A brief 20 minute interview with the founder of Hotjar, David Darmanin, reveals the what, how and why behind HotJar – the suite of software tools that gives you real insight behind your website and allows you to understand your users and their actions. Ever since the beta release of Hotjar it has been critically acclaimed and using it prolifically myself, I can say that it is of invaluable benefit to those, not just within the industry, but anyone looking to increase their online conversions through a better understanding of their users.
In this chat with David, I ask him questions both related to Hotjar and it’s rise to power, as well as the insights he’s learnt from a fast-growing startup within the user experience industry.



How was Hotjar born?

Beginning his life as a designer, David was interested in what made a ‘good design’. “Is it if the client is happy or it they don’t give you a lot of changes or is there a science to it?”. It was this science which ultimately led David to user research, something he was interested in, as he calls himself a hacker at heart.

Mixing this talent and passion together led him down a natural path of conversion rate optimisation which took David to an in-house job where he was consulting Fortune 500 companies at a global level. During this consulting period, of which he considers himself extremely lucky to be a part of, he experienced first hand the pain points of using multiple tools to achieve the singular goal of “complete user research”. As a result, Hotjar was created from this need.

How did Hotjar grow so quickly and get so much exposure?

The answer is two-fold.

The first is the quality of the product; the product is at the core of any successful venture and a good product will naturally make you grow, of which Hotjar certainly falls into that category. Developing that product is about starting with a core or a MVP (minimum viable product) as he calls it in today’s industry “the only way to survive”. From there, you iterate and improve the product on a daily basis from direct user feedback.

In terms of accelerating that growth, David owes it to a specific concept within marketing, one of David’s other passions; specifically, ‘growth hacking’. This is the process of “leveraging word of mouth and getting your start up to grow on its own with minimum resources”. It works directly alongside of a very lean, very agile approach – which is great because Hotjar don’t like to plan, they like to “guesstimate”. This provides ultimate flexibility. It also works alongside of nice persuasive cues such as the initial concept of the ‘queue’ and also the concept of ‘inviting others’ for beta trials.

Have you learnt any insights about our [UX] industry and where do you see the future of Hotjar based on these insights?

The biggest demand is for heat maps and visitor recording functionality. The feedback tools require a lot of education, about using them in the right order, using them in the perfect combination and marrying these tools up together can provide great results. That education side of things, the methodology to the users of Hotjar as it were, is what’s most important, in order to get the most effective insights.

The future of Hotjar is therefore about the education of the suite of usability tools and how to best use the tools, in the right way, in the right combination. All, whilst at the same time, being on the forefront of technology.

Overall, David describes his 3 enemies as:

  • Not relying on best practice
  • Not relying on latest design fads
  • Not being influenced by the highest paid individual in the room.

…and Hotjar being a solution to these enemies through, not just being an effective solution, but also being accessible through a ‘democratisation’ of user research.

What are you guys working on at the moment?

We’ve barely started…! Watch this space.

Listen to the full interview here

Some of the tools that David talks about are here:

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this discussion please feel free to email me at davidleemannheim@gmail.com