Overview

Rich Internet Applications run in a black box. Whether it is developed using Flex, Flash, AIR, Silverlight or AJAX, once the application is loaded into a browser or started on a desktop, odds are you do not know how the users are using your application. See if you can answer these questions: How much time do your users spend on a particular screen of your application? Do they find the interface to be intuitive? Do you know if they can easily navigate through the workflows? Do you know how many users accomplish what the application is meant to do for them? And if the answers to these questions are 'NO', do you know why the application is underperforming? These and many other questions can be answered using the RIA Analytics product by Midnight Coders.

RIA Analytics Background

Traditional web applications consist of multiple pages representing individual application states. Browser fetches pages from web server where it accesses data and executes backend application logic. As a result, the entire application would run in a sequence of page refreshes. With the introduction of dynamic HTML and AJAX, applications have advanced to fetch data without reloading the page. Individual AJAX requests execute scripts and load data in the structured (XML, JSON) or unstructured (HTML) form. Many traditional web analytics tools monitor web server traffic and use the gathered data for application analysis and reporting.

Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) is a type of a web application with many qualities of a traditional desktop application running in a browser. Most RIAs run in a single browser page and use binary communication protocol to exchange data with the backend systems. The communication protocol is not natively understood by web servers, as a result, additional ‘gateway’ software product is required to translate client requests and serialize responses. Midnight Coders WebORB is an example of such gateway. By placing WebORB between a browser and a backend system, RIAs running in a browser can efficiently execute business processes and load data from remote systems and databases. As a result, WebORB handles all the application traffic which could include basic remote object invocations, database queries, messaging streams, audio and video data.

The RIA Analytics technology fully leverages WebORB to receive information that creates a clear picture of how well RIA runs and is utilized by the users. For example, knowing that 60% of users take 3 minutes after logging in before they do anything with the application is an indication that there might be a usability problem. In addition to retrieving usage data from WebORB, the RIA Analytics platform provides a tracking component that runs directly within RIA. The component monitors user behavior in the application itself and reports data back to the RIA Analytics server. Once the data is received it can be analyzed and processed in the same way as any other collection information. The tracking component can track the time users spend in a particular part of the user interface, how they interact with the graphical components (button clicks, list selections, etc). Additionally, the component can record logical steps the user interface is going through. For example, if the interface presents a graphical wizard, the component can record when the user advances to the next step in the wizard interface or moves back.

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