Recently I was in Chicago and had the pleasure of speaking with members of the Chicago Web Professionals Meetup Group. Many of these folks are sole proprietors and consultants building sites and integrating technologies for their customers.
During my talk — Top 10 Mobile and Web Performance Lessons Learned from 2014 — I presented cases where site problems and outages could have been addressed by having detailed knowledge about the users of a site and their experience, such as:
- which pages they are visiting and what they are doing
- from which devices, using which operating systems
- through which types of network connections
- from where and at what times
- how quickly do the site’s pages load
Real user monitoring (RUM) collects these metrics, and more, about the end-user experience and site performance.
From the attendees, I learned some interesting statistics and information about the WordPress platform. The more we talked about end-user experience and WordPress, the more interest grew in having this type of data to deliver better site performance and results. Let me share some of the conversation.
WordPress is wildly popular
WordPress is one of the popular design platforms on the web. I use it, too, as our blog is built with WordPress. What I learned from the participants is that:
- 74 million sites are built with WordPress.
- WordPress is used to build 24% of all websites.
- There are more than 39K plug-ins for WordPress that add functionality.
- And there is a free RUM plug-in available for SOASTA mPulse!
What is real user monitoring, and why should you care about it?
These site designers are already monitoring their sites with Google Analytics – it’s configured into WordPress. With Google Analytics, you can see how visitors are moving through the site, and if they are doing what you hope they will: whether that is making a purchase, getting a download, or just ending on a certain page.
Site designers have also read that web performance has an impact on user satisfaction. But how do you know how your site is performing for all of your users? This is where real user monitoring (RUM) brings the data.
The animation at the top of this post comes from a RUM tool that collects end-user experience data for every user accessing a website. If a page loads quickly (within 3 seconds), a green dot appears. For slower loads (3-7 seconds), a yellow dot appears. For the slowest page loads (>7 seconds), a red dot appears.
On average for this site, page load time is less than three seconds; though from the yellow and red dots, you can see that not every visitor is getting the same response time for every page. Each red dot may represent a user becoming frustrated at the slow page load time, ready to leave this site to visit another instead.
How do you know which pages are slow, for which users, and why? By collecting experience data from the browser for every page load your visitors experience, you get this information. RUM tools make it easy to see how site performance is affected by things such as:
- complex page designs
- large graphic files
- quantity of scripts on a page
- third-party script performance
- CDN (content delivery network) issues
- network speed and latency
- browser and version
- device and OS combination
A waterfall of user data
We looked at some slow-loading pages for a website to see why they loaded slowly and found some interesting things. Often, the slow page load was a result of third-party scripts that were blocking the rest of the page from rendering, so the user was left waiting until the script either finished loading or timed out.
Get RUM faster than you can publish a new page
As fast as it is to create a new page in WordPress and publish it, you can activate real-user monitoring on your entire WordPress site, collecting user data for everyone who visits your site.
Here are four easy steps to get started:
- Add the mPulse plug-in to your site. Here’s the link to the mPulse download page in the WordPress plug-in directory.
- Click on the link to go to the mPulse site. Click on Free Trial and enter your account information to sign up for a free mPulse account.
- Set up your free mPulse account. Log into mPulse and click on the Central tab. The ‘Configure Your App’ dialog should open. Skip over steps 1 and 2 and find your API key below them. Select it and copy it.
- Activate the WordPress mPulse plug-in and enter your API key. Open ‘Settings’ and paste your API key from step 3 into the field and you’re done.
Try mPulse Pro for free for 30-days!
Sign up for mPulse and get Pro features free for a month. If you like the Pro features, it’s just $99/month (or $999 if you pay for a full year). Otherwise, keep using mPulse lite for free for up to 100k beacons per month. That’s 100k page visits to your site. Happy monitoring!
About the Author
Tom has more than 20 years of experience as a manager and product manager in the software development tools field. Today, Tom works in product management as Senior Evangelist at SOASTA, the leader in performance analytics. He speaks frequently at industry conferences and meetups on topics, including Web app performance and testing at large scale, mobile continuous integration and testing, automated mobile testing tools, and big data analytics for business value.