Digital experience monitoring (DEM for short) is fundamental to delivering a great experience to customers. Why? The quality of experience offered to website visitors has a direct bearing on how much they spend (if anything), and whether they go on to become a repeat customer.
How important is experience? Capgemini’s Digital Transformation Institute found that eight in 10 consumers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. Ecommerce, and business in general, is no longer about pure price wars, but how you can better serve customers.
Experience is often considered in terms of the quality of interactions between a customer and the sales team, or the way they are treated by the service and accounts departments. It begins at the very first interaction with your business—most likely the company website. And this is where digital experience monitoring comes into play. Analyzing key website metrics related to user interactions will help you better target investment to make improvements that actually matter.
In this article we will take you through some of the key metrics to pay attention to—and some other useful pointers that will help you analyze digital user experience.
1. Overall Page Load Time
The best known and probably most important of all website performance monitoring statistics, page load time is fundamental to an acceptable user experience. Web users are notoriously impatient, so speed is critical.
The overall page load time metric is defined by the time it takes every element of a webpage to load from the moment the initial request is received. This includes on-page elements, and other unseen factors like scripts and widgets. Naturally, the smaller the page load time, the better.
Typically, synthetic monitoring of a website focuses on the homepage; this is where most visitors will first land on your site if they manually type in the URL. But as the world wide web becomes increasingly interlinked and indexed, visitors could land on virtually any page. You must test and monitor load times for all the key pages on your site.
2. DNS Lookup Time
Memorable URLs are crucial to making it easier for customers to find your website. But behind the scenes, DNS lookups play an incredibly important role in helping the customer’s browser actually locate your site online.
The amount of time it takes for your DNS provider to translate domain name into IP address directly affects page load times – especially for first time visitors who do not have that information cached locally.
Effective website monitoring solutions can test DNS lookups with a view to identifying performance improvements. It may be that a change of DNS provider yields the microseconds needed to stop users clicking off to a competitor’s site.
3. Error Rate
The size, complexity, and sheer volume of assets that make up your website will grow organically the longer it remains in operation. Factor in offsite and embedded assets, and the intricacy—and potential points of failure—increase further still.
But every error or failed request adds to the overall page load time. Identifying and correcting errors is crucial to improving overall user experience.
Your synthetic monitoring routines must take account of errors—or the user experience may be badly affected.
4. Page Weight and Asset Count
The more functionality your website offers, the more assets are required to make everything “work.” But every element adds to the overall “weight” of each page.
Your digital experience monitoring program should take account of the number of assets embedded in each page—images, scripts, videos, and embeds—and their size. Combining the total number of assets and their overall file size will help you calculate the page weight.
The page weight value can then be used to estimate how long it will take to download the page over various connection speeds. It will also help to emphasize the importance of reducing asset count and file size to speed up page loading times.
Digital Experience Metrics – Other Factors to Consider
Metrics provide a scientific basis for raw performance of your web assets. The four metrics outlined above is not an exhaustive list; there are many other measurements that can be captured and analyzed, all of which will help to improve your site performance.
To help provide some context for your metrics, it is worth it to seriously consider some additional factors:
The Users’ Characteristics
Off-site factors have a bearing on website performance, too. The user’s choice of device and browser will have a bearing on their experience, as will the geographical location.
Analyzing these factors will help identify commonalities that need to be targeted—or even the need for localized content distribution networks to accelerate loading speeds in areas with slower connectivity.
Page performance tells you about load times, but nothing about the user’s actual experience. What do people think about your website?
Apdex (Application Performance Index) is an open standard that converts your metrics into actionable insights. The idea is to help you compare website performance against user expectations. SolarWinds® Pingdom® includes an Apdex dashboard view to specify how many users are satisfied, tolerating, or frustrated by overall experience.
Successful Website Performance Monitoring – Measure Everything
With an established website, most performance improvements are small and incremental, shaving milliseconds off overall loading speeds. In most cases, hundreds of tiny improvements will yield the largest benefits.
Digital experience monitoring shows you where these improvements can be made—so long as you are capturing and analyzing all available metrics. To learn more about Pingdom and how our toolset can give you these insights, click here to start a free 14-day trial.