By Deb Cobb, Enterprise Product Manager
It’s generally accepted that the end user experience defines the brand. End-user experiences (UX) undergird the value that brands deliver to their customers in the digital world. UX is influenced by a multitude of variables that include visual and navigational design, accessibility and relevance of content, and inherent trust that the brand will protect personally identifiable information (PII) from data breaches and security risks.
However, the end user experience has many subjective elements as well, because UX evolves from a user’s perceptions as he or she interacts with a website or app to perform a specific use case, such as buying a product or service. For this reason, the end user experience is the aggregate of many factors ranging from website design, navigation, transaction ease, and, of course, page download and rendering times.
In the era of the app economy, as brands work to optimize their digital experiences, they’re delivering website and app capabilities that are far more complex than applications of the past. Today’s apps enable broader customer engagement and interaction, frequent communication with more backend systems, deeper integrations with business critical systems, more reliance on APIs to share information with partners — the list goes on. This means the complexity of web applications can impact the global end-user experience by drastically slowing down response times. For these reasons, sustaining performance benchmarks and eliminating performance bottlenecks becomes ever more challenging for testers. And optimizing UX becomes ever more critical for brands.
To guarantee an exemplary user experience, performance testers need to ensure that they accurately assess all UX risk within their testing strategies. One example of risk might correlate poor website performance with an anticipated degree of revenue loss. It’s vital that testers consider these types of risks upfront; when they don’t, both the end user experience and the brand can suffer.
There are two favorite ways to measure UX in performance testing.
Leverage browser rendering tools that emulate UX
The first approach involves generating a test through the load testing tool. Here testers leverage browser rendering tools which emulate UX and record the results. Testers will want to test their sites with browsers running on real devices to be sure that everything behaves as expected. Although browser emulators work well for testing the responsiveness of a website, they offer limited value to help understand differences in API, CSS support, and certain mobile browser behaviors. Further, this strategy only provides an end-user experience estimation — UX depends on many factors, such as user hardware, client and host operating system compatibility issues, location, bandwidth, etc. And with this approach, there is a high probability that the load may affect browser rendering; it depends on how the website was designed.
Use RUM and EUM tools to gain insights
The second approach involves using real-user monitoring (RUM) or end-user experience monitoring (EUM) tools. By capturing and analyzing each transaction executed by every actual user of a website or application, RUM and EUM tools track website and app availability, functionality, and responsiveness. RUM and EUM tool insights detail how actual users access the website or application, and what may prevent them from accessing a particular website or application components, regardless of whether they use a mobile device or desktop. Testers can then manipulate their dashboards to drill into where the traffic bottlenecks and DNS resolution delays form and why specific pages may take longer to render than others. Because these tools reveal behavior that would otherwise be impossible to predict, testers can not only pinpoint where gnarly issues occur and assess how to best eliminate them but also collaborate with developers to optimize application components that will further improve overall performance.
Keep your users in mind
Being mindful of the user experience includes understanding that customers may reside in different geographic locations which can impact bandwidth, data transfer efficacy (packets dropped), and latency. User behavior describes how users interact with applications. Understanding these behaviors and the paths users take to navigate through workflows is essential to optimizing user experience.
To create memorable and excellent user experiences, brands need to blend great performance metrics with an understanding of their users. These days, it only takes one bad experience to drive a customer to a competitor, so don’t let it happen to your business.
This blog was originally published in October 2018 and was last refreshed in July 2021.
Deb Cobb’s profile on LinkedIn