This is the final blog post in a three-part series designed to explain the function and importance of Web performance monitoring today.
We started by looking at how Web performance monitoring measures the underlying technologies of servers, applications, networks and browsers. In the second post, we looked at the business impact of Web performance, highlighting several high-profile web performance failures in addition to examining how some seemingly minor performance metrics can have a major impact on business results—from sales to security.
Having discussed what Web Performance Monitoring is and why you need it, let’s focus on how to implement WPM to mitigate these risks and help direct future optimization.
If we jump to the end, we’ll see that the keys to successfully implementing a strong Web performance monitoring solution revolves around detecting relevant events early, within a comprehensive picture.
At its most basic, your implementation needs to ensure business critical Web transactions are available and performing acceptably—and that you are made aware of any aberration before your visitors experience it. That means you need to be the first to know when there is an issue with the login, search, check out, or any other business critical user interaction on your website.
As we discussed in the first post, Performance Threshold Notifications can give you a ‘head’s up’ before your site falls below what you consider to be acceptable performance levels.
Building Optimal Web Performance
So, what is acceptable? It depends largely on user expectations, and those expectations are set, in large part, by the user’s experience with other sites, including your competitors’.
You can subscribe to a number of industry websites and publications to receive data focused on the performance of Web and mobile sites, homepages and business transactions across a wide variety of competitive industries. However, for direct competitors, it’s often best to supplement industry data with your own benchmarks. Creating your own set of performance benchmarks enables you to establish use cases and user paths to get a better perspective on how your customers’ actual online experiences are stacking up against the competition.
Combining transaction monitoring with performance benchmarks provides a more detailed approach to gauging where your site’s performance ranks against competitors in the same vertical. You can accomplish this by creating a transaction monitoring script that moves through multiple pages within the competitor’s site, ideally toward a conversion you’d like to measure on your own site. Then create a script following an equivalent path using your own site.
Run these transactions at irregular intervals, and collect at least five samples for each path. Response times will drift, and you’ll want to average the data before comparing benchmarks, but once established you’ll have a running baseline of your competitors’ performance. These measurements will provide a framework against which you can judge your own site’s performance, helping guide future site optimizations.
Establishing baseline is also beneficial for addressing performance variances across browsers. Firefox, IE and Google Chrome load source code, images and third-party objects differently. Cross-browser monitoring quickly identifies browser-specific problems and performance bottleneck you can address to ensure a consistent cross browser Web experience for your users.
While benchmarking will provide you with good reference points, it’s important to dig deeper. The key stat benchmarked is usually response time or load time, but consider getting more granular. Metrics like time to first paint or above the fold load time can help reveal where weaknesses lie. If one site is generally faster or slower than another, differences in this granular detail can help point to “why.”
Benchmarks only offer a high-level view of performance. Down in the details you might find an interesting outlier or a strange pattern developing over a number of days, weeks or months. It could be an application issue or a failing of an external service provider such as a CDN or streaming vendor. Worst case, what appears to be a trivial outlier is actually a sign of a security breach.
3rd Party Content
Location Based Web Performance
In the second post, we talked about the importance of measuring performance from several locations worldwide. If you conduct business internationally, knowing how your site will perform vs. competitors in different countries is critical. Monitoring from different locations also helps indicate if a problem is a network issue isolated to a single location or more likely an application problem experienced by all.
Speaking of locations, one that’s overlooked far too often is right behind your own firewall. The performance of internal Web applications can be critical to users in customer-facing business functions like customer service, sales, and support—monitoring that performance needs to be top of mind for organizations relying on these in-house applications to meet customer expectations and generate revenue.
Web performance monitoring goes well beyond simply keeping tabs on your server—it’s a complex mix of techniques and technologies that work together to continually improve the competitiveness of your business.
AlertSite by SmartBear Software is a global leader in Web, API and mobile performance monitoring solutions. Dedicated to continuously improving the Web user experience, AlertSite uniquely provides both technical performance measurement as well as visual user experience measurement from more than 80 locations around the globe and from within your environment with InSite (a private monitoring location). AlertSite’s services measure basic availability, Web performance using real instances of IE, Firefox and Chrome browsers, API performance and mobile website performance. Gain a real-time view of service quality with consistent insight into availability, performance and user experience.
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