Whether you’re starting your PM journey or transitioning from a web/platform environment, building and managing your first mobile product might be a daunting task.
You need to understand many mobile-specific terms, and with most PM boot camps and courses focusing on web products, it is challenging to grasp all that new knowledge.
To make it easier, below is a dictionary of the most common mobile development terms every product manager should know.
Build is probably the first term you’ll encounter when you start to manage a mobile product.
Unlike a web product, where you simply push changes to a staging/production environment, mobile applications are confined to sealed versions. There is no “live production.”
The simplified development process for mobile applications looks like this:
Once the build is created, it’s sealed; this is also what prevents copycats from stealing the source code after downloading an app. So if a QA specialist spots an issue during testing, developers don’t “fix the build.” They create a brand new one built with the desired fix.
The whole build process also takes some time — depending on the app size and the developer’s device, it might take minutes or even hours.
So, when a developer says that that are “waiting for the app to build,” it means they wrote all code and are waiting for special software to confine it into a sealed build.
Also, when you download an application from the store, you download a specific build. When you update the application, it means you are replacing the current build you have on a device with a new one (which might contain new features or bug fixes).
Release candidate, or RC for short, is a build that is being tested and reviewed as the next application update.
For example, three separate mobile teams might work on a single product. Each of these teams has its own builds during the development and could end up with:
If all these teams want to release the change to the store at the same time, they have to combine these builds into one release candidate.
Going along with our example above, a release candidate might be: Previous app version + feature X + feature Y + bug fixes.
This candidate is then often subject to regression tests before releasing it to the store.
If you’re building a public product, you probably want to have it listed in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
Both of these stores have a list of requirements your product must meet to be listed in the store. This is a security precaution to prevent bad actors from uploading malicious software.
The store review can last from a few hours to a few days and usually involves a combination of automated tests and human reviews. If the review fails, your app/update might not be submitted to the store, and you’ll be asked to fix the spotted issue.
So you created a release candidate, submitted it to the store, and it passed the review. Congrats!
But the journey doesn’t end here.
Compared to web products, where the backend can serve changes immediately, in the case of mobile offerings, users have to update the product frequently.
Although many people have “automatic updates” selected in their store settings, some might need to manually click “update” to get the newest build.
This means it can take 1–2 weeks before 80–100 percent of your users get the newest version. You can speed this process up by forcing updates (i.e., blocking users from using the app if they don’t have the latest version), but this negatively impacts the overall user experience.
Combined with the store review process, the time between submission to the store and having the product “fully live” might take three weeks. Keep that in mind when planning your timeline, and triple-check for serious issues beforehand.
Once the propagation starts, you can’t simply roll it back. You have to release a brand new build (even if it’s the old one) and go through the whole process from scratch.
Firebase is an application development software provided by Google. Although it’s also often used for web applications, it’s mostly known for iOS and Android apps.
Firebase comes with a set of powerful tools, such as:
Firebase often serves as a “backend as a service” for simple applications. Once your application becomes more complex, you’ll need to add custom backend services and other third-party tools. Still, Firebase serves as a great starting point, and even the most complex applications often use its capabilities.
As a PM, you can get read-access to understand the app’s inner workings and see real-time performance.
A deep link is a unique link that redirects users to a particular place in your app.
Users clicking a deep link on their mobile device will fire up the relevant application and lead them to the desired destination. For example, applicationX://path/to/page?checkout could automatically direct them to your checkout page.
Deep links are often used in push notificationsl; clicking on push notifications often leads users to where you want them to be.
If they don’t have the app installed, it will usually lead them to a store page with the app.
App store optimization (ASO) is like search engine optimization (SEO) for mobile applications.
While SEO means competing with other products to be listed high in search results, ASO means competing with other apps to be as visible in the store as possible.
If you expect mobile stores to be your main traffic source, you must optimize your ASO. Some tactics include:
The good news is that both Apple and Google provide ASO A/B testing tools, so you can compare what works and what doesn’t.
Each mobile device has its unique ID, which works like a fingerprint.
The device ID is not the same as the user ID. For example, four different users can use one tablet, or one user can use more than one phone with your product.
Tracking deviceID will help you analyze your user behaviors in more depth.
IDFA stands for identifier for advertisers, and GAID stands for Google Advertiser Identity.
In simple words, these are like “cookies” for a mobile device. Apps can use them to track your advertisement activity (which ads you watch, which you click on, etc.) across various applications.
The idea behind these identifiers is to help provide the most relevant ads to users while respecting their privacy.
Users can opt out of sharing IDFA/GAID in their phone settings, so don’t take it for granted.
Because Apple prioritizes user privacy, by default, it doesn’t share IDFA with developers. If you want to use IDFA, you must explicitly ask users to do so.
Make sure you fire these up at the right moment.
Purchases are tricky for mobile products. Depending on how you handle payments and user information (whether through Apple/Google, your backend, or some third-party integrations), there might be user/device inconsistency.
For example, in the case of iOS, the purchase data (what subscriptions they have, when they renew, etc.) is usually stored in the App Store data.
Imagine that the user got a new phone, downloaded your app, and logged in with your product credentials. If your app didn’t sync with the App Store in time, or they simply didn’t log in or logged in with different App Store credentials, they won’t have access to the premium features they paid for.
The typical solution in such cases is to have a “restore purchases” button in your app. Clicking on that should prompt users to enter their store credentials and then sync your app information with their App Store information. If they have premium benefits assigned to their App Store information, the app should automatically fetch it and update the experience it provides to the user.
It might be done automatically (via the backend regularly checking with the store). But because it’s an edge case, it’s often not automated, and user action is required.
A software development kit (SDK) is a collection of software tools, libraries, and resources that developers use to create applications for specific platforms or devices. SDKs can include documentation, sample code, debugging utilities, and more, making it easier for developers to build and optimize their apps.
For mobile product managers, it’s essential to be familiar with the SDKs used in your app and the features they provide. This will help you understand the capabilities and limitations of your development team and make informed decisions about which tools to use or integrate into your product.
An API is a set of rules and protocols that enables different software applications to communicate with each other. APIs allow apps to request and exchange data, making it possible to integrate features or services from other apps or platforms into your mobile app.
Understanding how APIs work and how they’re used in your app is crucial for mobile PMs. This will help you identify potential integrations and streamline your app’s development process.
Responsive design is an approach to designing and developing websites and apps that automatically adjust their layout and appearance based on the user’s device and screen size. This ensures that the app provides an optimal user experience across various devices, including smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers.
Consider responsive design when developing your app to ensure a consistent and user-friendly experience for all users, regardless of their device.
The user experience, or UX, is the overall experience a user has when interacting with a product or service. In mobile product management, UX encompasses everything from the app’s visual design and layout to its performance, ease of use, and the emotions it evokes in users.
As a mobile product manager, focusing on UX is essential for creating a successful app. By understanding your target audience, its needs, and how users interact with your app, you can make informed decisions that lead to a more satisfying and engaging user experience.
User interface, or UI, refers to the visual elements and interactive components that make up an app or website. This includes buttons, menus, forms, icons, and other design elements that users interact with.
A well-designed UI is essential for providing a positive user experience and ensuring users can easily navigate and interact with your app. As a mobile product manager, it’s important to collaborate with your design team to create an intuitive and visually appealing UI for your app.
A minimum viable product, or MVP, is a version of a product that contains just enough features to satisfy early adopters and gather feedback for future development. Understanding your MVP helps product you and your team prioritize the most essential features, launch the product faster, and iteratively improve it based on user feedback.
As a mobile product manager, understanding the MVP concept and applying it to your app development process can help you effectively manage resources, minimize risks, and optimize the product’s success.
Push notifications are messages sent by an app to a user’s device, even when the app is not currently in use. These notifications can provide important information, updates, or reminders and serve as a way to re-engage users and encourage them to open the app.
As a mobile product manager, it’s essential to plan and manage push notification strategies to maximize user engagement without overwhelming or annoying your users. This may involve segmenting your user base, personalizing notifications, and monitoring the performance of your push notification campaigns.
In-app purchases are transactions made within a mobile app, allowing users to buy additional content, features, or services. This can include unlocking premium features, purchasing virtual currency, or subscribing to a service. In-app purchases can serve as a significant revenue stream for mobile apps and are especially common in gaming and freemium apps.
As a mobile product manager, it’s important to plan and implement a compelling in-app purchase strategy that provides value to users and encourages them to make purchases while maintaining a positive user experience.
User acquisition refers to the process of attracting new users to your mobile app, either organically or through paid marketing channels. Effective user acquisition strategies involve a combination of app store optimization, social media marketing, targeted advertising, and other tactics to reach potential users and convince them to download and use your app.
As a mobile product manager, understanding and planning user acquisition strategies is crucial for your app’s success, as they directly impact the growth and sustainability of your user base.
User retention is the process of keeping users engaged with your mobile app over time. A high retention rate indicates that users find value in your app and continue to use it, while a low retention rate suggests that users are abandoning your app after a short period.
Customer retention rate is a critical metric for mobile product managers because it’s often more cost-effective to retain existing users than to acquire new ones. Therefore, it’s important to focus on user retention strategies, including improving the user experience, adding new features, and personalizing content to keep users engaged and loyal to your app.
Key performance indicators, or KPIs, are quantifiable metrics used to evaluate the success of a product, project, or business objective.
In mobile product management, KPIs can include metrics such as app downloads, user retention, revenue generated, in-app purchases, and more. These metrics help product managers make informed decisions, track progress, and measure the effectiveness of their strategies.
It’s essential for mobile PMs to identify, track, and analyze the KPIs that are most relevant to your app and its objectives. Regularly monitoring these metrics will help you make data-driven decisions, adjust your strategies as needed, and ultimately achieve your app’s goals.
Conversion rate refers to the percentage of users who complete a desired action within your mobile app. This can include actions such as signing up for an account, making an in-app purchase, or engaging with a specific feature.
Tracking conversion rates can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of your app’s design, user experience, and marketing strategies.
As a mobile product manager, it’s important to monitor and optimize your app’s conversion rates, identifying areas for improvement and implementing changes that encourage users to complete desired actions.
Customer feedback is invaluable in guiding the development and improvement of your mobile app. Gathering feedback from users can help you identify pain points, prioritize new features, and uncover opportunities for growth.
It’s important to establish channels for collecting user feedback, such as in-app surveys, ratings and reviews, social media engagement, and customer support interactions.
In mobile product management, an iterative approach to development and improvement is essential. This involves regularly evaluating your app’s performance, user feedback, and market trends to identify areas for enhancement.
By continuously refining your app and adjusting your strategies, you can ensure your product remains competitive and relevant in
Embracing the principles of iteration and continuous improvement will help you build a successful and sustainable app that delivers value to users over time.
Mobile product managers must work closely with cross-functional teams, including designers, developers, marketers, and customer support representatives.
Effective collaboration is essential for ensuring that all team members are aligned on goals, priorities, and product vision. This includes maintaining open lines of communication, setting clear expectations, and fostering a culture of teamwork and mutual support.
Your ability to facilitate cross-functional team collaboration will be crucial to your app’s success and the overall satisfaction of your team members.
As a mobile product manager, it’s important to familiarize yourself with key concepts, best practices, and tools relevant to the mobile development landscape. From understanding essential terminology to mastering collaboration and iterative improvement, becoming well-versed in the nuances of mobile product management will set you up for success in your role.
By focusing on user experience, tracking relevant KPIs, and fostering effective cross-functional teamwork, you can drive the development of a mobile app that meets the needs of your users and achieves your business objectives.
Featured image source: IconScout
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