The digitalization of the end user experience is leading to increasingly rapid changes for both customers and business owners alike. Customers demand and depend on fast, reliable web services whether for informational purposes or to conduct e-commerce transactions.
That’s why regardless of the device that is used, slow digital experiences aren’t easily forgiven. If they happen often enough, they will reflect poorly on your brand and will eventually impact your bottom line. Today’s competitive business landscape demands having an impressive digital presence that is reliable at all hours of the day and night and from locations scattered across the globe.
Those expectations have prompted a proliferation of customer-centric approaches to website and application observability that enable businesses to respond rapidly to issues impacting user engagement.
Key among those approaches is a proactive synthetic monitoring strategy as an integral part of optimizing your end user digital strategy.
Synthetic monitoring at a glance
Synthetic monitoring is one type of front-end monitoring that simulates user interactions with your website as opposed to other forms of monitoring, which may rely on actual users interacting with your website.
It works by testing and measuring performance metrics of web applications by simulating traffic with a set of test variables, such as network, browser, location, and device.
Behavioral scripts are created to simulate a flow that a customer or end user might take on a site, which can then be monitored at specified intervals for performance indicators, such as functionality, availability, and response time. When things do go wrong, synthetic monitoring tools issue alerts via SMS messaging, email, or integration platforms, such as Slack.
Synthetic monitoring can be initiated from checkpoints spread across the globe, record the performance data for each run, and collect data on page performance. That’s a real benefit for companies engaged in international commerce.
The result of this testing is the assurance that important processes — logins, cart checkouts, site registrations, etc. — are working as intended from different geographical regions. When problems arise, they can be diagnosed and fixed quickly before affecting users. This can be a key benefit for e-commerce sites expecting heavy traffic during holidays and other busy times of the year.
Benefits of synthetic monitoring
- Proactive detection of site performance issues- Run tests from global locations or from behind a firewall.
- Baselining and Benchmarking- Monitor APIs and application performance to identify areas of improvement.
- Prepare for the peak traffic seasons or new markets- Simulate traffic to ensure application performance during peak times and holidays.
- Monitor e-commerce transactions and business processes- Ensure customers can go from searches to purchases without hiccups.
- Measure and adhere to SLAs- Understand application performance limitations better to ensure service level objectives are met and unforeseen penalties avoided.
- Monitor 3rd party vendors- Ensure CDNs, payment processors, etc… meet service level objectives, performance, and availability expectations.
- Test from the end user’s perspective- Get insight into end user’s perspective by monitoring page load times, DOM load and more.
Types of Synthetic Monitoring
Synthetic monitoring offers a variety of advanced tools designed to provide comprehensive monitoring of your website. Each tool plays a critical role in monitoring your site for optimal end user experience with your applications. Three of the most important ones are listed below.
Uptime monitoring, also called availability monitoring, is just what the name implies. If your applications go down for whatever reason, uptime monitoring will let you know for how long. Time is an important factor if you don’t want your visitors to leave your site —along with any potential revenue. It’s important that alerts and notifications are set up so IT teams can act quickly to get back up and running.
Page Speed Monitoring
Bounce rate. It’s the percentage of visitors who leave without viewing a second page on your site and is a good indicator (in a bad way) of your website’s overall engagement. It’s also one reason why web performance monitoring matters and also why you need synthetic monitoring to measure page load times and CDN effectiveness. Performance issues affecting specific geographical areas can be isolated and addressed — a huge benefit— before your end user engagement is negatively affected.
If you are an e-commerce business owner, listen up. Transaction monitoring may be one of the most important synthetic monitoring tools that you will use.
Imagine yourself as a user interacting with your website. Checkpoint computers open a browser and use a script to navigate your site much the way an actual customer would — creating user IDs, login, logout, examine products, and hopefully, end up putting a product in a cart and checking out.
Transaction monitors will look for errors that fall below performance expectations and notify you via alerts so you can make the necessary changes before customers abort the transaction altogether and go somewhere else.
It’s important to note that these types of simulated interactions with your website or apps are designed to detect issues before they negatively affect end user behavior. Synthetic monitoring takes a proactive approach toward detecting faulty performance issues. That stands in stark contrast to real user monitoring (RUM), which relies on a passive approach involving actual human interaction.
Synthetic monitoring vs. real user monitoring. Why you may need both
As mentioned above, while synthetic monitoring is a proactive approach, real user monitoring (RUM) employs a passive methodology. With synthetic monitoring, the paths to be exercised are predefined, whereas RUM tracks data from actual users of your website.
Whereas synthetic monitoring provides a baseline for diagnosing short-term performance issues requiring immediate remediation, RUM is very good at tracking and identifying long-term performance trends.
Therefore, the synergy produced when the two forms of monitoring are combined make a compelling case for using both as part of a solid monitoring strategy.
Further, although they are not interchangeable, each solution serves different purposes. RUM data may influence the metrics tracked by synthetic monitoring, thereby providing a more holistic solution serving your overall monitoring strategy.
How API monitoring fits into the strategic picture
By some estimates, 1 million APIs will be in use by the end of the decade, up from 20,000 in 2015. Much of this growth is being driven by companies focusing on creating differentiating customer experiences from their competitors. That’s leading to more responsive websites, custom mobile apps, and other user-friendly interfaces that are being deployed to enrich the user experience.
As the trend toward ubiquity and diversity of APIs grows, it’s more likely you’ll be struck by a meteorite than avoid using some form of API during the course of a day. This is especially true in the financial sector as banks and other lending institutions scramble to find new ways to meet customer demands by providing products and services quickly and seamlessly. Hence the need to develop and deploy a strong synthetic monitoring strategy in your organizational roadmap. That’s where API monitoring comes in.
In certain key respects, synthetic monitoring and API monitoring are similar:
- Both monitor your applications using software tools, rather than actual users.
- Both are vital for verifying that applications perform as expected and deliver a stellar user experience.
- Both provide different types of clarity into application functionality: uptime, performance, and data validation.
However, that’s where the similarities end because in other fundamental ways, synthetic monitoring and API monitoring provide different types of visibility:
- While synthetic monitoring focuses on how applications respond to user interaction, API monitoring tests for performance of APIs rather than the actual application itself.
- Synthetic monitoring is more versatile in that it can test virtually any type of application, whereas API monitoring is only useful for applications that use APIs.
- API monitoring helps maintain quality user experiences across multiple applications by testing the APIs that allow those applications to communicate. Synthetic monitoring tests one application at a time.
In a nutshell, although the reasons to use synthetic monitoring and API monitoring are similar, they provide different types of visibility into expectations regarding application performance. Synthetic monitoring provides information about an application itself that you can’t glean from API monitoring, and vice versa.
Still, it would be prudent to think of both types of monitoring as complementary tools. Synthetic monitoring provides visibility at one level of your software stack, while API monitoring caters to a different level.
Optimizing your end user experience is the bread-and-butter driving most e-commerce strategies today and it involves a great deal more than offering great products or providing superior service. It requires an advanced digital experience monitoring strategy that incorporates synthetic monitoring models able to provide the most transparent picture of the end user’s experience — all while avoiding performance problems, service disruptions, and meeting or exceeding business KPIs.
Would you like to learn more about a real-life example of good monitoring in action? Join us on November 02, 2021, for an informative webinar as we walk through some of the challenges of implementing a solid monitoring strategy and how to overcome them.
Uptrends Synthetic Monitoring can provide you with the right strategy to help optimize your end user’s digital experience and more.