What are user actions?

A user action is an interaction with the web browser that involves a call to a web server, which can potentially have multiple nested calls. A user action can be a page load, an XHR action or a custom action. The key difference among these action types is the way action duration is calculated and that for each type there are different metrics available.

Page load

A page load is an actual page loading in your browser. If you enter a URL in your browser and press enter, a page load occurs. During a page load, many resources are loaded, including images, HTML, and CSS.

The action duration in this case is the time required for the complete page load. More specifically, the start time of the user action begins with the W3C navigationStart time, if available. If not available, the start time begins when the real user monitoring JavaScript code is initialized in the browser. The end time is when the last onload handler has completed its task. The onload handler is an event handler in JavaScript that's used to call the execution of JavaScript after a page, frame, or image has completely loaded. If any XMLHttpRequests (see XHR actions below) are started by an onload handler, the user action ends when the XMLHttpRequest is complete.

XHR action

Most modern applications, including single page applications rely on a single page load that downloads the framework and initializes the page. After that, the DOM of the page is changed via JavaScript and all communication with the web server is done via XmlHttpRequest or via fetch().

Dynatrace continuously tracks user interactions with each page. If user interaction leads to XmlHttpRequests or fetch() calls, an XHR action is created. Dynatrace also detects if there are additional XHRs triggered in the callback of the initial XHR and so on. In this case, Dynatrace waitsuntil all requests are finished. By monitoring the DOM, Dynatrace can also identify resources that were added in the callbacks. Dynatrace then waits until those resources finish downloading before ending the action.

An XHR action starts with the user's click on a control on a web page. All metrics (see the table below) are calculated in relation to this point in time and are based on the initial XHR that triggers the user action.

Measure Description
Start time W3C resource timing: resourceStart
Request start Request start W3C resource timing: requestStart
Response start W3C resource timing: responseStart
Response end W3C resource timing: responseEnd
Callback start The start time of the first callback that handled the response of the XHR/fetch.
Callback end The end time of the last callback that handled the response of the XHR/fetch.
Visually complete Visually complete is the time at which all the content in the browser's visible area has been fully rendered.
User action duration Time spent from initial user click through completion of all XHR callbacks and dynamic resources triggered by DOM modifications in the callbacks.

Custom action

Rather than relying on default user action generation, you may want to fine-tune your real user monitoring by adding additional user actions directly into your application’s HTML. This can be useful if our automated user-action generation doesn’t catch specific actions or you want to introduce specific fine-grained timings into your application monitoring. For example, you could measure how long it takes to open a JavaScript-only drop-down menu, or measure the duration time of some JavaScript code. To define custom actions you can use the JavaScript API for real user monitoring.

User action naming rules

Many applications allow users to accomplish the same goal through different UI controls. When monitoring such applications, it can be difficult to differentiate between actions that have the same result and goal, but are executed using different parts of the application UI. Likewise, if the UI of an application is translated into multiple languages, the same application function or control may appear under varying names. With user action naming rules, Dynatrace can detect such subtle variations and intelligently group related user actions (i.e., user actions that achieve the same goal) into logical groups for monitoring.

Dynatrace automatically removes certain common sessionid tokens from user action names (for example, jsessionid for Java containers, the default sessionid for PHP, and CFID and CFTOKEN for ColdFusion). Nonetheless, there are numerous session ID variations that may be present in your environment. If Dynatrace doesn't automatically recognize and remove session IDs from certain user action names you encounter, you'll need to configure custom naming rules for those user actions.