A beginner's guide to understanding real user monitoring (RUM)

What is real user monitoring?

Real user monitoring (RUM) refers to capturing users’ interactions with a website in real time. This helps you analyze how your end users perceive your website.

As businesses go digital and global, their websites are accessed from various devices and from multiple geographies. It’s important to provide a consistent user experience across all geographies and devices, but in reality, the user experience could be impacted by various external factors like network latency, operational hiccups, trouble retrieving requested resources, and slow ISPs. Also, what works in one browser may not work in another.

This is where RUM comes in handy. It helps you see why your website is slow in a particular region, identify if you’ve overlooked any issues with your page load time, find out where and why a user abandoned a page, etc. All of this information enables you to optimize your website performance.

How RUM works?

A small JavaScript code is injected into the website's header or footer. This in turn injects a script that helps in capturing all the performance data when the webpage loads. Metrics like redirection time; the number of JavaScript errors, AJAX calls, and user sessions; DNS lookup time; connection time; network time; backend time; and frontend time are captured.

How RUM Works

How is RUM different from synthetic monitoring?

Synthetic monitoring, also known as real browser monitoring (RBM), enables you to test your webpage workflows by simulating the page in various browsers from different locations; you can also play back the simulation periodically. RBM is helpful for assessing your website performance pre- and post-deployment.

However, it is not humanly possible to simulate all possible scenarios. As mentioned earlier, network latency or a slow ISP connection—which have nothing to do with your website performance—could hamper the end-user experience. Network latency can be monitored in real time using RUM.

It is to be noted that RBM and RUM aren’t alternate solutions to the same problem; rather, they complement each other for a holistic end-user experience.

RUM vs RBM

How is RUM different from Google Analytics?

While device, browser, and geography data is captured both in RUM and Google Analytics, the former is primarily intended to analyze the user experience and performance, while the latter focuses on user behavior.

With Google Analytics, you can understand the navigation path from one page to another, as well as the page load time, bounce rate, and exit rate. With RUM, you can identify the page load time, time taken for individual resources to load, JavaScript errors, and AJAX calls. The information provided by RUM helps you identify issues as and when they happen, and enables you to optimize your front-end performance.

rum vs ga

Who uses RUM?

RUM is used by people in various roles, including developers, DevOps, IT admins, and marketers.

  • Developers:

    Developers are interested in how an individual webpage loads for different end users. RUM sheds light on the different factors contributing to page load time: network attributes, content downloaded for each user, front-end resources consumed for rendering the downloaded content, platform compatibility, and JavaScript errors.

  • DevOps:

    DevOps teams are interested in how their infrastructure caters to end users of all sorts. RUM helps DevOps teams determine if a spike in response time can be attributed to expected factors (increase in traffic, poor performance in a particular geography) or to unexpected factors (issues with the ISP or CDN).

  • IT admins:

    RUM gives IT admins a holistic, granular view of front-end performance, including network latency, errors, and user sessions.

  • Marketing:

    RUM helps marketers dig deep into performance by geography, identify busy hours, and analyze specific pages of importance.

Who uses RUM

Key features of RUM

  • RUM is used by people in various roles, including developers, DevOps, IT admins, and marketers.

  • Monitor the performance of single-page applications (SPAs): Static HTML pages are outdated, and SPAs are the rage these days. Tracking asynchronous calls in SPAs, a crucial task for organizations, can be achieved with RUM.

  • Analyze user sessions: Monitor user journeys and analyze the reasons a user exited or abandoned a page.

  • Identify and eliminate JavaScript errors: Pinpoint the exact URL and line of code where a JavaScript error has occurred. You can also trace the user paths contributing to a specific error and analyze the possible triggers.

  • Analyze webpage performance: Identify response time and throughput for individual webpages, as well as load time for resources like images, CSS, and scripts, and optimize them accordingly.

  • Track browser performance: Certain issues, like JavaScript errors, can be browser-specific. With RUM, you can identify and eliminate them as well.

RUM Features

So how do I get started?

Simple: Sign up for a Site24x7 account and get started with RUM. If you’re an existing user, you can simply integrate your websites with the RUM monitor and start monitoring.