5 unique challenges for mobile product managers and how to handle them

By Andre Theus
Trends and insights

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Being the product manager in any industry can be an exhausting undertaking.

Development meetings. Industry research. Managing your product’s backlog. Sprint planning sessions. Product demos. Talking with customers. Training your sales and customer teams. Product management isn’t for the lazy.

But when your product is software that needs to be updated frequently—and will often be viewed on a 5-inch screen by a person in an outdoor café—well, let’s just say you face an additional layer of product management challenges.

For example…

You’ve gotta cut, cut, cut

You’re working with several unique constraints as the product manager for a mobile app. You have the physical limitations of the size of your user’s screen, which means you’ve got to be ruthless in what features, text, onboarding messages, and other details you allow onto your mobile product roadmap, and what you don’t.

You also have the added limitations of user time and attention. When they fire up the desktop version of your software on their computer in the office or at home, your users are more likely to spend some real time with the app, and to give it at least a good portion of their attention.

But on a mobile device? They could be anywhere, doing anything, seeing anything, distracted by anything.

The best mobile experiences are the ones that let us, your users, cut right to the chase. And speaking of Chase…

Here’s an example of a business that gets this right. Here’s JP Morgan Chase’s standard consumer-banking website…

And here’s their mobile app…

An important part of your role as a mobile product manager will be to understand exactly why your customers are using your app, what they absolutely need it for, and what they can do without.

To make a successful mobile app, you’re going to have to unleash your inner-minimalist.

You’ve gotta be a portrait artist and a landscaper

Your colleagues who manage the desktop version of your product can’t empathize with you on this challenge. They don’t have to worry about what’ll happen if someone suddenly picks up their computer monitor and turns it on its side.

But you do. For every screen you develop, and every feature, text blurb or action you include in your app, you need to make sure the user will have a great experience regardless of how their device is oriented.

And yes, both versions of the user experience — portrait and landscape — need space and time on your mobile product roadmap.

You’ve gotta be ready to handle massive success right away

When the product manager of a desktop app (or fitness equipment or just about any other type of product) launches their product into the market, they have a lot of work to get the word out about it. This is usually a slow process, which is why most products don’t become mega-monster-super-duper successes right out of the gate.

When you release your mobile app, on the other hand, in addition to your own app rollout marketing you will have at least a little professional help—because you’ll be launching it through one or more of the app stores, and those platforms get zillions of searches every day.

And if your app goes viral on day one, but your team isn’t ready to support that kind of traffic and the user experience suffers as a result, you could be saying goodbye top—and even creating vocal critics out of—what could have been some of your best customers.

All of which is to say that when you’re launching a mobile app, assume it could be swamped with traffic in the first minutes after it hits the app stores. Now ask yourself, have we built the infrastructure (servers, customer support team, etc.) to handle that great news?

You’ve gotta budget additional resources for app-store submissions

There’s also a flipside to the advantage of being able to offer your mobile app through a massive platform like the App Store: You’ll need to submit it to the store(s) for approval, and this requires some work.

Generally, the major platforms (the App Store, Google Play) give the thumbs up to new apps relatively quickly—often within just days. But getting everything in order to make sure your app glides through the application process and has all of the technical infrastructures it needs for a successful download and sale on these platforms will require some development cycles.

So, for a new app you’re rolling out, the app store submission process also needs some time on your mobile product roadmap.

You’ve gotta be ready to defend your decisions with clear data

The great thing about a service is that it gives you actionable information—not just numbers of user clicks or swipes, but the real story behind that user data—to help you make smart decisions about how to continually improve your app.

And you’ll need that actionable information because in your roadmap meetings you’re going to hear a lot of opinions. We all use apps every day, after all, so you can expect pretty much everyone on your cross-functional team to have an opinion about what to prioritize, what a screen should look like, what to streamline, what functionality needs to match the full desktop version exactly—you name it.

Real-world data will make for a more compelling product roadmap, which makes for better team alignment on your strategic plan.

Additional reading:

This article originally appeared in AppSee. This article was written by Andre Theus from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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