Measuring a Web site’s performance isn’t what it used to be. Site operators are increasingly turning to outside sources for the components of their Web pages. That can muddy the metrics for companies trying to get a handle on how their sites are really performing.
Gomez Inc., though, believes it has a solution to that dilemma. The Lexington, Mass., company introduced Monday a product called “Actual Experience XF,” which it claims can give Web operators an authentic measure of a customer’s online experience.
“It’s a composite world today,” BestBuy.com Director of Online Operations Steve Trimbo said in a statement. “So much of the Web experience a company provides hinges on content, applications and infrastructure delivered by third parties.
“As we move toward rich Internet technologies such as Ajax,” he continued, “even less of the customer experience is under our direct control. Yet the customer still holds the host brand accountable for the Web experience and expects much richer services delivered instantly.
“Actual Experience XF will help organizations understand exactly what their users are experiencing so they can improve those experiences,” Trimbo concluded.
Masking the Net
Actual Experience collects metrics about a visitor’s experience at a Web site, explained Gomez CTO Imad Mouline. Measures such as how long did it take a page to load, how long did it take for the visible portion of a page to load, what was the perceived performance by the visitor, how much time does it take the browser to perform a transaction, and so forth.
“One trend that we’re seeing is an increased use of rich Internet applications, especially frameworks like Ajax,” he told CRM Buyer. “There is a rush to create Web applications that mask the Internet and look as if they’re running on the user’s desktop.”
To do that, more processing power is being pushed to the browser, he continued. “That makes things more difficult to control because now you’re relying on a piece of infrastructure that’s sitting on the client side of the exchange,” he said.
Focus on the Browser
Browsers have evolved from thin clients that did the bidding of Web servers to thick clients capable of a variety of independent functions, observed Peter Sevcik, president of NetForecast in Charlottesville, Va.
As a result of that, “the focal point of how a Web application is actually delivered is no longer at the server, it’s on the browser,” he told CRM Buyer. “And if you’re not measuring on the browser, you just don’t see what’s happening.”
There are drawbacks, though, to the methods used by Gomez to ascertain a site’s performance, according to Abelardo Gonzales, a product manager with Keynote, a Gomez competitor located in San Mateo, Calif.
“When you place a thin client on a real user’s machine, you don’t know if a slowdown in performance is due to a Web server, the connection or any other activity that the user is doing,” Gonzales told CRM Buyer. “They could be downloading music or streaming video which is going to greatly impact the amount of bandwidth available for a Web performance test.”
Test Tube Bots
Earlier this month, Keynote introduced a product, Transaction Perspective Last Mile, which uses dedicated machines to simulate the user experience at a Web site.
“These are clean machines, so any variation is due to network congestion or server congestion at a DSL, cable or dial-up location,” Gonzales explained. “It’s a great way for benchmarking user experience and seeing how changes on the server side affects those users.”
That’s important for Web operators trying to enhance the performance of their Internet operations, he contended.
“To make data usable, you need to focus on the things that you can control and the network,” he claimed. “You’re interested in where you can add value to your site.
“When a customer is getting data that’s noisy,” Gonzales continued, “there’s absolutely no way to see if the changes you made to your Web site are contributing to performance changes or [if] it is something else completely.”