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Can IT Regain Control of the Web Experience?

Posted on 11.14.2006

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Is the Internet changing? You bet it is ... and fast. Web applications used to look and act differently - interacting with the server on a basic give-and-take exchange. In the old Web world, page load characteristics mapped reasonably well to perceived end user experience but, today, the relationship between those page load characteristics and end user experience (considering all the DOM-ready needs) is considered by many developers to be broken - only application and intent matter now. Today, you have SOA (connecting inside the firewall), CDN (app acceleration) and the infrastructure (DNS smart routing) to worry about, and don't forget about all that the essential data and the myriad of third-party ad serving issues that must be considered.

Gomez is helping clients gain control of these external components with its upcoming Gomez® Actual Experience XF™ (Experience First) product, currently in beta and scheduled for release in early 2007. By the looks of it, it's the first on-demand service capable of providing an authentic measure of the online customer experience from a browser-based perspective - mostly by enhancing control over outside forces including new technologies like Ajax and third party content. By providing a measure of online experience from the browser, an industry first, Gomez enables companies using these technologies to safeguard their brand.

The unique vantage point of Actual Experience XF enables organizations to measure the performance of critical elements in a Web application that are invisible to traditional behind-the-firewall-based passive monitoring solutions. The new service complements Gomez’s active monitoring solutions by delivering powerful insight into how perceived performance is impacted by geographic or machine-specific parameters, but is engaging clients in the design and development process for maximum utility.

For example, one Gomez client was working with some Ajax applications and found that much of the processing was taking place within the browser. Another of their big portal clients discovered that between 15-20 third-parties were involved with getting the page delivered. This becomes a major challenge, as elements outside an organization's direct control increasingly play a greater role in the delivery of Web applications and the sustainability of the organization itself. This results in an increased strain on IT managers who, with the holiday season coming fast, must keep shopping habits and user experience top of mind. Widely circulated statistics state a whopping 87 percent chance that a user will not return to a site after a bad experience.

Through its browser-based view, Actual Experience XF measures the customer experience and how it is affected by a myriad of components that make up today’s complex Web applications. What we're talking about here is a way to acquire deep data (on a granular level) about the actual user experience before it's too late. Actual Experience XF measures many aspects of performance, including download times, abandonment rates and service consistency. This provides insight into the Web experience and how perceived performance is affected by geographic or machine-specific parameters such as the size of the browser window, browser type, first-time/repeat visitor status and browser cache utilization. Gomez's browser-based service, like other application monitoring providers, only looked for complete DNS resolution. The new product gives the DOM ready time, elapsed time before the last element loads and insights into the speed of connectivity.

Actual Experience XF complements Gomez’s existing active monitoring solutions, making the company the first to combine both actual user (browser-based) and active monitoring (agent-driven) tests so that organizations can deliver superior online experiences that satisfy customers, strengthen brands and drive profits. Who is this right or wrong for? It's still emerging, so people are thinking about how to measure the performance. It seems ideal for those in the development stage, so they can understand barriers. It's also good for anyone with a complex environment - any site using multiple third-party ad providers.

Key impacts of solutions for composite environments include improving control, enhancing customer experience, reducing revenue loss and improving brand reputation. Gomez's Arthur Mateos states, "It's important to get in on the design, development and validation and help clients manage the complexity of their applications. Two which stood out were Ajax and a lot of activity coming from third parties - help us got a handle on this." Actual Experience XF helps clients understand the interaction for end-users. Gomez was active or synthetic, Actual Experience XF is real time. Through a code snippet, Gomez tracks user experience, measuring asynchronous events and activity.

It looks to be an advantageous model for customers - no upfront costs and a pay-as-you-go pricing structure, meaning customers will pay only for the value they receive. As if improving the user experience in the face of technology weren't enough.

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