#301 WP-Tonic Show With Special Guest Andrew Michael From Hotjar

Hotjar is fighting to change the way digital experiences are built and improved by ‘democratizing’ User Analytics and Feedback so the Internet becomes a better place. It empowers website and app owners to truly understand their users, using both analytics and feedback methods.


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Here’s a Full Transcription of Our Interview With Andrew

Jonathan: Welcome back folks to the WP-Tonic Show. It’s episode 301 and we’ve got a great guest for you. We’ve got Andrew Michael from Hotjar. Can you just quickly introduce yourself Andrew to the listeners and viewers?

Andrew: Yeah. Thanks so much, Jonathan. Wow, 301 episodes, that’s a quite a big list now you’ve got going, yeah? Yes, Jon, I mentioned at Hotjar, myself, I’m actually part of the Hotjar Experience team and our core focus is really around the end user experience and we work within marketing but very closely with the product as well to see how we can constantly improve that experience for our users. Excited to have a chat with you today as well.

Jonathan: That’s great. Can you tell us a bit about what is Hotjar and a little bit about the company’s history?

Andrew: So, Hotjar is an analytics and feedback service and essentially, people come to us to really try and improve their experience on their website or app and that means for them different things. So, it could be increasing conversions, leads, sales, retention or engagement, depending on their business and their site and the main use cases are really around understanding user behavior and collecting feedback. So we have tools like session recordings, heatmaps, polls, incoming feedback widgets. Really, it’s a service catered to, in order for you to really understand your user behavior so that you can then go ahead and improve that experience for them.

Jonathan: That’s great. And the company’s history, when did you start on that?

Andrew: Yeah. So, the company itself now is just over 3 years old. It was founded actually here in Malta. I’m in Malta at the moment. But we are a fully remote company. We’re over 60 people now and everybody’s spread all around the world. Personally, I’m actually a fully full-time digital nomad. Just over in Malta now. We have our company meetup next week where we all get together twice a year so it’s quite exciting being here. Growing really fast. I mean, myself, I join actually a year ago next week and when I joined we were on 29 or 30 people so doubled in size in last year. Got a lot of challenges ahead of us but it’s definitely a really good moment for us as a company. A lot of exciting things coming up.

Jonathan: That’s great Andrew. You threw out a few things that Hotjar really helps with. But could you give some insights about some of these tools and what’s the main one? How can somebody start off with Hotjar and get some real insights about how people are interacting with their website?

Andrew: I mean, most people I would say actually come to Hotjar for heatmaps. They would start looking for a heatmap solution and if you’re familiar which it basically visualizes the user engagement on your site so you can see if you have clicked, tapped or scrolled. You can see how this compares across different devices. I’d say probably one of the first things they get wowed by is the session recording. So session recordings actually really allow you to play back your user session. So essential what you’re watching where the user was scrolling, what they clicked on and really getting a good picture of their journey from that perspective. But then, I think as well the next step is when they really start to see value and that’s with our feedback tool. So, giving you the quantitative side from the analytics tools but then you get the qualitative side of really the polls and surveys and feedback, widgets that actually collect that data. I think one of the biggest things and the power really comes in is when you can start to connect those two. And when you see a piece of feedback, you can actually then maybe go watch the session recording and really understand what led that user to leave that feedback for you. So there’s a lot of exciting things as well that we’re working on to start strengthening that bond as well.

Jonathan: I think that’s great. I think one the, just to see if you agree with this, as you did the introduction and as you explained some of the key parts of the service functionality, people might say, “That sounds all great.” But, you know, it’s pretty obvious how people use the website. We’ve spent ages. But I think when somebody uses a tool, your tool and your suite of tools, it’s a bit like an aha moment. It becomes brutally obvious what you think is obvious is that obvious to the people using the site. Would you agree with that?

Andrew: 100 percent, yeah. One of the problems I think when we get stuck too much in our own sites and the things that we build as well is that we tend to have our own cognitive vices that lead us and really like you said. When you watch a session recording and see somebody getting stuck or you take a look at a heatmap and try to measure a piece of content’s effectiveness and seeing that nobody is actually looking at what you’ve put together. You might have spent a couple of months putting together the landing page and the majority of your content’s not even being seen. So those sort of moments are like real big wake up calls I think for a lot of people and then they start to really see the value. And then, from there, they can start learning with our feedback tools and figuring out what should they be doing and where should they be moving things around.

Jonathan: You break the heart of many a website owner. I don’t know how you and your team can live with yourself. No, that was a little bit of English humor. I apologize. So, what are some of the basic mistakes takes that you see a lot of website owners or designer, developers doing on a regular basis?

Andrew: That’s a very broad question.

Jonathan: Just us about a couple that you often see.

Andrew: So, I think one thing quite often is trying to optimize and run sort of tests on things that will have minimal impact. So, really like trying to change things like buttons colors and making tiny shifts on pages where their traffic isn’t really large enough to see any significant statistical relevance. So we do tend to see like a lot of wasted time when really like you could do a much better job using qualitative metrics like just asking your customers. I think a lot of the time as well people will start to rely too much in terms of data and metrics and when really like the solutions lie right in front of them and is actually just ask your customers. We tend to make a lot of assumptions and a lot of assumptions may be in good judgment and most of our past experience but really until you actually ask your customers and your users like what are they really looking for and how can we deliver value to you, I think you’ve lost again from the beginning I think at that point.

Jonathan: Just to recap. I think what you’re saying is if you’re going to measure something, the two alternatives have got to be large enough so that the data can clearly show a difference, really minor differences. The kind of data you’re going to get isn’t really, because of the size of data and isn’t going to be significant and it’d just be easier to ask people. I think, go on, sorry.

Andrew: Yeah. So, I was going to say one other is actually we were chatting about it this morning with David, our CEO, and he was talking about his consulting days and just about how when you go about looking for feedback, like a lot of people’s first reaction would be to, like somebody dropped off, “I want to trigger a poll or a survey now and try and figure out why they did it,” when you would be much better off spending your time and effort focusing on those people that were successful and figuring out what led them to become successful so you can trace back both steps and improve that experience for everybody else. It’s a lot easier to solicit and get really quality feedback from people that have just completed an action and they’re successful and they’re happy with your service. As opposed to trying to reach out to people at a point in time when they’re just really not interested or don’t want to hear from you because you’ve lost them at that point. I think there’s also one key area that we do see that happen and there can be a big improvement is really if you’re focusing on the success as opposed to really what’s going wrong. Don’t get me wrong. There’s value in focusing on that side but you tend to get a lot more qualitative and quality focusing on the successful customers.

Jonathan: I just want to know where to pursue this because fundamentally, when you have a new site or a site that you’re looking to have a revamp, how would you recommend that the team, let’s say it’s an owner or it’s an owner web developer straight designer are looking at either a new site or a refresh, how would you advise them to utilize your suite of tools to really, maybe guide them on some of the decision making in that process?

Andrew: So, actually like what I mentioned, I was super guilty of this in the past as well as spending like a lot of time at that early stage where you’re trying to figure out the drop off points. I think one of the most powerful ways to use Hotjar and as you mentioned, we do have these use cases where people are launching something new or they have a revamp and they’re really trying to understand these behaviors. I think most customers would start with our session recordings in terms of a user testing perspective. So, when they launch a new revamp of their site, it’s really they would sit there and start as a team, sit down and take a look at recordings and really just try to see how their site is being used. Are they doing what they intended them to do? So, a lot of time as well you would see like people might be clicking on things that aren’t clickable and they quickly raise awareness for that as well. That’s evident in heatmap but it’s even a lot more evident in recordings when you’re actually seeing like the rage clicking and a little bit of frustration in users. So, it tends to start there. And then, from that, what you would do is take a look at something like a poll or incoming feedback widgets. So, incoming feedback allows them to leave direct feedback on the page attached with a screenshot so it really gives you some visual feedback as well as like what the user’s saying at that point in time in their journey. And then, the polls again would be used, it can be used along that journey but then really once people have been successful, is really asking them, “Okay. So, what was it that lead you here? What could have been done better? How could we improve this service for you?” And obviously, at that point in time, them being happy to give feedback because they have completed the service but then again if they’re going to come back, they’re going to want to put it better next time. And then, just using the suite of tools with one another.

Jonathan: Based on your experience, sometimes I have clients that say, “Well, everybody loves,” we specialize in the helping and the maintenance of Membership and Learning Management System websites Andrew and I’ve got a few clients that say, when we ask people, we always get glowing responses to their experience. Can that be a bit misleading? Can the reality be a little bit hidden, don’t you think?

Andrew: I definitely think you always will have that level of users that aren’t going to and actually, it’s funny because you put this in a really well way this morning. It was an example of you have three buckets of users and when they enter your website or your app, you get a portion of them that end up on the successful side. You get a portion that exit and they never even get value out of it. And when you start asking, soliciting for feedback, at that point, it’s important that you’re making sure you’re getting the feedback from the right people. You really want to be getting feedback from the people that have been successful because those are going to be the users. But you’re also going to get within that a portion of those users that aren’t too sure about your service still or they’re still trying to figure it out. And then, you also have those users that have just exited and at that exit, you also still have those portion of users that weren’t too sure and you didn’t sell them on the value. When you’re asking for feedback and getting it, it’s important that you’re getting it from those people that have gone through it, they’ve seen the value. So, it depends when they’re asking for this feedback and again, as you mentioned, it’s probably most of the time from customers that have gotten to this stage and have seen the learning and seen the value. And then, it just comes down. If something goes really wrong, they’re going to be vocal about it and you’re going to hear about it. But then when things do go well, people do have a tendency to be nicer as well. So I think it balances itself out for sure.

Jonathan: Oh, that’s great. I think we’re going to go for our break folks. When we come back, we’re going to be discussing unit testing and some other subjects which hopefully, Andrew’s going to find interesting. We’ll be back in a few moments folks.

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Jonathan: We’re coming back, folks. We’ve had a feast about unit testing. At the present moment, there’s a lot of discussion in Online Marketing, Web Design, in those areas around funnels and around conversion. Got any thoughts about landing pages and funnels? Got any insights you would like to share to listeners around that?

Andrew: This is an area I think people really need to be careful when they go around optimizing funnels and forms on landing pages. This, actually, it’s funny, one of the content team leaders, I shared a story on Facebook today of one of his first mistakes he made as a marketer. He was given the goal of increasing conversions on a page and he quite readily took a look at it like he wanted to impress his boss and he took a look at the page and he’s like, “Hey, hey, great. I think what we can do is actually just remove some form fields.” and yes he did that and he went ahead and removed form fields and like, “Wow. Great. Fantastic. We won. We increased conversions.” But then, when they actually went down to see if they converted some customers, really wasn’t the case and there was actually no impact in terms converting incoming customers. And one of the biggest mistakes and that is really forgetting that you have people at the end that are your users and you have humans at the end of it and we often get too lost in this like form and funnel analysis. We just see data and numbers when we really got to go back to the root of it and just think about the psychology of the user, think about them in that moment and what’s going to improve their experience. So, when we look at optimizing these experience, it really always must, the number one place you always start is with your end user and what they are thinking in that moment, what is going to deliver value to them and less about like, “Okay. We had 500 people on page one and we had a 20 percent drop off here and what can we do to tinker to try and make this work.” It’s really about connecting with your user in a meaningful way that you get valuable insights to improve that experience.

Jonathan: Oh, I think that’s fantastic Andrew. That was a great insight. It really resonated with me. Thank you so much for that. I think that’s really crucial but I think it’s really hard. I think kind of really understanding your target audience and really being able to put yourself in their mindset is crucial, isn’t it Andrew?

Andrew: Absolutely. And this actually something we’re spending a lot of time on now is really getting to, we’re doing this through several ways, through polls and through surveys that we’re sending out to customers and really trying to understand like what is the value that we deliver to them? How can we do this on an ongoing basis for them and again, like going back to the people themselves and moving away from actual data and numbers?

Jonathan: I don’t want to state what you’ve already stated but I think it’s clear that you can get fixated with these things will seemingly help like the example you’ve given but underneath, there is more fundamental problems of a lack of understanding of offering real value, isn’t it?

Andrew: And it’s like an apple that’s rotten to the core. So from the outside, you might have a shiny red or green apple but then, when you take a bit into it, if you’re not really thinking about the core user experience and your users, you’re just going to be polishing up things at the end of the day. They’re not going to be delivering value.

Jonathan: So, on this subject about finding the real needs of your target audience, are there any people or resources that influenced your learning on this particular area?

Andrew: Absolutely. I mean, there’s quite a few different people in this space and I think like one of the companies we’ve looked at was HubSpot. Brian Balfour has a really good series on really understanding your users. He actually has a course together. It’s called Reforge which I participated in. It was super insightful as well. A lot of time and it was put together from people from last year and from a few different companies. They all time and time again and everything we talk about is, I just go back to the people, understand what they need, deliver value and that’s how you success.

Jonathan: Get back to the experience because I’ve used your tool on projects and I’ve used similar other tools to some extent. What’s so brutal about it, especially if you’re getting people that, new users and you’re getting this feedback is how quickly people judge a website or judge if they’re going to spend any more time on it. Would you like to give some insights about, A, do you agree with me and give some insights about that? Because I think people are so shocked about the realities, aren’t they?

Andrew: Yeah. And I think this is probably a good skill that needs to be mastered when you start to look at these things is really being able to judge the feedback coming in and make sure that you can make it actionable and decide what needs to be thrown out as well. So not all feedback is equal and that goes back to as well like the point of really like when you have a clear understanding of who your users are and you can then make sure, “Okay. This piece of feedback, does this align with my key persona? Is this really a customer that I want to be keeping around? So this piece of feedback is gold now. I need to be treating this.” And then, people tend to be super judgy. Yes, absolutely.

Jonathan: I think that was a great insight because not all people that come to your website, you know, it depends how they got there, isn’t it? Did they get there by an article that you published? But the article drives traffic but the article really didn’t have a lot of relevance to your service or product you’re selling. Or if you’re using paid advertisement, was it really targeted at your real audience? Because if it isn’t, the people that come to your site are going to bail out almost straight away, aren’t they Andrew?

Andrew: Absolutely. I mean that’s why I think having qualifying questions as well and trying to collect a bit of demographic insights is always useful when you’re having a poll or a survey. So just trying to get a grasp of, obviously, you want to keep your polls short and you want to get snappy insights but it’s so simple and like you said, it’s really try and understand this feedback, where is it coming from. So, we do quite a few different polls and surveys running on a certain given time and one of those is like trying to understand where our users came from. So, that’s then followed up by asking for some further feedback. So that gives us an indication of the different channels where they’re coming from, what are they thinking about, product or service or where they’re getting stuck. Then, we can also start to understand a little bit better of like the leads that we’re bringing in from our different channels like what the sophistication is, what they understand about our product or service and really helps us then drive further up the funnel again like high position strategies for those channels.

Jonathan: I’m going to obviously ask the obvious. Have you had any kind of surprises and insight using your own tools on your own website?

Andrew: Absolutely, yeah and I’d say all the time. Probably one of the most insight was actually before my time and something spoken about quite a lot was really around the Hotjar pricing itself to begin with. And first through heatmap identified that there was some unusual behavior and clicking on certain areas that weren’t really meant to be clickable and then just really trying to dig in. So what happened was a poll was triggered and really trying to understand those insights. And to be honest, it leaves my memory now but it was really surprising for the team in terms of what they found out and it turned out to be something really simple that needed to change. But let me think of some other better examples and I’ll get back to you in a bit that I can remember that came up more recently.

Jonathan: Yeah, sure. No problem. So, what about the wording of things? Have you got any kind of insights about how people should structure the actual written content in general? I know it will vary from case to case.

Andrew: Yeah.

Jonathan: I can only ask you broad questions really, unfortunately. But have you gotten any insights in general about verbiage and text and what you’ve seen with your testing? Any guidelines about that?

Andrew: So, this is actually something that our customers and users use us a lot for and that’s really to like, as part of collecting the feedback, the process is really getting the voice of their customer and then they translate that into copy and to text throughout the pages and sites and something that we try to do a lot as well. When we’re looking at new landing pages to set up or we’re launching a new service or tool, it’s really trying to understand like how our users describe it in their own words and how do they talk about our product or service. And that really helps us fuel the content and the text that we go about talking because it’s no use us here sitting and talking about a product or service when people are talking about it in a totally different way. So, we really wanted to make sure that the copy and the text really connect with what our users are actually calling our products and our services and our tools. We do quite a few different things around that. So, like I mentioned, if we’re going to launch a new page on polls, for example, we might run a survey with our existing customers and ask them a series of questions around like, what value does Hotjar polls deliver to you, how would you describe Hotjar polls to a friend and we start to ask questions around this where we start to actually then get some really useful content, ideas that we can actually then go and test ourselves in ads and in landing pages.

Jonathan: Yeah. I was also thinking about actual users because I think there’s a temptation to kind of throw a lot of information, especially on homepages, throw as much information on the homepage. But as you grow in experience, you learn that, this is how I approach it and I just want to see if you agree with me, is that you’ve got to get in front of them on the homepage the key element of your service or your product to your target audience, right? Catch them. And then, as they progress through the website you offer more and more information but it has got to be guided. You’ve got to think some out, like what you were saying around your example around getting information about your own product and services. Would you agree with that?

Andrew: I would say that it’s dependent on different cases and different sites. It’s something that needs to be tested and needs to be seen as well. So, depending on your audience and what they expect and it depends on the product or tool. If you’re selling a service to people that are really not visual people, then spending a lot of time on crafting and making this beautiful landing page is going to be a complete waste of time when they just really want to have a block of text that they can really read and grasp what they want. I mean that’s just a random example. But I think this stuff comes with testing and you’ll find at some points that like less is more and then that’s exactly what you need to be doing. But then, another time it probably pays to provide a little bit more content in details so that your users are a bit more educated. So, when they do start using your tool when you start looking at things, if you’re in a business like retention and engagement, it helps much more to have that qualified user who’s really read that copy and has a good understanding of what the tool is about and that knows that it resonates with them. Rather than them coming in trying something out that they thought might have been from the surface for them but then actually getting in and realizing just no, this is not for me.

Jonathan: Oh, I thought that was great. I was making such a mistake there, wasn’t I? I was making the classic one of assumption but that’s been the whole point of the conversation really, wasn’t it? You make these based on educated experience but you’re still just making assumptions, aren’t you?

Andrew: Exactly. Yeah.

Jonathan: I think we’re going to wrap it up for the podcast part of the show. Andrew’s been very generous and he’s going to stay on and I’ll ask a few more questions that hopefully are going to be insightful and interesting. But we’re going to wrap up the podcast part of the show. So, Andrew, how can people find out more about you and about Hotjar?

Andrew: So, Hotjar side of things you can visit www.hotjar.com, that’s H – O – T – J – A – R.com and our website there explains a lot more about what we’ve been talking about today and we have a blog as well that’s now as well starting to be more and more content going on that around some of these topics that we discussed today so some of that education material. And we are also actually in the process of launching a new education series, our first sort of series and that’s something actually I would encourage anybody to check out as well. We’re busy running a beta program at the moment but that should be launched I think in the next 2 to 3 months which is something exciting as well coming up. And as for myself, you can reach me on Twitter @andrewmichaelsa.

Jonathan: That’s great. If you want to get a hold of WP-Tonic and myself, just go to the WP-Tonic website folks and leave us some comments about this show. Did you find it really interesting? And I want to have a poll. No, I’m only kidding. But leave some information on the comments. And if you’re really generous folks, can you leave us a review on iTunes because it really does help the show and it helps me get some, people like Andrew, experts in their specific area and gives you better value. So it’s a win-win if you leave that review. And if you’re interesting in your review, bad or good, I read them out as well. So that’s not bad, is it? So we’ll see you next week folks when we’ve got somebody doing something interesting in WordPress or online in general. We’ll see you next week folks.

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