Why New Relic
Provides an easy-to-use solution for monitoring client-side application performance and user experience
- Improved page load times by 93%
- Made application performance a baked-in part of DevOps process
- Delivered actionable insight into user experience with application
Launched as a new business unit in 2013 by next-generation digital marketing firm NextMark Inc., Bionic Advertising Systems (Bionic) provides a web-based platform that increases the efficiency of media buying and selling. By streamlining the process of placing advertisements and monitoring their effectiveness, Bionic strives to fulfill its mission of unleashing human creativity to achieve “super-human results” through advanced workflow automation.
Viewing performance from the user’s perspective
Operating under the guiding philosophy that advertising works best when people are empowered by technology, Bionic has been working since its inception to perfect its system for media planning that encompasses everything from websites and social media to TV and radio ads, direct mail, billboards, and more. The end result is a web-based platform that enables marketers to combine their own data with Bionic’s technology to put together the best possible multichannel advertising plans.
While Bionic is constantly looking for ways to improve its application, until recently it had very little direct insight into how users’ experiences with its software were affected by things like response times. Explains John Swindell, Bionic's vice president of operations, “It's one thing to be able to throw more hardware at a problem, but it's a whole different thing to be able to look at the application and say, ‘This area is really slow from a user's perspective,’ and, ‘Here is what we can do to improve the user experience.’”
Success has brought a new set of challenges to Bionic, and their platform needed to gracefully accommodate the increasing amount of data generated by users as they add content to the system. This was where the platform ran into problems. Says Swindell, “The longer users stayed with the application—and thus, the more content they added—the more performance would degrade. However, without actually sitting down with individual users, we had no way of knowing which areas were causing the problems. The users’ experience with and navigation through the application were completely opaque to us.”
Swindell and team knew this had to change. Bionic needed to understand and optimize individual customer experiences in order to apply that optimization to all customers and they needed the right monitoring tool to do so.
“We were looking for something that could help us identify every step of the user's journey through the application. New Relic Browser was the only thing that came close to meeting our needs.”
Replicating the user’s journey
Although Bionic initially considered developing instrumentation in-house to measure user experience, the company quickly realized that the task would become cumbersome and distract from their core business. Thus, the team turned outward and swiftly identified a solution in New Relic. Says Swindell, “We were looking for something that could help us identify every step of the user's journey through the application. New Relic Browser was the only thing that came close to meeting our needs.”
The Bionic team wasted no time in getting down to business, using New Relic Insights to collect, organize, query, and visualize event data from Browser to answer key questions about application performance and customer experience. “We immediately went to work highlighting what we called the Top Ten or Ten Most Wanted,” he says. “These were the areas of the application that were the worst performers. Using Browser, we were able to identify the root cause of each problem and set about making adjustments—all of which made a massive difference in the responsiveness of the application.”
The team took this dedication to customer experience all the way to the user level to make sure their VIP customers were getting the best possible experience with the app. “We set various custom values in New Relic that enabled us to track application performance back to a specific user loading a specific URL. Once we knew exactly what item the user was trying to load, we could then go in and get a detailed view of what the application was doing when it was trying to load that item.”
The team from Bionic even found a bug in the application container—meaning an error in web server code—which it was then able to work around. For Swindell, this provided an ah-ha moment. “Without New Relic we would not have had the insight to realize that the error was in someone else’s code—not our own.”
Today, Swindell makes checking in with New Relic a regular part of his job—using it to quickly identify any areas of the application that are providing a sub-par user experience. He even uses New Relic to chart the 95th percentile of page loads against events such as the deployment of new code or infrastructure to determine whether such changes have improved or degraded the user experience.
“New Relic has really started a conversation within our development team that has resulted in application performance moving from an afterthought to a baked-in part of the overall process. Folks are spending more time looking at the front-end user experience when they make changes to the application."
Pinpointing problems to continually improve user experience
Remember those Ten Most Wanted performance problems that Bionic set about to pinpoint and resolve? Today, they’ve all been corrected. In fact, with New Relic serving as catalyst, Bionic was able to release an entirely new version of its application devoted exclusively to performance improvements aimed at enhancing the user experience.
Says Swindell, “As soon as we put in New Relic, we could clearly see the areas of the application that needed work. As we dug into those spots, we began to see traditional mistakes like multiple calls back to the server when only one was needed. As we corrected these issues, we were always thinking, ‘What is the user’s experience when they hit this page, and did we improve it?’ Luckily for us, New Relic provided the benchmark measurements that allowed us to answer that question.”
The answer, by the way, was a resounding “Yes!” After making adjustments across every area of the application, the sum total of the changes was a 93% improvement in page load time.
Yet another way to eliminate performance problems is to ensure that they never make it to production. Says Swindell, “New Relic started a conversation within our development team that has resulted in application performance moving from an afterthought to a baked-in part of the overall process. Folks are spending more time looking at the front-end user experience when they make changes to the application. They are always aware that those changes need to improve the overall user experience.”
Bionic is not just using New Relic to pinpoint the problems it needs to correct to improve performance; it’s also using the solution to discover what users like most about its application as well as how they want to interact with it. Says Swindell, “We’ve just started using New Relic to look at the application from a product management perspective—to find answers to questions like ‘What areas of the application are customers using most?’ ‘What are they finding value in?’ and ‘Why aren't they visiting these other areas of the application?’ ‘Are they deficient in terms of functionality or design?’ Getting insight into such issues is already changing the conversations in the product management area of our organization.”
Providing the digital tools that allow marketers to focus on creating the best media plans possible for their customers has always been Priority 1 for Bionic. Now, with New Relic, it’s easier than ever to do so. “Our customers like to work at the speed of thought,” says Swindell, “Our applications need to do so as well. Thanks to New Relic, we’re able to make the constant improvements to ensure that they do—adding features without compromising performance.”