Launch an impactful user research department in a month: here is the step-by-step process.

Chloé Martinot
ManoMano Tech team
Published in
7 min readNov 6, 2018


First a little bit of context here, ManoMano is a DIY marketplace with more than 300 employees, 3 designers, and only one user researcher. The user researcher position opened in July 2018 and I took it after several years as a product manager. I had no specific degree in cognitive science or any related field usually required for such a position. I wanted to talk to users and start changing the way we built our roadmaps. I knew this change wouldn’t happen because of me, but rather through a collective realization based on data and customer feedback. As a design department, we needed to spread a customer-centric vision. In this challenging context, we needed a bulletproof method to bring customer insights at the heart of the company.

In this blog post, you will find a set of tools to create a process for continuous customer feedback collection. Then, you will discover how to create momentum to embark employees on a more customer-centric vision. Eventually, you will get a couple tips to structure user feedbacks in order to get impact and shape roadmaps.

1/ First things first: Tools!

Hotjar (or any other visitor recording tool) is at the heart of this process. It has a lovely onboarding, has a free version, can be set up with one JS tag (or via a Google Tag Manager plugin, make sure you set it up “async” to avoid a negative impact on your website’s performance) and just doing that gives you a lot of insights. It only took 3 hours to go viral in our product team!

Start recording user sessions and force yourself to watch a few of them every day. I personally watch between 30 to 50 sessions every week, it’s a 10 minute morning routine. It will give you a knowledge base about what your customers do on your website. For instance, these sessions showed me the importance of images in DIY: users zoom on them to see technical details, to read the back of paint tins or to see the details of a curtain fabric.

After a month you will have watched around 160 sessions, which starts to give you a fair overview of user problems.

Disclaimer: unfortunately, Hotjar does not support iOS or Android Apps.

As of August 2018, the Hotjar mobile app has been discontinued. However, we’re happy to announce you can now use Hotjar on mobile browsers and we’re working hard to make that experience even better.”

But you can check substitutes here.

Apart from session replay, Hotjar also includes a poll feature to ask visitors about their experience with templates for Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Effort Score (CES) or just have a feedback bubble to check customers’ mood.

Feedback Bubble for customers’ mood in Hotjar.

Finally, Hotjar can help you recruit your beta testers! With the “recruiters” feature you can collect info on visitors for further discussions on wireframes and new features.

Set up a pool of beta testers with Hotjar using this feature.

Ok ok so, to sum up, with one free tool you have the basis for your feedback collection and beta testers database. AWESOME 👏👏👏👏

Calendly helps you manage your calendar and lets anyone book testing sessions or one to one interviews. The more discussions about timeslots you have with your users the higher the dropping rate is. You want something nice, clear and easy. Calendly is also free as long as you only schedule one type of event (for instance, 30 minute one-to-one interviews). Do not hesitate to put as many details in the invite as possible so that you have fewer messages to send later to users.

Mailchimp can be a great tool to manage and animate a beta tester base. You can customize emails easily and add variables to make them personal. The more special your user feels the better, although you don’t want to alter their objective judgment and bias survey results. Users have to feel listened to for positive and negative feedbacks, the membership should favor transparency not kindness toward your product.

Your Phone is the final piece that makes a great user research system because you can take videos, recordings, and pictures of user behaviors. A key to sharing impactful research findings is first-hand feedback. I think the illustration below demonstrates well why. You can either bring your dev and product team to customer interviews and field trips, or if they aren’t available, record moments to make sure you can share these with no personal bias.

Why paraphrasing is dangerous while doing research. Full article here

To sum up, first set up Hotjar to record sessions, ask visitors questions and identify beta testers with the “Recruiters” feature, contact them through Mailchimp with a Calendly link to schedule interviews. You can also send them links to Invision mockups and record their feedback on designs with your phone. If you plan to invest on a tool that records users while using your app or mockups, Lookback is a good one.

2/ Create momentum

Engaging with your users is a good first step but not sufficient to have an impact on roadmaps. To create momentum and to give a powerful voice to customer insight, we created PopCorn Time.

Don’t underestimate the power of a visual mascot. 😍😍

Basically, PopCorn Time is an event where employees binge watch user sessions with me while eating popcorn. The set up is simple:

  • Install a big screen in a room
  • Gather some chairs
  • Don’t be stingy on drinks and popcorn
  • Use Hotjar full screen mode to watch sessions.
Employees faces during PopCornTime…😱 Nope, they aren’t watching a soccer game, promise!

After watching user sessions we discuss the intention of a user, his problems and write everything down on post-its. At the end of a PopCorn Time Session, each employee, no matter what department, is in charge of one improvement. A Slack channel #popcorntime helps keeping track of these improvements.

In one month we viewed, 200 user sessions (during PopCorn Time or by myself), we gathered 50 action points and 8 were already in production by the end of the month. It’s a good start but 8 out of 50, that’s still a long way to go. These figures demonstrate how critical it is to pick your battles and prioritize the most impactful findings.

Also, bring as many people as you can to such events, in order to create momentum and spread the urge of changing the customer experience across the whole company.

Some participants’ comments stroke us, such as:

“The food is a great way to attract us, the content of this workshop made me stay”

“Can we see more cases where users are struggling? It is fun!”

What these comments taught us is that we are not (yet) all passionate about solving users problems but we can grow interest with this event. Eh, that’s a good start!

Here is an example of a documented feedback from PopCorn Time Sessions.

3/ Provide continuous findings, not continuous disturbance.

Sure, creating momentum is a great place to start. I read recently that old habits die hard, and in order to break them we should “break them in big, obtrusive ways”. Once we’ve got moving, create a continuous flow of insights from user sessions to guide roadmaps.

To do so, we create presentations for each feature team with a collection of slides from user sessions viewed. We also gather verbatims from Customer Effort Score and Net Promoter Score Surveys. Each product manager can open a presentation whenever they want and find relevant information to help them decide which problem to tackle next.

Always add the link to raw user sessions so colleagues can challenge some of your findings and express their opinion.

Another example of a slide available for product managers. (Pick-up Delivery Points in checkout)

Here, in this slide, the two main points are:

  • Mouse movements show the user is lost and finds it hard to select a pick-up delivery point.
  • The user closes the pop-up without selecting a pick-up delivery point…(see the error message at the bottom on the right screen). 😤

To set up a bulletproof user research system in a month you need:

  • a visitor recording tool
  • tools to automate most of the flow
  • to create momentum with fun marketed events (bring food).
  • to continuously store research findings for product, design and dev teams to use.

Oh yes! One last thing, we are still working on the best meeting format and workflow interact with design, tech and product teams so if you have any suggestions feel absolutely free to leave comments or ping us on Twitter!

Thank you for reading!

Many more articles to come about user research and customer centricity… Stay tuned!



Chloé Martinot
ManoMano Tech team

Founder and CEO @Ouvrage, Former CPO & User Researcher @ManoMano — Feminist in Tech.