Nov 1, 2017

Monitoring Application Engagement

Working at a SaaS company, user engagement is a metric that we think about a lot. We’re trying to increase it. But as creators of a monitoring product, we have an interesting situation. If you’re an average user of our product, the less you have to use our product the better off you are. If everything is fine, they can spend that time actually building things.

That’s how I feel about monitoring systems, anyway. Why do I, personally, open a monitoring application? Two reasons:

  1. I have a problem to solve. Example: I just got paged and I need to see what’s on fire.
  2. I have a question that I need to answer. Example: “Are my disks filling up?”

If I don’t have (1) or (2), I’m not looking at my monitoring system. I have better things to do! I believe that if you want to increase engagement in your monitoring application, you have to address those two things by making them easier and within reach of more people.

Make solving problems easier.

It’s not enough to simply gather and show more information to users. It’s really easy to add metrics, charts, tables, drop-down items, numbers, etc., but all of that can be a data dump on a screen. Clever visualizations aren’t the answer either.

Don’t just give information to users. Give them tools to solve specific problems. For example, if users want to fix replication issues, give them a tool to diagnose and fix replication issues, not a bunch of charts here and there to look at replication metrics.

Make answering questions easier.

Everything I said in the previous section can be repeated here. Often times I look at a monitoring system and go, “what is this telling me?” Somehow I’m basically forced to look at a bunch of information on a screen and come up with a question that is answered by what I’m looking at! It would be so much better if there were a bunch of questions that I could choose to get the answers to. Check out my post on the new Google Analytics UI if you want to get an example of what I’m talking about. I think that’s just the beginning. We can do more! Don’t just give information to users. Give them answers.

Final thoughts

A monitoring application isn’t just supposed to be the best place for information. It’s supposed to be the best place to get solutions to problems and answers to questions. Once you have that, what’s next? How do you increase engagement even more? Increase the scope. Try to find more problems that users can solve, and try to find more questions that you can answer. If you really want to be innovative, try to give users answers to questions they didn’t know they could ask. You have to really think outside the box for that.

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