It’s not uncommon for the roles of mobile app designers and product managers to overlap.
In smaller teams, the team member in charge of mobile app design and product development can be the same person.
After all, both have the same business goal – creating an amazing product that best serves the user needs.
In large teams and organizations, however, where it’s impossible to spend so much time of jaw-dropping user interfaces and experiences, having the same person design and manage can create challenges.
A product manager can guide several teams with many mobile app designers.
This automatically means less time for design focus, and more time needed for managing the project cycle, the team communication, the budgeting and the external stakeholders.
Common Challenges of Product Development in Mobile App Design
Many problems of teams where roles are not shared come out of one or the other team member forgetting about what’s their main task and purpose; that designers should focus on mobile app design and leave the product manager take care of the administrative tasks, and vice versa.
Nonetheless, things are not so simple. There is always some amount of task sharing, for example, the tasks related to design thinking and strategizing. That’s what collaboration is all about.
Also, even when there are clear rules, the product development cycle can be fluid and misunderstandings often arise.
Mutual support flows better when the product manager (who usually has the final say in matters) accepts suggested changes and understands that things that have been always done the certain way don’t need to continue in the same fashion.
Developing Effective Product Development of UX/UI Designers
The product manager’s supportive role includes avoiding too much meddling in the mobile app design department and staying aware of the danger to get into the user shoes.
Product development and management teams can work amazingly well with UX and UI designers as long as they adopt clear working processes and evidence-based cooperation tools.
There are a few core best practices that can improve the daily work in mobile design projects:
1. Automated tasks.
Knowing them well and using them whenever they fit in the mobile app design solves many problems of a product manager that oversees a number of teams or projects.
Prioritizing and doing more with less (people, time and resources) is a primary task of product managers. For this, automation is incredibly helpful as it gives insight into various metrics that can be later used to direct the product in the intended fashion, and as evidence for the team and for the stakeholders.
Having the simple bits done by software leaves more time for innovation and problem-solving.
Even the product manager needs someone for self-management. Instead of using more people, automation can help in dedicating more to communication, stakeholder engagement and awing users with impeccable designs.
2. Validation with early adopters.
Creative visualization is only a small part of the mobile app design process. The imagination implemented while putting an idea from a “pen and paper” prototype to a definite market product is not straightforward.
In fact, most of the UX/UI job consists of reworking and improving an already existing design.
There is nothing like early testing and measuring to see how much of the product prospects are based on reality. When possible, the product management cycle in mobile app design should include early adopters from the beginning stages.
If getting extra people on the UX/UI team early on seems costly, that’s the right job for the product manager, who needs to assess the value of the early adoption and calculate the pros and cons of the decision in the overall project cycle.
3. Cross-functional team management.
When product managers are in charge of several mobile app design teams, many of the problems arise from the UX and UI designers using different project workflows.
Applying agile management practices to all teams for a more aligned workflow across teams establishes team autonomy while the product manager is able to concentrate more on the bigger picture and delving into the more exciting aspects of product development.
Agile management software can help various teams align tools and gain a better visual perspective of what is going on in the larger organization. This puts things in a different, more general context.
Cross-functional teamwork tools create more empathetic employees, which is at the base of successfully working teams that develop designs to keep users happy.
Putting the “U” in the front of those “UX“ and “UI” abbreviations makes it clear who is the most important person in the mobile app design process, and can help designers and product managers to sort out differences.
Conclusion: In the complexity of different user interfaces and user experiences on multiple teams, product managers’ role resembles that of leaders. It should involve a better understanding of the needs of everyone on the team, impeccable record keeping and backlog management, as well as a propensity to think critically, predict trends and drive innovation. Most UX/UI best practices are focused on putting the user first, and keeping an eye on the people while keeping an eye on the product, too. Metrics help a lot and can be used as lessons-learned in future projects and as a corrective measure for team performance.