Measuring web performance: Synthetic vs Real User Monitoring

There are two schools of thought to measure web performance: Synthetic Monitoring and Real User Monitoring (RUM). Even though they are often opposed, the two methods are complementary. This article reviews the two types of monitoring. What is it all about? What are they used for? How to use them effectively? What are the pitfalls to avoid?

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Why speed is key for m-commerce web sites

There are now some 5.052 billion mobile users, accounting for 67% of the world's population. And with WiFi and 4G now widely available, the pace of mobile activity is continually on the rise: mobile web traffic is up 21% over the previous year.

Beyond its usefulness to consumers, mobile commerce offers key advantages from a business perspective:

  • Tablet devices account for the highest add-to-cart rates on e-commerce websites at 8.58%. (Smart Insights)
  • Average smartphone conversion rates are up 64% compared to the average desktop conversion rates. (CMS Report)

Alibaba is a prime example: “Mobile revenue for its Chinese e-commerce business increased 80 percent to US$13.18 billion, generating 80 percent of its total retail revenue in the country. Monetisation of its mobile commerce platforms outstripped that of desktop”.

Given this surge in mobile activity, there can be no doubt about it: e-commerce operators must eliminate any potential points of friction that users may experience on their web sites. Consumers are more demanding than ever and expect a slick and seamless experience. Speed is therefore among consumers' top requirements when it comes to the mobile experience. This then raises the question: how can we reduce loading times on our mobile web site?

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Third party tags: their impact on web performance

Webperf and third parties study

An increasing number of third party services are now being incorporated into today's web sites. In 2012, a typical web page contained an average of 13 third party scripts or "tags". Today, our Top 40 analysis of French e-commerce web sites shows that this number has risen to an average of 21 third party tags, an increase of 62%.

These third party services provide added value, with the promise of increased revenue (e.g. via advertising), higher conversion rates (through the use of retargeting tags) or a better understanding of user profiles (through embedded analytics).

But they also have a poor reputation when it comes to their impact on performance! A number of studies have attempted to prove this in the past (including studies such as those conducted by Instart Logic and NCC Group), and it forms a key part of the rationale behind ad blockers (a topic we will come back to in a future article).

We were keen to find out just how much of an impact these various third party widgets would have on the monthly web performance rankings published on JDN.

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[Installation guide] Webpagetest agent on windows server 2008

As you may know, Fasterize is an active partner of webpagetest and host the agents for Paris. Today, we explain in detail the official guide on https://sites.google.com/a/webpagetest.org/docs/private-instances.
The purpose of this guide is giving the maximum pieces of information to install an agent. Most steps are illustrated with pictures.

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Web performance is not a matter of technique

When you work in the web performance world, you’re constantly reading blog posts about new techniques or new hacks that are implemented or tried on new website / Single Page app / mobile website / CMS. You also meet a lot of people telling you that “yes we do some concatenation, minification, whatever … but mhhh … not for this because it’s outside the deployment process … “. Or you see people trying to speed up their websites without monitoring anything.

So instead of focusing on techniques, shouldn’t we watch the side aspects of web performance as being as important as techniques?

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