How Apps are Changing the Product Manager Role

The role of Product Manager has become more popular in the past few years and with the uprise in mobile usage, this job description is evolving.

While the fundamentals of product management, such as planning a general roadmap for product creation, defining requirements, measuring performance and testing for an existing market remain the same, for those Product Managers who find themselves transitioning into the role of Mobile Product Managers, here are a few key distinctions to keep in mind:


User Experience & Screen Size

On mobile, users control the interface with their fingers and have come to expect an intuitive and effortless user experience. It’s important as a Mobile Product Manager to predict and test how users will desire to interact with their mobile product. The goal is to take advantage of the proximity users enjoy with a mobile product and exploit this sentiment of connectivity.

In order to achieve this, you must take into consideration the size of the mobile screen. Doing so will allow you to determine your screen real estate and help you prioritize features accordingly. The biggest challenge for moving a desktop experience to mobile is re-structuring the main page features, so ranking features in order of importance is a must. 

Finally, the fact that a product must be built for both portrait and landscape orientation is unique to the mobile product experience. Not all Mobile Product Managers decide to build their mobile product for both orientations but the decision to do this must be backed by research on user preferences.


User Expectations

People engage with mobile in an entirely different way than they do with desktop. Needless to say, a Product Manager who wants to extend her skill set to mobile must ensure that she is aware of what people expect out of their mobile experiences. Talking to the UX designers on the team or learning about this field is a good idea.




The Importance of Storyboards

Documents have traditionally been sufficient for general product management, however for mobile product management, storyboarding is a must. Storyboards at first may seem unnecessary, but they facilitate human-centric design, which is essential to a successful mobile app. 




Operator Systems vs. Web

A good Mobile Product Manager must understand the constraints and tech differences between operating systems. Mobile Product Managers must take into account the requirements needed to optimize the product for different operating systems when developing across platforms. Being able to understand the differences between the operating systems is a must to better predict the scope of work required. 


Time of Submission: Different App Stores

After the product is delivered, there is also the issue of submitting it to an app store. Each app store presents different requirements and this should not be overlooked. Whether it is the App Store, or the Amazon AppStore, there is a period where the update must undergo approval before it becomes publicly available. Mobile Product Managers who don’t take this time into consideration will be unable to plan effective roadmaps.


Constant Updates

Speaking of considering time, Product Managers making the transition to mobile must be aware that mobile apps must be constantly updated and that they will always be kept on their toes with between app store and OS updates. 


Best Practices

The general role of Product Manager requires varying degrees of technical skill, but the more specific role of Mobile Product Manager requires an added layer of technical savviness. A few things that the new Mobile Product Manager should do are the following:

1. Become an expert in mobile usability

Try to always stay on top of mobile trends and learn what makes a great app from the technical, product and marketing perspectives. It may seem like you're doing too much at first but you will find that the more you educate yourself on the components that make a successful app, the more you will translate that knowledge into an award-winning mobile product. Start by learning the differences between a web app, a hybrid app, and a native app. Briefly:


  • Native Apps: Are installed directly onto a device’s hard drive through the corresponding application store (such as Apple or Google Play). These apps can often maximize the capabilities of the hardware and must be specifically designed to function on one platform.
  • Web Apps: Are websites that look like native applications but are actually run by a browser and are usually written in HTML. They can be accessed in the same way that all webpages are, that is, through a browser.
  • Hybrid Apps: These apps are part native and part web. Like native apps, they can be downloaded directly through the app store and take advantage of the phone features. These apps rely on HTML that is rendered in the browser and embedded through the app.


Note that simply following broad best-practices for mobile is not enough anymore. Extensive knowledge on Android, iOS, tablets, wearable tech, an understanding of the user expectation for each system and the basics of UX design are a must.

2. Learn to distinguish between good and bad usability

Immersing yourself in mobile will allow you to distinguish product experiences that are worthy enough to emulate and this will show in your work. 


As the profession of Mobile Product Managers matures, more standards will arise. In the meantime, dedicated Product Managers transitioning to mobile will be scrappy and exploit the resources available in order to beat the learning curve and set standards of excellence. 

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