The 7 new digital tools I use every week as Head of Product of a startup
Two years ago, I published a list of 11 tools I use as Head of Product at an early stage start-up, sharing my gratitude with the makers of the tools and services I love and allowing others to discover them.
I think it is even truer today than it was at the time: having the right “digital toolbox” is key if you want to succeed as a startup.
With dozens of new digital tools launching every day, all sorts of things are becoming faster, cheaper, better, more efficient, or simply possible for startups. This means we live in exciting times where very small teams can achieve in months what used to take bigger teams several years.
Our money transfer comparison portal Monito (you can think of us as the booking.com of money transfers) is now used by 25x more users than when I first publish the list in January 2016, but we are still a small team of 7 employees.
As Head of Product, I am still the only one in charge of user research and testing, product design, product planning, testing and customer support. This is probably why I am always on the lookout to add new tools to my workflows to make my life easier.
I still use 9 out of the 11 tools which were included in my initial list, and this post features 7 new tools I use on a weekly basis in my work at Monito.
I hope you’ll discover some interesting ones and please don’t hesitate to add your favorite tools in the comments below!
EyeQuant — Make design measurable
EyeQuant developed an algorithm able to reproduce the eye movements of average users seiing a web-page for the first time. They are using machine learning based on thousands of eye-tracking heat maps generated from real people in university laboratories and is now able to replicate users behavior with an 85% accuracy. What used to take dedicated lab equipment and dozens of testers (and therefore cost thousands of dollars and take weeks), can now be done in a few seconds and for a few dollars thanks to Eyequant.
I use their service to test many iterations of a design on the fly, often very early in the design process. It’s a nice addition to Hotjar and their “click heat maps” generated by users visiting our website.
Zapier — Connect your apps and Automate Workflows
I have been using Zapier for many years now, but it’s only recently that I started including it in many key workflows at Monito.
Zapier connects my favorite tools, automating small tasks like sending requests from our contact form (powered by TypeForm) to the right support’s inbox (powered by Groove), or creating a bug report in our collaboration tool (we use Podio) whenever we report one on Slack.
But Zapier is even more powerful when it allows us to save precious development time to launch the MVP of user-facing features on Monito. Our “request a quote” feature — which allows Monito users to get a quote from the most competitive providers for their high-value transfers — was entirely built by connecting a TypeForm, a Google Spreadsheet and our CRM (Active Campaign).
With the ability to connect almost any tools you can think of, Zapier is one of the product I admire the most as it really plays the role of making the digital world works better and smarter.
Google Optimize — Test, adapt, personalize.
This lesser-known tool from Google is integrated with Google Analytics and allows you to run A/B and multivariate tests on your website really easily. It gives you a live editor of your website (think of it as a simplified developer tools in your browser) where you can make changes and then automatically launch your tests.
You can test a new tagline for your homepage or for a specific user-segment, four different colors for a call-to-action or different background images. The only limit is that you can only run three tests at the same time in the free version (and the enterprise plans are out of reach for a startup).
PRO TIP: I sometimes start by making a lot of iterations that I analyze through EyeQuant to see how the user’s attention on the page is affected by my layout changes, and then test the most promising variation with Google Optimize.
Adding a live chat on our website brought us a lot. Not only are we able to convert more users by providing them with the information they need and answer their specific questions, it is a great resource to really understand our users. Answering chat messages with a “user research” hat rather than a “customer support” hat makes the time investment really worth it.
Chatra is not the most popular chat option available, but for us, it was the best choice for a long time as it’s really affordable while offering the key features we need, the most important being the ability to trigger chat messages to start conversations with users matching certain criteria. We’re currently testing the Facebook Messenger chat integration (still in beta) to see if it could be a better alternative.
Pingpong — Effortless remote user research
I’ve been doing un-moderated user-testing (receiving videos of users exploring our website or prototypes) with UserBrain since a long time, but I wanted to give a try to moderated user tests.
Pingpong is a relatively new service, but their pool of testers is already quite diversified, meaning you can find users matching your criteria in a few hours at most. Everything is integrated into one platform (recruitment, scheduling, screen sharing for desktop and mobile devices, payment of the testers) which really makes it easy to get insights from potential users.
You can organize sessions with your own testers as well using Pingpong for scheduling and payment, but I find it too expensive in this set-up. For testing with our own users, I created a workflow combining Chatra, Calendly, Skype and Amazon Business (to send out vouchers to our users after the tests).
Google Sheets — Create complex spreadsheets
It may sound like a banal addition to this list, but Google Sheets is probably the most used tool of all at Monito. It’s even more powerful and versatile than what most people would expect, especially if you take advantage of the right Add-Ons and the most advanced functions.
- I use Google Sheets to automatically fetch data from Google Analytics and combining it with our internal data model to create real-time custom dashboards.
- We automatically collect data on exchange rates and fees from various websites using the IMPORTXML() function, we even scrape our own website to generate email templates based on our real-time results.
- Google Sheets is also the “database” for many of our Zapier workflows. In the “quote request” example I mentioned earlier, inputs coming from the TypeForm are stored in a spreadsheet and the quote is calculated based on data from an external API via the script editor.
Smartmockups — Create product screenshots with just a few clicks
Their one-time fee is one of the best investments I ever made. Their desktop tool allows you to create contextual images from your screenshots. It’s great to illustrate your new features and make your product more “real” in the eyes of your users, but it’s also very useful to create images with screenshots from other services.
We use it to illustrate the in-depth reviews we write about all the providers we list on Monito, and — of course — I used Smartmockups to make all the illustrations of this post.
Conclusion — The rise of the Chief Digital Tools Officers
The sheer amount of tools and products available out there can sometimes be overwhelming; finding the right ones for your startup is not an easy task.
But it’s an important one.
Following ProductHunt and browsing through the profiles of the company you admire on Siftery are great ways to cut through the chase and discover new products. It is even more important to keep an open mind and never hesitate to try out new tools when you stumble upon them.
Given the importance of adopting the right tools, I’m suspecting that this “task” will be formalized in an actual “role” at an increasing number of startups.
Chief Digital Tools Officers will have the mission of helping every team select the best tools for their needs, agencies and consultants will probably follow, offering the same service to larger companies.
The investment is definitely worth it, as for often less than $100 a month, these tools can have a tremendous impact on the products you are building.
I hope you enjoyed the post! Please clap (at least) as many times as the number of tools from the list you want to try out! ;-)
Don’t hesitate to share the tools that are in your very own “digital toolbox” in the comments!