Most automated tests focus on hypothetical situations. For example, a Selenium test might mimic a user workflow by filling out fields and pressing buttons in a headless browser. But, of course, real-world users don’t always behave the way we want or expect. And typically, these unexpected behaviors are what produce errors.
Let’s look at how Real User Monitoring (RUM) can help you move beyond test automation to improve quality.
RUM involves collecting detailed data about a user’s interaction with a production application. For example, RUM might monitor an e-commerce website to detect any increase in page load times or track users’ paths through a conversion funnel to determine where they typically drop off.
Under the hood, RUM involves following a user session, also known as a click path or user journey, through their interactions with the application. For instance, one user might try to filter search results and find the product they want, whereas another might fail to purchase after adding their credit card.
From a technical standpoint, browser-based RUM solutions typically inject code into an application to track page loads and asynchronous XHR requests. On the other hand, native RUM tools often require adding a library to your application that gets bundled into the application binary.
When it comes to monitoring, RUM is not the only option. There is another type of monitoring, known as synthetic monitoring. While both solutions monitor your application, there are some key differences between the two.
RUM is based on user data captured by your application. It is a more reactive solution, collecting data by running observability systems in the background that track different aspects of your application.
Synthetic monitoring can be described as a proactive solution. This is because synthetic monitoring solutions, like AlertSite, practice active web monitoring. Users of these tools will create behavioral scripts simulating a user’s experience and then deploy them to their application. This is a great method for anticipating, preventing, and solving any obstacles before an actual user experiences them.
Most organizations use automated tests to proactively surface errors before they reach users. But developers can only test so many possible user workflows. As a result, RUM is crucial to quickly catch errors in production and fix them before they reach a more significant number of users.
Some of the most meaningful benefits include:
RUM is relatively easy to set up using today’s solutions. In fact, you usually need little more than a code snippet. The challenge is converting the troves of data you’ll receive into actionable insights. You’ll also need to integrate RUM into your existing quality assurance and development workflows to be effective.
Some best practices include:
BugSnag builds upon the concept of RUM to deliver a platform capable of leveling up the quality of software right out of the box. While APM solutions focus on performance, BugSnag is laser-focused on the customer experience, helping to ensure application stability and making it easier for developers to fix bugs fast.
The Stability Score – or the percentage of crash-free sessions – sits at the core of BugSnag’s platform. If the Stability Score falls below a certain threshold, your team knows it’s time to focus on troubleshooting bugs rather than building new features. In other words, it takes the guesswork out of resource prioritization.
When it’s time to squash bugs impacting stability, the platform automatically prioritizes bugs based on their user impact. That way, you’re directing resources to the most impactful problems without wasting time fixing bugs that don’t matter. Instead, you can quickly improve the user experience and get back to developing new features.
Finally, the platform makes it easy to segment errors relevant to specific individuals or teams and set up targeted alerts. As a result, you can avoid “alert fatigue” and foster a sense of code ownership. You can even configure alerts for specific customer groups (e.g., VIP customers) or look at the stability of specific feature flags or releases.
Customer expectations are rising, and fast, error-free performance is essential to retain customers and drive business outcomes. While infrastructure speed certainly plays a role, performance is not the sole responsibility of DevOps teams. Both business and technical teams must work together to ensure customer satisfaction and success.
RUM addresses the often-missing link between performance, customer experience, and business outcomes. It lets you track actual users, surface errors, and exceptions after deployment. And it can help business and marketing teams better understand customers and their interactions with the application.
If you’re interested in adding RUM to your project, BugSnag makes it easy to catch errors in production. With over 6,000 customers monitoring over 80,000 projects, the platform has helped capture more than 500 million errors and improve the customer experience.