Podcast 113: Using heatmaps & recordings to improve Hotjar’s knowledge base, with Karissa Van Baulen

We talk to Karissa Van Baulen, Customer Education Lead and Knowledge Base Owner at Hotjar.

We discuss how she has used heatmaps and playback recordings to improve Hotjar’s knowledge base.

  • What does Hotjar do?
  • Why are heatmaps important?
  • How have you used heatmaps and recordings to improve Hotjar’s knowledge base?
  • How easy is this to do?
  • How much time should you schedule?
  • What have been the benefits?
  • What have been the downsides?
  • If people want more information, where should they go?


Speaker 1 

This is the Cherryleaf Podcast. 

Speaker 1 

What we do is ask people to introduce themselves, say who they are and what they do. So we will carry on with the tradition and do you want to introduce yourself? 

Speaker 2 

Sure my name is Karissa Van Baulen and I am the Knowledge Base Owner and Customer Education Lead at Hotjar. 

Speaker 1 

So I can tell for your accent you’re from overseas. Whereabouts are you from? 

Speaker 2 

I am New Jersey. Originally I moved to Ireland about seven years ago I guess. 

And then I’ve stayed in Europe ever since. 

Speaker 1 

You at the moment in Ireland or you elsewhere? 

Speaker 2 

No, right now I’m actually in London. My partner and I are nomadic and so we have been living out of our backpacks before Covid, and so then, after Covid we just got stuck in random Barcelona. Actually, for about four months during the first lockdown and so we’re waiting now so that we get starting travelling again. 

Speaker 1 

Right, a nice lifestyle. There’s lots of people on YouTube doing that at the back of camper vans. 

Speaker 2 

Yeah, we’ve considered the camper van thing for a bit. Right now. It’s just two 55 litre bags and a lot of determination to get all my work stuff in there as well. 

Speaker 1 

It’s me and Hotjar encourages that welcomes that type of way of working? 

Speaker 2 

Yeah, 100% remote company and has been from the beginning. Obviously some people stay in the same place but you have also the option just to kind of move around and see the world really as you work. 

Speaker 1 

I guess a good starting point would be to ask what Hotjar as a company does. 

Speaker 2 

It kind of takes what Google Analytics shows you, but then visualise it for you and you can see the customers’ needs and actionable bites. 

Speaker 2 

So we have heat maps recordings and then we have some feedback tools as well, like incoming feedback or surveys so that you can literally ask the user or the customer. 

As they are on your site, hey, is this working out for you? 

So do you hate it? Do you love it? What can we do to improve our site or improve my product? 

Speaker 1 

I had a chat with a colleague of yours last week, which is where we discovered that you’ve been on one of our training courses and you were using it for the documentation . 

Speaker 2 

We use it like you said on a knowledge base and it helps enter knowledge base. We can use those words interchangeably, but heat maps are something that I personally use heavily and it just really helps with like the visualisation of that page in this, like this snippet of time, right? 

So it will show you the entire page and then we have three different types of heat maps we have. 

Click move and scroll and each of those kind of give you different insight into where users or clicking you know where they are moving their mouse too, or even if they’re getting to a certain point of your page. 

It’s incredible. The amount of insight you get, especially for documentation from heat maps. 

Speaker 1 

So you’re responsible at Hotjar, for what? 

Speaker 2 

I own the knowledge base I am working with a team of three writers right now and we meet weekly. 

We discussed with a backlog of things that need to be either written, edited, removed from the knowledge base, and I assign writing assignments, or if it’s not a writing assignment. 

It’s looking into a section that needs to be improved based on feedback based on support tickets. If people are really confused. 

Or just based on the fact like hey, we haven’t updated this documentation in awhile. Let’s go validate it and make sure that everything is on point when I’m not doing that point then a lot of my role is like the analytics and statistical side of things like how something is performing with her approval rating of documentation in specific sections had to make the flow easier from reading documentation to contact form. 

Speaker 1 

What is the purpose of knowledge base and how do the heat maps help you understand whether or not you are achieving? 

The purpose that it’s there for. 

Speaker 2 

Absolutely, I would say there’s a few things that you have knowledge base for help centre for right? You do running a support team, you want to lower the tickets that are coming and so you want to lower the amount of time someone needs to reach out. 

On the flipside, which is really focus on is self service aspect. If you have a problem with our tool, I want you to be able to look at this documentation. 


Ask your question through the search bar or find the document that’s relevant to you so that you can solve your problem. 

Because it makes your experience a million times better. You have a positive overall experience with their tool. You’re not cursing the fact that something’s not working you self served. 

You know you solved your problem and now you can do a million more things and get the insight that you need to be successful. 

That’s what we really aim for. Is that you can discover your solution, get it done, and you can keep tracking and you don’t have to wait around for anyone to help if something goes wrong. 

Speaker 1 

So you used heat maps to see if you’re meeting that objective. 

What have things Heat maps help you discover, learn and have fun what you’ve discovered. Learn changed overtime. Or is it being the same things that you’ve learnt? It’s been telling you from when you started using the heat maps to how you use them now. 

Speaker 2 

No, that’s the best part, honestly. 

It was kind of life changing. 

Getting that insight, especially for documentation, was like FAQ based because as a writer you are putting in all this time and effort to make sure that your content is speaking to the writer. They’re getting the information they need. There’s no fluff, especially for technical writing. You just don’t want that fluff, because then you use lose interest in like second and people just start drifting off into the one. That example of thinking in particular, we would have a heat map of our FAQ page. 

And this epic page would maybe have anywhere between 10 to 15 FAQ topics , which we would list the top. Anchor them down to the questions so when they click on the anchor it brings them straight down to that.  

I think you question and what we’ve found by using the heat map is that people who are, I mean not even getting to the 1st 30 or 40% of the page because we’re looking at the scroll heat map and so once people got past the actual like links that we have, they would maybe see two or three FAQs. 

And we were shocked because you list all the questions. So in your mind you’re saying, okay, I’m listing, although I think he’s here so someone is going to take the time and read through the list. 

Not only did we have that list, we have the list separated by section or what we thought made sense. 

Yeah, yeah, exactly my topics. What we thought made sense, but it made sense to us because we work in the tool. The time we understand the tool, but it wasn’t the organisation that a user would want because they’re thinking in a different way. 

And so with that led to is because we saw that only I would say the first three to four questions were being read. We just said, okay, we can still separate it, right? We can still make sure that we have topics organised by topics, but let’s try to get the top three most asked questions in the top, because if they’re only seeing the 1st 34 questions, let’s make sure the important ones are at the top three before and once we did that the questions were seen.  

We had less instances of people reaching out for those particular questions, and people were actually finding the answers they needed rather than kind of giving up after the third or fourth question from scrolling and saying, you know what I mean, I just give up, or maybe I’ll email support and then have to wait for an interaction and go back and forth if something bigger was wrong. It was great just being able to see those top questions being seen by majority of our audience. 

Speaker 1 

So is that about rearranging the order? Which things were, or was it about taking stuff out, or both? 

Speaker 2 

Both really, because even evaluate that point. First of all, I personally think that like 10 to 15 if they keep questions or just a lot in general and it’s overwhelming you want to try to make everything not super short, but especially with the kids you just want to get really easy to kind of browse through, get everything that you want done. 

Some of it was just removing stuff where we said you know what? Let’s take this out and play around to see if maybe no one clicks on it with the links on top. Besides the scroll you also have to click heat map so we could see how popular they were clicking given clicked on. 

There are some links I had no clicks at all. No one had clicked on them and the heat map was about a month old I’d say and there’s just no interaction. 

We said OK, it’s been a month now once clicked on it, let’s remove it and see what happens. If we have an influx of tickets for that particular question we can always revert removing it. Just kind of removes some of that fluff or some of the junk that just needs to be taken out. 

Speaker 1 

With the insights that you’re getting today, that may be as a result of doing it for X years or X months. 

Speaker 2 

I needed a manual approach to it and I have a block set up my calendar once a month where at the end of the month I’ll go look at the heat maps of really important pages.  

So I focus on FAQ pages by focus on our landing page and I focus on the contact form because in the contact form we also suggest articles that we think might help in certain situations, and so when I look at those pages I add the results to a spreadsheet because I just like to see all my numbers in one place and I’ll look for things like what’s getting clicked on, especially in the landing page where we have feature articles. 

I’ll see what future articles are actually being visited. 

If we just added a new section, let’s say or, is there a new document? Also look at heat maps for that new document and I’ll say okay where the clicks, how much scroll movement is a huge one because it’s interesting coz you’ll see this in heat maps. 

We also see in recordings that and you might do this and you don’t even know, but when you read on a website, a lot of people’s mouse movements mimic where they are reading on the heat map, you’ll start seeing a lot of colour show up around text because people are moving their mouse over the words. 

I never knew I did that until I started seeing this action of recordings. You just see the mouse moving over the words and then now I’m really aware of it. 

Sometimes I catch myself and I’m like, oh that’s me moving over the text. But that’s a huge giveaway as well, because you see that over some of your content and you know that what you wrote is being read and then you’ll see some paragraphs that there’s nothing over it and you’re like, okay, no one is reading this at all like no one’s looking at this content. 

Pull that low stats and I just put them into, especially each month, and I can just kind of see over time as things are progressing and that way I can kind of pair up what our writers are doing so. They change something, or if they’ve added a new section or that you wanted to try any template and experiment with that, you can kind of see oh, this is when someone so added the new template.  

Okay, it went better so maybe it is working well or vice versa, or if the staff started going down, we started less interaction. 

Let’s revert to the old template. 

Speaker 1 

And to share that information, or so those heatmaps to others outside of the department. And what impact does it have having that information? 

To be able to show it to others. 

Speaker 2 

It depends. We don’t regularly show it unless it’s some type of business case. So if we’re looking for maybe a tool that we want to invest in and show overtime, look what this trial did for us. 

Here is actual proof because one of the hardest things I find with just cheque writing in general is it’s really difficult to prove value. Yes, use, take, hold. 

There’s a lot of the time it’s like, oh, you’re just writing something. It’s you just write up a few lot and it’s like, ah 

It’s a little different than that. It takes a lot of time and a lot of care to make sure that what you’re writing can reach a user or reach the person who’s reading it and help them. 

Other things I kind of refer to is you could put a big green button on a website and say push the button. 

And you’ll still have people ask. 

What button this button? How do I press it? There’s still going to be questions and so I really feel like a job as writers is to make sure that worries clear as possible to make everybody’s life easier. And you want to spoon feed in the least condescending way possible, and to do that. 

It takes a lot of time, and so when you’re presenting things to stakeholders, if they don’t have that insight, they don’t know. They don’t know what value you bring and so. 

Heat maps and recordings, especially recordings that show a user confused in the beginning, and then you can tell there confused by mouse movements, frantic movements in general. 

You can see like maybe oh they don’t know where to click. Or maybe they are kind of going in the loops in the actual tool or and looks in the knowledge base even where they keep going on the same page over Andover again because I can’t find your answer and then kind of getting to the point where they find their answer and you kind of see the mouse movements slow down. 

Slow down. 

You see them reading and then they leave. 

And so you know that? Okay look, this is an example of how our writing or our team helped the user have a positive experience. 

Speaker 1 

So you say that Hotjar does heat maps. 

Recordings of mass movements and surveys. 

The work that you’re doing in the knowledge base are all three of those equally useful or is one more useful with the other in terms of helping you in your job. 

Speaker 2 

Yeah, I use all of them. To be honest I’m not forcing anyway. Do you tell them? Even working for us, there’s a fourth as well. 

It’s incoming feedback, and so the difference between surveys. Incoming feedback surveys is something like a question pops up that says hey, did you like this? 

Yes, No  

It can be as small as you want, whereas incoming feedback is a widget that lives on the side of the page and when you click on it you can see with scale to rate so happy face, sad face to mad face and the user can select them, emoji or whatever images you decide for the rating scale and they can leave a comment. 

Well, with an email we utilised both. Both of them have different functions. I rely on incoming feedback. A lot of the time for internal use, but we do get a lot of feedback from our users. 

Yeah, what I do for the internal use aspect is have the review process with the writing process. The review process in the publishing process within. 

But as you know, things are meant spelling mistakes or missed deadlines out text, NAN, images, or missed happens, especially with a smaller team that are rotating between the role of reviewer and writer with the incoming feedback does that opens it up to your entire company where if someone is on a page and they see there’s a spelling mistake, they see somethings out of date. 

They see images broken. A link is broken. They can click on the incoming feedback. They can put whatever 🙂 I want. It doesn’t matter because we’re not using that aspect for this part and they can select it and click on the dead link. They can click on the actual word that’s misspelt and they can say, hey, this word is misspelt. 

Or this info is out of date and then add their email and send it to us, get sent to our support email. 

We have it attached to Zendesk for our support team works and so it creates a ticket and we can see oh look, there’s a spelling mistake on this page and we can fix it and it’s small little actionable pieces of insight that we can work on very, very quickly. 

Speaker 1 

So somebody else wanted to set up this for their knowledge base. 

How easy is it to do and are there any limitations about types of sites where you can’t use it? 

Speaker 2 

It is easy as you want it to be honestly when you set it up we have in the knowledge base we have a bunch of different guides that you can work through depending on what your site is based on, ranging from work pressed the job you to Wickes, there’s a guide that you can look at and set it up. It takes probably about 10 minutes to get up and running, just installed, and then there’s also advanced things, so if you did have a developer at your disposal or you did have a developer on your team that you could request work from, you can set up things like tags for your recording so it will add automatic tax for you or advanced you tell them user attributes where almost like segments where you can say OK. I want to only look at people in the knowledge base who come back regularly. Who were on the paid plan can list all of these attributes that you want to focus on, and that is done with a developer, but that’s definitely not needed if you want it just to get started with the basic heatmaps, recording surveys and feedback and just kind of get it running to start collecting the data it would take about 10 minutes. 

Speaker 1 

So if you had a collection of VIP customers where you wanted to make sure that they were being serviced, the best you could spot them and check that they’re getting questions answered. 

Speaker 2 

Because this is the one that you would wouldn’t you developer to help you with just because they need to work with your API and art. Yeah, you can even name their VIP customer because of XY&Z couldn’t even look at those individual pieces.  

You can say this is overall VIPs are and then this. Maybe it’s the three reasons whether VIPs because they spend the amount of times they come and how old they are in your system. And you can look at each individual pieces as well. 

Speaker 1 

Do you know of any other technical publishing teams that are doing this in this way? 

Speaker 2 

Yes, actually I don’t know if you’re familiar. There’s an organisation called Write the Docs. Yes, I went and that was kind of the 1st place I ever realised where this was a job like this is something that people do and it was just like this huge revelation. 

That’s where I learned about Cherryleaf and it was great.  

When I go to this conferences every year and when I talk to people and I tell them that I work at  Hotjar if they know of Hotjar. You know the first question.  

One, how do you use it on your site? Because I want to know and two if I had 15 minutes in a day to look at, how much are what would I do? 

People are already using it and they want to know if I only have this set time of day. What do you suggest to look at? 

Speaker 1 

So that leads into another question is somebody did install Hotjar and using it for looking at their knowledge base and online help, and perhaps even their onboarding information. 

How much time would be an appropriate or good time to schedule to get value from having that installed? 

Speaker 2 

Well, the good part is really you would only need about 10 to 15 minutes a day if that’s what you wanted or tend to say every other day really. And you really can range it all the way to maybe an hour a week, it depends on what you want. If it’s something that we’re someone’s asking you like at the conferences. If I have 10-15 minutes a day, where do I look?  

I usually answer with heat map on the focus page. Maybe it’s new article you wrote, maybe it’s one of your most popular articles. 

I tend to also have heat maps on my most popular articles page as well to give understanding of why it’s the most popular article, other than like our brilliant writing. 

Or are they looking at keeping the focus page. 

The highest traffic page feedback responses 100%  

You want to be able to see if someone really loves your writing or really doesn’t like your writing and why they don’t like it and those are really quick overview of just you kind of justice. Read through them and be like okay hate, love, love, love. Why do they hate it?  

And then there’s a reason they wrote a reason why and then an approval rating surveys. 

The thumbs up thumbs down on the page what we do is if someone clicks the thumb down, we trigger perfect because the thumbs up and down is built into the tool we used for our knowledge base. Pop up a survey and say hey really sorry that didn’t work out for you with this article. 

Tell us why, why did we not hit that bar for you? What would we miss? And just those three things take a really quick to view within like 10-15 minute period per day. 

The information you get can essentially set your entire planning for the week for your team based on what you’re seeing. 

You can change your priorities really quick coz if you’re prioritising maybe writing a certain section or ready new documentation and you’re getting negative feedback about one that already exists. Allot of it you can just switch the gears a bit and say okay, let’s pull back from making new documentation and let’s go into this new section. Really focused on improving the docs there. 

During that feedback, I was telling you about and where they can kind of give us the moderating and give us a comment about why they gave us that rating. 

There’s also that aspect of adding the email and they don’t have to give us the email, so if it’s something that interested in, they can kind of skip that part. 

But the ones that do I most definitely reach out to them and try to get insight about why something wasn’t working with their ideal knowledge base would look like if you saw this article again, what would have made it better for you? 

And just getting those little bits of insight throughout the month or throughout the year just really elevates your writing on holy level because you’re not only thinking about what you think you know about what the user wants. 

You’re actually asking, and they’re literally telling you through email through a phone call through a Google call. They’re saying this is what will make it better. 

And it’s really just kind of switches. Your perspective of it. 

Speaker 1 

If somebody wants to do this, wanted more information how to use the products. 

Where should they go? 

Speaker 2 

Burt using Hotjar are definitely our knowledge base. Shameless plug for the knowledge base which is help.hotjar.com. We have the installation guides we have guides that walk you through setting up the different tools, heatmaps, recordings, surveys, feedback. 

And we also have the guides for your developer, so if you do want to do the more intricate set up with, these are actually it’s like I mentioned, the developer can use those guides as well to get started. 

Speaker 1 

Well, that’s great, thank you, thank you Karissa. If somebody wanted to contact you, have any questions, what is the best way of contacting you? 

Speaker 2 

Yeah, the best way would be either through LinkedIn, which is KarissaVB. That’s my LinkedIn and my email is Karissa at  Hotjar dot com. 

I have no problem answering emails there as. 

Well, I have a talk that I did write the docs this year about the importance of analytics and feedback and it kind of gives more insight about how we use not only Hotjar. 

I gave it about other tools that are available besides halter, so it may be popular, is not good for you. 

There’s lists a bunch of different alternatives that you can use to get this insight, and how I calculate some of my stats that I rely on, and it’s called the importance of analytics and feedback, and I can also send you that link. 

Speaker 1 

Yeah, that would be great and I’ll include that in the show notes. 

Now that was great, thank you. 

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