinpoint optimization opportunities, enhance code quality, and improve overall user experience.

  • User Engagement: Swift, responsive interfaces captivate users and reduce bounce rates.
  • Conversion Boost: Faster interactions lead to higher conversion rates and goal achievement.
  • SEO Advantage: Optimized front end contributes to better search engine rankings and visibility.

2. Monitor single-page applications

Monitoring single-page applications (SPAs) involves tracking real-time user interactions within a seamless, dynamic web experience.

This encompasses measuring route changes, fetching data, and rendering updates as users navigate the application.

  • Real-Time Insights: Monitoring SPAs provides live feedback on user actions and performance, enabling timely optimizations.
  • Enhanced User Experience: Identifying slowdowns or glitches in SPAs ensures smooth navigation and engagement.
  • Performance Optimization: Monitoring SPAs helps pinpoint resource-intensive areas, guiding improvements for faster load times and seamless interactions.

3. Analyze product usage

Product usage analysis involves examining how customers interact with a product or service. This includes tracking user actions, engagement levels, feature adoption, and patterns of behavior to gain insights into how the product is used and perceived.

  • User-Centric Improvements: Understanding how users navigate and engage helps optimize the product for better usability and satisfaction.
  • Informed Decision-Making: Usage data guides feature development, updates, and strategic decisions, aligning with user needs.
  • Performance Enhancement: Monitoring usage patterns allows the identification of areas for optimization, leading to improved overall performance.

4. End-to-end visibility of user journey

End-to-end visibility of the user journey involves tracking and monitoring every step a user takes while interacting with a product or service. This encompasses the entire lifecycle from initial engagement to final action, providing a comprehensive view of user behavior.

  • Holistic Understanding: Complete visibility reveals user paths, pain points, and successful interactions, aiding in understanding user needs and behaviors.
  • Issue Identification: Detecting bottlenecks or drop-offs in the user journey allows prompt resolution and improved user experiences.
  • Optimization Insights: Comprehensive data informs strategic optimizations, resulting in smoother user flows and enhanced satisfaction.

5. Visualize performance across geographies

Visualizing performance across different geographical regions involves mapping and presenting data related to a product or service’s speed, availability, and user experience in various locations. This helps identify performance variations and potential areas for improvement.

  • Global User Insights: Visualization offers insights into how users experience the product in different parts of the world, allowing targeted optimizations.
  • Localized Enhancements: Performance data by geography enables tailoring optimizations to specific regions, ensuring optimal user experiences.
  • Resource Allocation: Clear visualizations help allocate resources effectively by prioritizing regions with higher usage or performance issues.

Limitations of RUM

Despite its benefits, Real User Monitoring has some drawbacks. Let’s go over some limitations of RUM:

1. Lack of benchmarking

RUM lacks external benchmarking data, making it hard to gauge your website’s performance compared to industry standards or competitors. Without this context, it’s challenging to assess your site’s true competitiveness and potential areas for improvement.

So, what can be done? Consider supplementing RUM with synthetic monitoring tools that simulate user interactions from various locations, offering a broader performance perspective.

2. Cannot measure pre-deployment performance

One notable limitation of RUM is its inability to assess a website’s performance before it goes live. This means you can’t proactively identify issues that might impact user experience upon deployment.

Choose a RUM tool that meets your organizational requirements.

Without the ability to simulate and analyze performance in a controlled environment, the potential for unforeseen problems to arise post-launch becomes a concern.

Consider integrating load testing and staging environment assessments alongside RUM to address this.

These practices allow you to catch performance bottlenecks and glitches before releasing updates to the public, ensuring a smoother user experience from the outset.

3. Difficult to conclude if you have a very small sample size

Another challenge with RUM arises when dealing with a limited user data sample. The variability in user behaviors within a small sample size can lead to inconclusive or potentially misleading performance assessments.

Drawing broad conclusions based on such limited data may not accurately represent the overall user experience.

Supplementing RUM insights with A/B testing and other analytics techniques addresses this limitation. Cross-referencing data from multiple sources allows you to validate findings and ensure a more reliable understanding of your website’s performance and user behavior.

4. Too much data

RUM can generate a substantial volume of data; sifting through this abundance of information can be overwhelming.

Managing and analyzing vast quantities of data can lead to challenges in identifying crucial insights, potentially causing you to overlook important performance indicators.

To address this concern, leverage data visualization tools and interactive dashboards. These tools help distill complex RUM data into clear patterns and actionable trends, allowing you to focus on the most relevant insights and make informed decisions for performance improvements.

Best practices for Real User Monitoring

Best practices for Real User Monitoring

Implementing Real User Monitoring effectively requires adopting a set of best practices to ensure accurate insights and meaningful data. Let’s explore a few best practices for RUM. 

1. Establish business objectives for how you use RUM

Defining clear business objectives is crucial in effectively leveraging Real User Monitoring (RUM).

Establishing specific goals, such as improving page load times, reducing bounce rates, or enhancing conversion rates, ensures that RUM efforts are aligned with strategic priorities.

This approach guides data collection, analysis, and decision-making, leading to targeted optimizations that directly impact desired outcomes.

2. Link RUM business objectives to technical goals

Connecting RUM business objectives to technical goals create a cohesive strategy. For instance, if the business objective is to reduce bounce rates, a corresponding technical goal could involve optimizing critical rendering paths and resource loading.

By aligning these objectives, organizations ensure that technical efforts directly contribute to achieving overarching business targets, resulting in a streamlined approach that enhances user experience and drives success.

3. Measure RUM for mobile and web-based apps

When measuring Real User Monitoring (RUM) for both mobile and web-based apps, it’s crucial to consider platform-specific nuances.

  • For mobile apps, focus on metrics like app launch times, screen transitions, and responsiveness across various devices and network conditions. 
  • For web-based apps, emphasize page load times, resource loading, and user interactions. 

By tailoring RUM measurements to each platform, you’ll gain comprehensive insights into user experiences, enabling targeted optimizations and delivering a seamless performance regardless of the user’s device.

4. Include RUM in your test environments

Integrating Real User Monitoring (RUM) into your test environments offers valuable insights during development. You can identify performance bottlenecks, errors, and usability issues before deployment by simulating real user interactions.

This proactive approach allows you to fine-tune user experiences, optimize load times, and ensure a smooth transition to production, resulting in a more polished and responsive final product.

5. Opt for a RUM Solution that also offers transaction tracing, log management, and infrastructure monitoring

When selecting a Real User Monitoring (RUM) solution, consider opting for one that provides additional capabilities such as transaction tracing, log management, and infrastructure monitoring

This holistic approach allows you to correlate user experience data with backend performance insights, error tracking, and infrastructure health.

By having a unified platform, you can efficiently diagnose issues, streamline troubleshooting, and comprehensively understand your application’s entire ecosystem, ensuring optimal performance and user satisfaction.

Top 3 Real User Monitoring tools:

There are several excellent tools and vendors available in the market. In this section, we will discuss three top real-user monitoring tools:

1. Middleware

Middleware is a monitoring platform that specializes in complex, multi-tiered applications. It brings dynamic insights into user interactions, enabling optimal web and mobile application performance.

  • Real-time end-to-end visibility into user activity and experience.
  • Troubleshoot user-facing issues swiftly using core web vitals and attributes.
  • Capture business-critical actions, such as checkout clicks, to make informed decisions.

 2. Datadog

Datadog’s Real User Monitoring (RUM) offers a comprehensive solution to enhance web and mobile application performance by providing real-time visibility into user journeys and experiences.

  • Seamlessly correlates user journeys with synthetic tests, backend metrics, traces, logs, and network performance data for comprehensive insights.
  • Resolve frontend performance issues impacting users, identify slow load times, and troubleshoot JavaScript errors down to the line of code.
  • Analyze usage patterns, capture business-critical user actions, and contextualize user sessions with custom attributes, enabling data-driven optimizations.

3. New Relic

New Relic is a cloud-based observability platform that offers real-time monitoring of software applications, infrastructure, and customer experiences.

  • Detects low-performing entities such as URLs, APIs, and services proactively.
  • Collaborate to resolve issues automatically generated from affected tests.
  • Leverage alerts and AI to seamlessly transition from synthetic checks to automatically generated tickets within AIOps.

How to choose the right RUM tool for your business?

Selecting the ideal Real User Monitoring (RUM) tool for your business requires careful consideration of various factors. 

From aligning with your specific goals to accommodating technical requirements, the decision-making process involves evaluating a range of aspects to ensure that the chosen RUM solution effectively meets your organization’s needs and contributes to improved user experiences and performance optimization.

Let’s review a few important aspects you must consider when choosing a RUM solution. 

1. Functionality and features

Understanding the functionality and features offered by a RUM tool is essential. This includes capabilities such as real-time user journey tracking, performance metrics visualization, error identification, and cross-device compatibility.

Comprehensive functionality ensures accurate data collection and insightful analysis, enabling you to make informed decisions for enhancing user experiences and optimizing your digital platforms.

Choosing a tool with the right features tailored to your business needs enhances your ability to drive meaningful improvements.

2. Implementation options

Exploring different implementation options is crucial when selecting a RUM tool. Consider whether the tool offers JavaScript injection, SDK integration, or other methods that align with your technical infrastructure and application architecture.

The flexibility in implementation methods allows you to seamlessly integrate the RUM tool into your existing systems, minimizing disruptions and ensuring accurate data collection.

Choosing a tool with suitable implementation options ensures a smoother adoption process and accurate insights into user experiences.

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3. Unified monitoring system or standalone

When deciding on a Real User Monitoring (RUM) tool, consider whether you want it as part of a unified monitoring system or prefer a standalone solution.

  • Unified Monitoring System: Integrating RUM into a unified monitoring system offers a consolidated view of application performance alongside other metrics like infrastructure health, logs, and traces. This approach provides holistic insights and facilitates correlation between user experiences and backend issues.
  • Standalone Solution: Opting for a standalone RUM tool provides focused insights solely into user experiences. This streamlined approach is suitable if your primary concern is optimizing frontend performance and enhancing user interactions without the complexity of broader monitoring.

Choosing between a unified system and a standalone solution depends on your organization’s monitoring strategy and goals.

A unified system offers comprehensive observability across various components, while a standalone tool emphasizes targeted optimization of user experiences.

Align your choice with your business priorities and technical requirements for effective RUM implementation.

3. Data handling

Consider how a real user monitoring tool handles data, including data privacy, storage, and compliance with regulations such as GDPR. Evaluate whether the tool offers data anonymization, encryption, and clear data retention policies.

Proper data handling is paramount to protecting user privacy and ensuring regulations compliance.

Choosing a RUM tool with robust data handling practices helps build trust with users and ensures that sensitive information is safeguarded throughout the monitoring process.

4. Data reporting and visualization

Examine the data reporting and visualization capabilities of a Real User Monitoring (RUM) tool. Look for features such as customizable dashboards, real-time reporting, and the ability to drill down into specific metrics and user journeys.

Effective data reporting and visualization enable you to gain actionable insights quickly. Clear and customizable visualizations help you understand user behavior, identify performance bottlenecks, and make informed decisions for optimizing user experiences and overall application performance.

Conclusion

To wrap up, picking the right Real User Monitoring (RUM) tool is a crucial step in the digital landscape.

By weighing factors like features, implementation choices, data handling, and reporting capabilities, you can ensure your chosen RUM solution aligns seamlessly with your business objectives and technical necessities.

Sign up for a free forever developer account to see Middleware’s RUM capabilities in action.