osseous/Flickr

osseous/Flickr

App monitoring plays an important role in ensuring a healthy user experience. Let’s take a look at some of the tools that will help automate this critical procedure.

App monitoring, the process of tracking an app’s vitals in real time, is incredibly important. Fatal errors can cause an app to crash every time a user opens it, so doing anything possible to avoid them is crucial. [tweetable alt=”#developers have 2 chances to impress #users, just 16% try a #failing app more than twice, says @Dynatrace” hashtag=””]After all, developers really only have two chances to impress users, since only 16% of them will try a failing app more than twice,[/tweetable] according to Dynatrace.

Isn’t Web Monitoring Good Enough?

Many companies monitor their websites to watch for traffic spikes, ensure their servers’ health, understand delays in user experience, and identify user path errors.

Some of the largest players in the web game have already entered mobile, including Keynote, Compuware’s Gomez, and BMC. But today’s stars are the up-and- comers–young start-ups who are gaining recognition for app-specific monitoring. With app usage now eclipsing web usage, it is perfectly natural to embrace high performance standards.

Which Companies Monitor Apps?

A large number of small companies limit their app monitoring to manual testing, relying on humans to open the app, poke around, and try to identify errors. There are flaws in this methodology, including the fact that people are not typically available to test at all times of the day.

Likewise, depending on end user experience to identify an issue does not provide an opportunity to fix issues before consumers are impacted by any problems. Recently, two new companies, AppDynamics and New Relic, have emerged with app-specific monitoring software.

Both established in 2008, these companies understand the complexity of app monitoring as compared to web monitoring. Currently overseeing more than three million apps, New Relic monitors your app code, device and OS specificities, network performance, and end-to-end visibility.

Recently, AppDynamics announced the expansion of its mobile monitoring software beyond server-side monitoring with the launch of their Real-User Monitoring (RUM) product.

For those in need of further explanation, AppDynamics also provides a nice (if a bit dated) recap of “Mobile App Performance Explained”.

Bootstrap App Monitoring

The cost to implement app monitoring can be prohibitive, but not all is lost. The following tips may not guarantee a 24/7 understanding of an app’s health, but they will help serve until a company accumulates the means to invest in app monitoring.

First, make the best of the manual testing method. Make sure that you and your team constantly use your app and work to emulate various user experiences.

Second, keep an eye on the app store reviews. These reviews should include crash reports, which come from the stores themselves, as well as any feedback received directly from users (e.g. a feedback form in the app). Users are not afraid to admit when they are experiencing an error, so let them act as guides.

Third, rely on app metrics. If an app issue (such as an error or outage) occurs, usage data will indicate as much. Any instance in which data spikes (i.e. goes up or down) should be investigated. Downward spikes should be of particular concern when it comes to app monitoring, because most user behavior does not change drastically from day-to-day in the absence of some other driver.

Study the usage graphs regularly and anticipate errors down the road. Remember–creating an app with Infinite Monkeys gives you [tweetable alt=”Create #apps with @oo_monkeys to get a free #reporting dashboard for #downloads and usage #metrics” hashtag=””]free access to its reporting dashboard for downloads and app usage metrics.[/tweetable]

Ultimately, app monitoring systems provide insight into errors because they spot what will eventually become user experience issues. Although it may not always be possible to anticipate and solve every bug by exclusively following the steps above, the more informed you are the faster you will be able to respond.