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Website monitoring 101: definition, benefits, and types
Just like the weather, a website needs constant monitoring. You need to closely watch your site's performance, security, and usage to predict and prepare for storms—or collapses in the user experience (UX), like a slow checkout process or buggy links.
But what is website monitoring, why is it important, and where do you start?
This guide explains what website monitoring is, why it's important, and the different types of monitoring, with examples and metrics you can use to better understand how users interact with your site and elevate their experience.
What is website monitoring?
Website monitoring is the process of checking your website’s performance, function, security, usability, and availability. It ensures your website is up and running and visitors can enter and use it to complete their various tasks, like getting information or making a purchase.
Monitoring your website’s performance typically involves automated testing, as there are too many influences on a website’s performance, availability, and function for accurate manual testing. When monitoring your website, there are four different approaches to use:
Synthetic monitoring: a scheduled, proactive approach to website monitoring that simulates user interactions within a website to determine how it responds to a given action. It lets you test a variety of user conditions on your website, so you’re prepared for any user action or request.
Transaction testing: this helps monitor the interactive elements and functionality of your website, including key user actions like logging in, submitting a payment, or searching the site.
Real user monitoring (RUM): a user-activated approach that involves tracking website performance while a real user explores your website, as opposed to creating mock website conditions or environments (like in synthetic monitoring).
Analytics-based monitoring: AI-assisted analytics give you important insights into your website’s performance, like tracking user traffic and understanding which key performance indicators (KPIs) correspond to key user actions—such as leaving your site or making a purchase.
Using a variety of approaches that look at both qualitative and quantitative data helps you understand the context and motivations behind user behavior on your site.
Numbers in isolation can be deceiving, and they also don't enable you to build a comprehensive enough picture of how your website is performing. The best way to tackle this is to layer in qualitative insights too, so that you can get a fuller picture of the user experience. Combined together, you can then take better judgments that, ultimately, help you deliver a better website experience.
How website monitoring benefits your users and business
Website monitoring benefits your users and business by making sure visitors get the seamless website experience they came looking for—ultimately boosting website conversion.
The biggest benefits of monitoring your website are:
Continuous discovery and improvement: continuously checking for bugs, breaks, or breaches helps you improve your website—improving the user experience and delighting your customers
Optimized website performance: monitoring your website lets you catch and correct errors and issues that harm the user experience (like buggy payment, cart, or checkout processes)
Protecting your customers and company: monitoring your website helps reduce the risk of cyber-attacks and data breaches
Guaranteed user accessibility: website monitoring ensures users can access your website by preventing prolonged downtime or page breaks
Crucial user insights: consistent website monitoring methods—like observing user behavior—help you empathize with your customers and remove blockers in their journey
💡Pro tip: use Hotjar’s Ask tools to get deeper insights when monitoring your website. Surveys and Feedback tools let you ask visitors questions at the moment you choose, so you can understand the why behind their actions on your website and gauge your site’s ability to meet user needs.
Hotjar Feedback lets you tap into user sentiments about your site in the wild. Source: Hotjar
4 types of website monitoring for a great UX
Below, we explore the types of website monitoring and website monitoring best practices you can implement to drive business growth and create an excellent user experience on your site.
Use our suggestions to inform your website monitoring checklist, and pick the ones specific to your business and customer goals.
1. Uptime/downtime monitoring
Monitoring your website’s uptime and downtime (or how available and operational it is to users) is crucial—regardless of whether you’re running a SaaS product, web service, or ecommerce site.
Users typically won’t wait around for pages to load, especially if they’re ready to purchase a solution. To effectively convert visitors, you need to make sure they can access your site or service. Uptime monitoring lets you spot website availability issues before they negatively impact the user experience.
So, how do you track your website’s uptime or downtime? Use website monitoring tools like Uptrends or Better Uptime to check your service-level agreement (SLA) compliance, and set your SLA definitions to monitor important uptime KPIs and metrics. These metrics might include:
Uptime percentage/high availability: the average amount of time your website is available to visitors. Use this metric to identify which parts of your website regularly become inaccessible or unavailable.
Operator response time: or the length of time an error can go unattended before an operator acts to resolve it
Time to first byte: the elapsed time it takes your web server to deliver data to users. Determine how long it takes visitors to access and experience certain website elements.
Search query response time: or the time it takes a user to get a response to their search requests
Track downtime using automated downtime monitoring tools like Datadog that learn from a downtime history database to prevent additional outages, and immediately alert you to issues like expiration notices
2. Security monitoring
A breach of personal data and user trust can make customers totally abandon a product or brand. Security monitoring helps you prevent cyberattacks, maintain your brand’s reputation, and keep your customer data safe.
How to monitor your website’s security and prevent hacks or hijacks:
Outsource to a professional cybersecurity monitoring company for in-depth expertise in cyber threat detection (in addition to your devs department)
Hire a pen-testing team to simulate a real website hack to expose any unknown security vulnerabilities or threats
Level of preparedness: the number of devices that are fully up to date in your network
Unidentified devices on internal networks: the number of potentially harmful devices within your network. Employees can unintentionally bring malware into your system— simply by connecting to your network.
Security incidents: the number of times an attacker breaches your network or information assets
Intrusion attempts: the number of times an attacker attempts to gain unauthorized access
Mean time to detect and resolve: the average time it takes to detect and resolve a cyber attack
Average vendor security rating: your organization’s threat landscape
3. Performance monitoring
Your website’s performance determines a user’s likelihood of staying to explore your website—especially since website speed and page-load times impact 70% of consumers’ chances of converting.
Website performance monitoring makes sure you’re providing an intuitive, optimized experience for your users that lets them complete their tasks and accomplish their goals. Focus on website speed, content organization, and optimized web design to positively influence conversion rate optimization and elevate the user experience.
Let’s explore some ways to monitor your site’s performance:
Use Google PageSpeed Insights to test and monitor your website’s overall loading speed and see if your website’s actively meeting user needs. Test My Site lets you check your mobile responsiveness and speed.
Place feedback widgets on key areas of your site, including home, landing, checkout, and product pages, and ask users if you’re creating an intuitive user experience and what you could improve
A/B test crucial conversion pages and web design elements—like CTA or search bar placement—to see which design variant resonates with users. If you’re using Hotjar for synthetic monitoring, you can integrate the platform with tools like Optimizely and Google Optimize—and watch recordings of different user types exploring your variations.
Page load time: the time it takes a page to fully load
Resolve time: the time it takes to form a TCP/IP connection or resolve a domain name to an IP address
TCP Connect: the amount of time it takes to form an initial IP connection to the server
Send time: the time it takes (after forming a connection) for a user to request or ‘get’ content
Wait time: the time it takes from sending a request to getting the server to respond
Receive time: the time it takes the first data byte and last data byte to reach a browser
Watch recordings of user sessions on your website to observe how users experience your site and whether your web design, content layout, and navigation elements make sense throughout their journey. Session recordings are a type of real user monitoring (RUM) approach, as they let you access replays of user sessions in the wild. Hotjar Recordings also help you with transaction testing by letting you see how users search, type, and fill out forms on your website.
4. User behavior monitoring
Tracking user behavior on your website gives you key insights into the user experience—and how their behavior impacts product or website success.
For example, after updating your product pricing plans, your SaaS business might track user retention rates to determine if your new prices align with user or market demand. Or, if you’re an ecommerce company, you might track cart abandonment rates to determine how customers react to a new checkout process.
So, how do you monitor user behavior on your website?
Analyze heatmaps of user activity on your web pages to see where users click and how far they scroll to determine if you’re creating an engaging, intuitive user and product experience
Administer timed surveys throughout the customer journey and ask about their experience directly to determine what’s driving their behavior and what you could improve
Refer to your CRM platform for insights into persona-based purchasing history, past interactions, and sales figures. Use your data to draw connections between spikes in website activity and conversion.
Use web analytics tools like Google Analytics to spot trends in user behavior. Analytics-based monitoring is essential to understand the performance of your website and helps you track key metrics like:
Bounce rate: the percentage of visitors who leave a web page without performing an action
Average session duration: the average time a visitor spends on your website
Retention rate: the percentage of users who keep using your product or return to your website over a given period of time
Pages per session: the average number of web pages a user visits within a single session
🔥Pro tip: use Hotjar exit-intent Surveys to put metrics like bounce rate in context. Ask visitors why they’re leaving your website as they leave, so you know exactly what’s blocking their path to conversion.
Hotjar's exit-intent Surveys help you understand the reason behind bounce or churn metrics. Source: Hotjar
Boost your website monitoring efforts with product experience (PX) tools
Effective website monitoring lets you spot critical issues on your site as they arise, so you can act fast to improve the customer experience.
Proactively choosing what you want to monitor, keeping up with key qualitative and quantitative metrics, and using the right tools to help track and analyze your insights help you deliver a consistent and secure experience that continuously meets user needs.