User sessions are a new way to troubleshoot mobile development, providing valuable insights into your application’s performance, as well as how users are interacting with it.
In today’s economy, few things can have more of an impact on a company’s success than their customers’ mobile experience. Unfortunately, mobile users are notoriously intolerant of applications that provide a subpar experience—either in performance or stability—giving companies a very limited opportunity to find and address any issues that may arise.
Even worse, many developers still rely on faulty assumptions and customer input to troubleshoot problems. For example, to the end user, any number of freezes, slowdowns or shutdowns may seem like a “crash.” In reality, however, actual crashes comprise less than 1% of the problems users face. Making matters even worse, traditional logging that many developers rely on only provides information directly pertaining to an event, not the myriad of interactions—including software, hardware, and user-based—that may have led up to the event.
For the modern developer, this is where user sessions come into play.
Enter User Sessions
In mobile computing, no two devices are identical. Even if they are from the same manufacturer and are the same model, everything else about any two devices is completely unique. Different OS versions, different applications, different system settings and different usage patterns all combine to create a completely unique device. As a result, user session tracking treats each device as an individual user.
Within each device or user, there are both good and bad sessions. In a good session, everything works as planned, while a bad session contains some kind of error or anomaly that negatively impacts the user experience.
The Benefits of User Session Replays
Unlike traditional logging, user sessions give you the ability to see specific data about your application’s performance — visually replaying individual sessions makes it possible to see what went right or wrong. This, in turn, can help you identify a number of areas vital to providing a positive experience.
One of the most obvious ways user sessions can assist is in determining the cause of a true crash. Many times a crash is the culmination of a number of factors. By replaying a user session, you can see exactly what led up to a crash, including memory issues, user interaction, third-party code and more.
Although not a true crash, slowdowns can be just as damaging to your company’s bottom line, at least in terms of the impact poor performance has on customer satisfaction. By replaying a user session, you can see what may have led to the performance issue. Slow network, unresponsive servers, buggy third-party services or a malfunctioning API are just a few of the factors that may become evident once a user session is investigated.
User Pain Points
Another area where sessions can shed light on the user experience is in the realm of user pain points. The fact is that, just like devices, no two people are alike. A workflow or interface that may make perfect sense to a developer or interface designer may be creating problems, or be completely unintuitive for a large portion of users.
User sessions give you the ability to see how users are interacting with your app, what options they are choosing and, perhaps most importantly, if there are any pain points where a large percentage of users are giving up and exiting the application.
One of the most important, and often overlooked benefits of user sessions is the ability to see how an application evolves over time—either for good or bad. By sampling user sessions over a number of different releases, you can see if your application is slowing down as new features are being released, becoming less intuitive as it grows or if stability is suffering as a result of the application’s evolution.
If there are areas of concern, user sessions provide the information you need to set specific, targeted goals for improvement.
User Sessions: The Future of Mobile Troubleshooting
Without a doubt, user sessions represent a game-changing opportunity for mobile developers. By having accurate information regarding their application’s function, as well as how users are interacting with it, developers are able to provide the user experience customers expect.