Mobile Product Management tips from Experts.

There is a proverb that is always mentioned at my old summer camp–it strategically advises counselors to “be the glue not the glitter.”

The sentiment is meant to encourage counselors to be the glue for their campers. This means dealing with difficult issues up front, having a very precise pulse of the group, and, simply put, making sure that everything stays together.

Contrastingly, a glitter counselor, while initially well liked, is guilty of cheap bonding and merely telling campers what they want to hear. They do not have a clear pulse of the group and intentionally avoid handling uncomfortable and difficult situations. Evidently, with glitter counselors, chaos ensues.

So, why am I talking about glue vs. glitter when the title is about mobile product management?

Simple. To me, great glue is like a great Product Manager.

Product Manager – a role that has elements of design, engineering, marketing, research and project management – is critical to building amazing mobile products. It requires persistent focus on cohesion and relentless attention to detail; reassuring that a product is designed, engineered, branded, and marketed under one clear vision.

Though still a new and relatively ill-defined discipline– likely due to the continuously changing nature of software products– we have gathered some valuable insights from some of the leading Product Managers in the mobile industry.

 

How do you know a mobile product is well designed?


Jonathan Ozeran
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VP Product at Zest Health, Co-Founder at WÜF, Lecturer at Northwestern University

“You know you have a well-designed mobile product if users start to become your advocates, cheerleaders and fans organically, especially within a B2B context. Quantitatively, there are fantastic tools (e.g. Mixpanel, Intercom, Apptentive) for observing and engaging with users that can help provide additional indicators of a well-designed product or feature.”


Liz Yeung
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Senior Product Manager / Co-Founder ProductCamp Vancouver

“Using simplicity to solve multiple problems is the smartest way to go about design.”


Mimi Nguyen
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PMO Lead, Business Services at Interactive Intelligence

“In the simplest form, a good mobile product is not only aesthetically pleasing, it’s very clear in its primary purpose and is able to fulfill a user’s need while requiring the least amount of effort and time.”


Amul Arya
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Director of Partnerships

“If an app has a great first time user experience, I can almost always certainly bet that the rest of the app will be very well designed.”


Pablo Arce
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Lead Program Manager at Y Media Labs

“The main thing is the simplicity and the fact that when you use it, you don’t feel lost and you never question where you are. Mobile needs to be about simple use. It needs to feel lightweight.”


Kelly Becker
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Director, Product Management at Dictionary.com

“A well designed mobile product is intuitive to use – it should be self-explanatory. A well designed interface should anticipate the actions the user is trying to do and guide them seamlessly along those paths. It should also be able to scale and evolve over time and support the product’s strategy.”


Bob Schoenthal
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Project Manager at Y Media Labs

‘Lean UX’ practices are currently on the rise, as these exercises are all about getting user feedback more quickly so you can make adjustments accordingly and avoid wasting time, money, and effort.”


Bruce Mccarty
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Founder, Chief Product Person at UpUp Labs

“It may seem like design is subjective, but it’s much more than aesthetics. You know the design is right when the product is meeting its goals and if people are using the app regularly in increasing numbers.”


Aju Mathew
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Director, Mobile Product Management at Elsevier

New features should be intuitive, yet innovative. Innovation doesn’t have to be complex– it should instead, employ natural use cases and workflows to establish features that provide the best user experience, and provide the easiest way to achieve user objectives.

What’s the hardest part about product management that often goes unnoticed by consumers?


Jonathan Ozeran
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VP Product at Zest Health, Co-Founder at WÜF, Lecturer at Northwestern University

“The balancing act that goes into prioritizing between customer feedback, roadmap-driven enhancements, backend infrastructure as well as architecture tasks, and miscellaneous PM-driven experiments.”

Liz Yeung
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Senior Product Manager / Co-Founder ProductCamp Vancouver

“The amount of research and understanding of customer pain points before a feature is developed.”


Amul Arya
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Director of Partnerships

“Consumers don’t see the detailed spec, the wireframing process, talking scope with engineers, the hundreds of thousands of lines of code that are being written to build the product.”


Brittany Miles
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Sr. Technical Product Manager at WideNet Consulting

“What seems simple and logical is often the most difficult feature to design and release.”


Bob Schoenthal
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Project Manager at Y Media Labs

“I’ve always found the hardest part of being a PM is the balancing game you have to do between quality, time and cost, and maintaining the expectations of each.”


Kelly Becker
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/kbecks
Director, Product Management at Dictionary.com

“Users think simple, well designed, easy to use products are “easy” to produce. Product managers have to constantly and consistently advocate for the user and the strategy. End-users don’t see everything that had to be negotiated to get there.”


Pablo Arce
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Lead Program Manager at Y Media Labs

“A lot of work goes into things even though they seem super simple. Projects are constantly going through a lot of changes, and thus never on a linear trajectory.


Aju Mathew
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Director, Mobile Product Management at Elsevier

“Explaining to stakeholders that a “cool” feature is not always a good feature.”

Would you design an enterprise mobile product differently from a consumer mobile product?


Jonathan Ozeran
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VP Product at Zest Health, Co-Founder at WÜF, Lecturer at Northwestern University

“With enterprise mobile products, it’s more than likely that the status quo is a cumbersome, offline and stale process lacking some level of insight, data or connectivity. As a result, a mobile-focused PM in the enterprise needs to completely understand the advantages, limitations imposed on employees with their current process and how their mobile product will attract the attention and enthusiasm of even the most technologically-averse business user.”


Liz Yeung
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Senior Product Manager / Co-Founder ProductCamp Vancouver

“With enterprise apps – people’s processes are ingrained. It’s about productivity and the app must fit within the process with the bulk of the group.”


Brittany Miles
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Sr. Technical Product Manager at WideNet Consulting

“It’s about the customer and their needs. Understanding the problems you’re trying to solve and developing the best product and features accordingly.”


Pablo Arce
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Lead Program Manager at Y Media Labs

With every product you think about the audience.  Until very recently, UX was very secondary for enterprise digital software. The trend now is to consumerize enterprise applications and thus Enterprises are gearing less on function and more on ease of use. During the project, it is absolutely critical to get the client away from the traditional enterprise mindset, and remind them that more features aren’t going to make a better product.”

Bill Loller
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VP of Mobile Product at IBM/Tealeaf

“Certainly because the nature of the audience is much different. There are more restrictions on enterprise applications around IT Security and your product is much less focused on conversion rates.”


Bob Schoenthal
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Project Manager at Y Media Labs

“These days that line is becoming blurred. Numerous successful enterprise apps are very consumer focused in their UI/UX strategies because people, regardless of being at home or work, want to have delightful mobile experiences.

However, with consumer products, you’ll likely want to focus on social elements, as it keeps users connected and is often leveraged to increase user adoption rates. With enterprise products, the focus will be on interoffice connectivity, allowing employees to connect and share resources, and placing a higher value on security and stability throughout the project.” 


Aju Mathew
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Director, Mobile Product Management at Elsevier

“Principles of product design and development should remain the same. Your objective is always to deliver a product that adds value and helps achieve tasks faster and easier, and therefore the product design principles I adhere to will not differ.”

Conclusions: An evolved understanding

While responses varied between product managers’ respective experiences, we observed a few universal insights about managing complex mobile projects.

Designing, engineering and managing a mobile product requires balancing a multitude of elements, including business objectives, user needs, lengthy research, client satisfaction and more. Stabilizing such elements demands a significant amount of organization, complex prioritization, and a very clear pulse of the project and all associated micro needs.

Lastly, a well designed mobile product, is intuitive, streamlines processes, and anticipates the users need before they’re even needed. Further, what may seem like the most simple and logical feature, is likely the hardest functionality to design and develop. In the words of Dictionary.com’s Kelly Becker, “simple, well designed, easy to use products are not “easy” to produce.” Probably you’ll need a roadmap to develop a winning product strategy.

But at the end of the day, great user experience is about bringing users exactly what they want, with minimal interaction and friction.

If you found this useful check out our blog where we regularly post our thoughts on product management, design, engineering, and other related topics.