User research that will transform your company

4 min read
Margaret Kelsey
  •  Aug 3, 2017
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We hosted a DesignTalk with David Darmanin of Hotjar on how to use user research to transform your company. Below is the full recording and an excerpt of the talk, edited for length and clarity. Enjoy!

David: My background is heavily product—I’ve worked on interfaces and experiences for a long time. But equally, I’ve done a lot of work in marketing, so I see myself in the middle of product and marketing.

The more I work with both product and marketing teams, it’s interesting to see how more and more people are going to start working at the cross section between them. That’s what I call a technical marketer or a marketing designer.

I’ve worked as a consultant for a long time, specializing in growth. More recently, I’m also the founder and CEO of Hotjar. Hotjar is used on well over 200,000 sites now and growing fast. I don’t mention these things to show off, but in a way it’s a testimony of what we’re going to look at today.

It’s the methodology that’s influenced how we’ve built the business and some of the wins we’ve had. But I’d also like to say that while some of the content you’re going to look at today will feature Hotjar, what I’m talking about today isn’t about Hotjar.

As many of you know, there’s many tools out there that you can use, but obviously Hotjar does feature part of the content that I talk about purely because my career influenced me, or inspired me, to build Hotjar. So it’s connected with who I am.

An evolution

In the very beginning of my career, I was obsessed with aesthetics and style and how things look. Then, I moved on to build a team and started doing more testing and being more focused on the numbers and measuring the impact.

The next phase in what I see as my evolution was this part where I started to discover the impact of copy, of text, and how important it is to the experience and the design itself, and the results at the end of the day. And at the same time I was also focused on if we can have tests that give us great results, let’s do more tests.

But it was interesting that during this phase of my career, I actually realized that more tests actually gave us worse results overall because we were just so focused on velocity.

“Focus on user feedback.”

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And then came the last phase, which is kind of what we’re going to be talking about today: really starting to focus more on user feedback, listening to the users, and then spending more time to compile that research.

In today’s session, we’ll talk about how you can do user research in a simple way and still have big impact—it doesn’t need to be very complex research.

The big picture

I found that in order to keep myself on track and focused, I wanted to develop a methodology for my team. This is something that evolved over time, which would give me what I call the big picture. What I’ve found is that it’s effective to break down this big picture into 3 areas.

The first—the entry point—is basically all about drivers. What is bringing visitors to your site? What is bringing users to your app? Why are people actually taking the time to use what you’ve built or what you’ve created?

Related: How to build habit-forming products

This digs deep. If they’re telling us that what they need is a drill, we don’t stop there. We actually dig deeper and understand what they’re actually looking for is a hole. The hole is needed for them to hang a picture on the wall. So the driver is digging deeper and understanding that background, because that gives context.

The second one is barriers. It’s the second point, which is an exit point. Typically most people who come to Hotjar to use the tool typically focus on why are people are leaving. Why are they not doing what I expected them to do?

This is important, but it’s both the where and the why. So it’s understanding your pain points and where. It’s not necessarily a page. It’s where, at what stage, and what was it that triggered it? And the why of it—what was the reasoning?

The third point is actually the one that I found is the least understood and the least investigated, which is what I call Hooks. What is it that persuaded your users or visitors to do what they actually did? Was it your pricing, was it the brand, was it the design? Was it a mixture of these things?

Painting this picture is powerful. To have all these 3 elements visible at one go for both you and your team—it’s effective for you to understand when you’re making the small tactical changes to have this backdrop to impact the decisions you make.

The Big Picture Worksheet

What I wanted to share with you today is what we’ve done at Hotjar by actually using the tool ourselves, so looking at recordings of people using Hotjar, doing surveys with them, and doing funnels to see where people are dropping off.

These are quick examples. We didn’t just use Hotjar—there are multiple other tools we’ve used including Google Analytics and Mixpanel. Doing this allowed us to build what we call a Big Picture Worksheet. [Find the template here]

I wanted to take one example from here and just show you how powerful this thing can be. We looked at the top 3 fears or concerns, which is part of the Hooks aspect. We’re asking, what are the reasons that persuaded them to convert, but in that process, what was it that nearly stopped them? We discovered that it was cost and price. And this was surprising, because Hotjar is quite affordable.

So we dug deeper. We looked at our pricing page because it’s where pretty much all pricing decisions and opinions are being formed. It’s the gateway where someone who’s deciding whether to use Hotjar or not is evaluating our pricing, and someone who is using the app is coming back here to evaluate which plan to go on. So this is a good place to start.

Related: Use these powerful research techniques to understand what motivates your users

We decided to ask a very simple, straightforward question on this page: is our pricing clear, and if not, what would you change?

We set up literally within minutes, and we had replies coming in instantly. And it was really interesting to start seeing what our users had to say.

Besides the poll, we also did a heat map. It’s something that we typically do and it’s also a tip that we give. Essentially, it’s examining a page in the way of how it’s being used and at the same time, why are people using it the way they do. It’s looking at something from 2 different angles. I call this process connecting the dots. What are they doing and what are they saying?

We discovered that in the feedback, everyone was talking about one area we call snapshots. It’s the size or the amount of data that you record when you’re creating a heat map report or a form report or collecting video replays.

But then what was interesting was that in the heatmaps, consistently there was always a lot of attention specifically on what is called the sound rate or the data collection rate, which are 2 different things. So we said hold on—why are people speaking so much about this aspect of that interaction, and typically we don’t see that? Typically we see alignment.

“Your users don’t know what they don’t know.”

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Okay, let’s dig even deeper. We spoke to some of our users, and basically what they said to us was they were completely confused. They were so confused that they didn’t even realize that there were totally different dimensions to the way we price. And what’s interesting was that we were equally confused, because we had no idea that this was happening.

The craziest thing was that as a company, we consider ourselves to be close to our customers. We speak to them a lot. We invest heavily into support. We keep records of what people say to us.

But because they didn’t know what they didn’t know, they couldn’t give us this feedback. So it was incredible that just by asking the right question, we were able to transform our company.

Psst! This excerpt is only about half of the goodness from this DesignTalk. To learn more about what Hotjar did with their learnings and how you can make this methodology work for you, watch the full recording of the DesignTalk in the video above! And check out our DesignTalk page to watch the previous episodes and see what’s coming up next.

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