If you’ve ever spent much time fooling around on the web, you’ve probably encountered Pingdom’s uptime and performance monitoring tools. The reason most people (including myself) know of Pingdom is because their uptime monitoring tool is really awesome. They offer far more than just that, however.
Today, we’re not talking about the tools Pingdom already offer. We’re talking about something new: Real User Monitoring.
As it may sound, Real User Monitoring (RUM) is a bunch of web analytic tools for checking out the performance of your website from the perspective of visitors. Whilst analytic tools such as “most visited pages” are included, RUM is clearly primarily designed for performance analysis, not user analysis.
Unfortunately, now I’ve seduced you into this article by telling you about a really cool new service, I’m going to have to let you down by saying it’s currently in an invite-only beta — and, on top of that, only available for paying customers. So you can’t sign up and use it yourself… yet.
Fortunately, the folks over at Pingdom set me up with an account and I’ve been checking it out for you. Hopefully, my impressions will give you the information you need to decide if RUM, when available for all, is for you. I think you’ll like it.
When I first looked at the RUM Summary for Chasing Perfection, I was surprised. Instead of being shown visitor statistics and page view numbers, I was shown the average load time for a page. After some more playing around, I realised something important: Pingdom’s RUM tools are designed to analyse the performance of your site, not to profile your visitors.
This nuance is important to understand — there is a distinct different between seeing detailed information about the visitors on a website and being shown performance-related data about the website itself. Pingdom’s tools are most definitely in the latter camp. If you understand and appreciate these two distinct types of tools, you’ll almost certainly love what Pingdom is offering.
Because I’m the proprietor of an ever growing website, I’m going to remember Pingdom’s paid account and RUM service. Folks who depend on servers — or even just their websites — for a sizeable chunk of their income should keep their eyes focused on Pingdom’s tools. Knowing information about visitors is useful when dealing with advertisers, but what use is visitor analytics when your website takes an age to load for folks in Europe — and you don’t even know? These tools will show you how fast your site appears when your existing users load it.
My favourite features included in Pingdom’s RUM tools are these:
- Load time by country: this, as you might expect, will let you know if you have a particular performance issue in a certain part of the world.
- Load time distribution: What percentage of users have to wait more than 5 seconds for your site to load? Why?
- Loading states (network, backend, frontend): How long does it take for these parts of your website to load? Which of these parts do you have control over? If your backend is slowing down your site for people, you now know where to focus your efforts.
- Experience: Experience is a powerful feature worth explaining in some detail. Pingdom uses some very clever tools to work out the overall user satisfaction for everyone visiting your website. This data is presented in two easy to understand ways: a simple “experience” chart, showing the percentage of visitors who are “satisfied”, “tolerating” or “frustrated” by your website and a companion graph showing the Apdex score over time.
Wikipedia explains the Apdex score:
Apdex (Application Performance Index) is an open standard developed by an alliance of companies. It defines a standard method for reporting and comparing the performance of software applications in computing. Its purpose is to convert measurements into insights about user satisfaction, by specifying a uniform way to analyze and report on the degree to which measured performance meets user expectations.
So, essentially, 1 score of “1” is ideal and a score of “0” means all your users are in the “frustrated” zone. Neat.
Not just analytics
I use other real-time analytics tools, but I don’t feel that Pingdom’s RUM competes with them. The tools Pingdom offer are performance analytics, rather than user analytics. This means a few important things: if you’re put off at the idea of using RUM because you already have great site analytics, you needn’t be. I feel regular analytics are a completely separate product. You’ll likely know straight away whether or not you need performance analytics.
If you really care about the performance of your website and want to monitor the satisfaction, load times and performance of your website, I’d suggest keeping an eye out for the general release. It makes much more sense to measure the performance of your website through the experience of your users, rather than by running tests from high-powered servers in big data centres. Sometimes real-world tests beat lab experiments, right?
You can read more and sign up to be notified of release over at Pingdom’s website. It’s also possible to sign up to the beta.