We've had a lot of followers stop by and ask us for help understanding the difference between synthetic user data, and real user data. While we don't have all the answer and specific use cases will depend a bit on your product, I'll break it down into 3 parts to get you started and if you've got more questions after, you know how to find me!
When Is Synthetic Data Useful?
Synthetics are basically automated test scripts that run through your application and perform various test scenarios to determine if you site is working as expected. Because they are pre-recorded bots, they make a few assumptions that would be hard to make when looking at real user data. These assumptions allow you to focus on specific KPIs by removing some white noise. synthetic scenarios are often considered clean room or happy path tests.
Synthetic users allow you to understand the user experience from a technical side. If my flow makes sense and my content is on point, users will be happy with my site because the page load times are good, content is rich but well-compressed, and key flows have been up and operational all day. Because of that, frequent synthetic runs are a good way to see if key parts of your site are operational without having to wait for real users to try using them.
When is Real User Data Useful?
It's hard to not see the value of real user data upfront and with synthetics explained earlier in this write-up, this should be pretty straight-forward but, let's dive in anyways! Real users are best for understanding patterns and trends but, they can also be used for some real deep-dives into edge cases and even for 1 on 1 customer support.
Example Use Cases
How Can Synthetics and Real Users Work Together?
Real user data is collected as application users interact with your website and takes into account every click, mouse-over, aimless back and forth...well, it takes everything into account. As a result, it's a lot to sift through or reliably digest without a good baseline. Synthetics establish that baseline for you by measuring the "happy path" for that same scenario. If a synthetic user gets through the flow without issue, the problem is not in the application itself but, maybe in the experience. Is the user confused? Is the right information being given? Is the price too high?