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.

User action types

A user action can be a load action, 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.

Load action

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

The action duration in this case is the time required for the complete load action. 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 RUM JavaScript 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.

speed index - navigation timings

User action timings

The following measures are used to chart the duration of specific steps in the load action process.

Measure Description Definition in terms of W3C specification
DNS Time spent resolving domain names. window.performance.timing.domainLookupEnd - window.performance.timing.domainLookupStart
TCP Time spent establishing a socket connection from the browser to the web server. window.performance.timing.connectEnd - window.performance.timing.connectStart
SSL Time spent establishing a secure socket connection from the browser to the web server. window.performance.timing.connectEnd - window.performance.timing.secureConnectionStart
Redirect Time spent following HTTP redirects. window.performance.timing.redirectEnd - window.performance.timing.redirectStart
Request Time spent waiting for the first byte of the document response. window.performance.timing.responseStart - window.performance.timing.requestStart
Response Time spent downloading the document response. window.performance.timing.responseEnd - window.performance.timing.responseStart
TTFB Time at which the first byte of response from the server arrives at the client. window.performance.timing.responseStart
Network time Time taken to redirect, resolve the DNS, and establish the TCP connection. window.performance.timing.responseEnd - window.performance.timing.fetchStart - (window.performance.timing.responseStart - window.performance.timing.requestStart)
Server time Time spent receiving a request and sending the response back to the client. window.performance.timing.responseStart - window.performance.timing.requestStart
Processing time Time between DOM loading and Load event start. window.performance.timing.loadEventEnd - window.performance.timing.domLoading
App cache Time spent on checking relevant application caches. window.performance.timing.domainLookupStart - window.performance.timing.fetchStart
Frontend time Time spent in the browser on executing Javascript and rendering the page. User Action Duration - Server Time - Network Time
OnDomContentLoaded Time spent on executing OnDomContentLoaded handlers. window.performance.timing.domContentLoaded - window.performance.timing.domLoading
OnLoad Time spent on executing OnLoad handlers. window.performance.timing.loadEventEnd - window.performance.timing.loadEventStart
Callback Time spent on executing XHR callbacks. -
First paint The time spent from navigation to when the browser renders the first non-default background element -
First input start The point in time when the user first interacts (for example, clicks) with the page -
First input delay The time spent from first input start to when the browser is able to respond to that interaction -
First contentful paint The time spent from navigation to when the browser renders the first bit of content (such as text or images) -
Largest contentful paint The time spent from navigation until the largest content element in the viewport is completely rendered. -
Cumulative layout shift The sum of all individual layout shift scores for every "unexpected" layout shift occuring during a Load action. -
Visually complete Time at which all the content in the browsers visible area has been fully rendered. -
Speed index Time (in average) at which visible parts of the page are displayed. A lower Speed index means that most parts of the page are rendered very quickly. -
User action duration Time between initial user input and complete page load. Also includes load time of XHR requests initiated before loadEventEnd and load time of dynamic resources and script executions triggered by DOM modifications. -

XHR action

Most modern applications, including single page applications, rely on a single load action 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.

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 waits until 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 have finished downloading before ending the action.

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

Detected interaction types

Real User Monitoring detects the following interaction types in your application:

  • Click
  • Double click
  • Mouse down
  • Mouse up
  • Key down
  • Key up
  • Scroll
  • Touch start
  • Touch end
  • Change

To select which of these interaction types should be captured automatically

  1. In the Dynatrace menu, go to Web.

  2. Select the application you want to configure.

  3. On the application overview page, select Browse () > Edit.

  4. Under Application settings, select Capturing > Advanced setup.

  5. Use the toggle switches to include or exclude the interaction types from being captured.

    global event capture

Fetch API

The Fetch API provides an interface for fetching resources (including across the network). It is similar to XMLHttpRequest, but the API provides a more flexible feature set. The generic definitions of Request, Response and other network request objects in Fetch allow them to be used at any time they are needed, whether it’s for service workers, Cache API, or anything that handles or modifies requests and responses. Fetch also supports the Cross Origin Resource Sharing (CORS).

User actions based on the Fetch API appear in Dynatrace as XHR actions. You can configure Dynatrace to automatically detect and capture Fetch API request information.

Custom user actions

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 RUM JavaScript API.

User action duration

The duration of a user action can be broken down into three components:

  • Network time: the time required for data transfer
  • Server time: the time consumed on the server side
  • Frontend time: the time required for the browser to render the page

So these components contribute to the overall duration of a user action.

User action duration is calculated as follows:

User action duration = (loadEventEnd or endTimeOfLastXHR) - actionStart


  • actionStart: navigationStart for page loads or "click time" for XHR actions and user navigations like a button click or click on a link
  • endTimeOfLastXHR: if XHR calls are triggered during the process and aren't finished before loadEventEnd then the end time of the last XHR call is used instead of the loadEventEnd time

The user action contributors are calculated as follows:

  • Server time = responseStart - requestStart
  • Network time = (requestStart - actionStart) + (responseEnd - responseStart)
  • Frontend time = User Action Duration - Server time - Network time

Below you can view examples of user action contributors:

  • User action contributors for a single instance of a user action within a user session user session view

  • User action contributors aggregated for one user action (i.e., across all user action instances) user action view

  • User action contributors aggregated for the entire application application overview

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 by 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 can 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.

Action name detection

Dynatrace tries to assign meaningful names for actions. To do this, it checks several action properties, such as inner HTML, caption, and hint, of the HTML element that triggers the action. This element can either be a button or an anchor. It also tries to get the caption if there's a more complex HTML structure with multiple nested tags.

Set action name with data-dtname custom attribute

If the standard action name detection doesn't serve your purpose, you can set the data-dtname custom attribute within the HTML tags and use it as a caption. For instance, the following action:
<label for="txtFirstname">Firstname</label> <input data-dtname="Firstname Text Input" type="text" value="firstname" name="firstname" title="Firstname" id="txtFirstname" />
can be assigned the following caption:
click on "Firstname Text input"

If you're using different attribute names for different tools, you can choose to set an alternative to data-dtname that Dynatrace can use for user action naming purposes.

Resolving captions for actions

The RUM JavaScript uses several techniques to decide the name that best fits an action. It starts with the innermost HTML node that is clicked, such as a button, an image tag, or a link, and checks the following in the order of precedence:

  1. The attribute named data-dtname.

  2. The nodename, such as image, anchor, or input.

    It stops when the html tag, the body tag, the head tag, or the document element is found.

  3. The innerText/textContent.

If none of these return a reasonable result, the RUM JavaScript starts applying a recursive algorithm that checks different things depending on the nodeName of the currently checked HTML node. If nothing is found, the parent node is checked.

Key user actions

Most applications, both web and mobile, include user actions (for example, signups, checkouts, and product searches) that are particularly important to the success of your digital business. Such key user actions might take longer to execute than others or they might have the requirement to be of shorter-than-average duration.

For instance, consider that you've set your global Apdex threshold to 3 seconds. While this threshold might be acceptable for the majority of user actions, it might not be acceptable for a sign-up user action. Alternatively, there could be a search action that is quite complex and requires longer than the allotted 5 seconds.

With the key user action feature, you can customize the Apdex thresholds for each of these user actions. You can use this feature to monitor key actions with a dedicated dashboard tile and track historic trends.

Note: Dynatrace allows you to create a maximum of 500 key user actions per environment across all applications and a maximum of 100 key user actions per application. When you reach that limit, consider using calculated metrics for Real User Monitoring, which offer similar capabilities.

Mark a user action as a key user action

  1. On the Applications page, select the application, and scroll down to Top 3 user actions.

  2. Click View full details.

  3. Under Top 100 user actions, select a user action.

  4. In the upper-right corner of the User action details page, select Mark as key user action.

    The selected user action will now be displayed under Key user actions on the User action analysis page.

  5. optional To access a key user action from the dashboard, select an action from the Key user actions list, and select Pin to dashboard.

  6. optional To customize its Apdex rating, on the User action details page of the key user action, select Browse () > Edit > Key Performance Metric.