We are all users

I love what I do.

It didn’t take much for me to become passionate about mobile devices, even before the advent of the iPhone. During my television days, I used a Palm PDA to keep track of contacts and appointments. The addiction to my smartphone started way before Apple with my black Treo. Of course, the two iPhones I have owned have taken it to an all new level. While I have never owned an Android device, I try out every new device equipped with the open-source operating system from just about every carrier. That doesn’t even cover the work-related time I spend using devices.

Point being, I’m blessed to have a job that requires me to play with and be knowledgable the technological toys of our time. That does not, however, make my insight into mobile devices any more valuable than yours. I am merely one of the billions of users in this market across the world.

Many in my industry would argue that the people doing the work on a day in, day out basis are the experts who should be the driving thought leaders. I don’t largely disagree with that notion either. There is merit in doing, where casual users merely think and use. The difference comes in perspective.

My point is not to denigrate designers. Their perspective and insight are the reason so many beautiful applications decorate my home screen. My point is we are in a unique point in the life of mobile devices, where we must listen to users. So many people can afford one; some users are even on their second or third mobile device by now. They know what they like and don’t like. You can ask them about Facebook’s app, how they use the web, or even which map service they prefer. Each user has a preferred gesture for deleting mail, and every other required action for daily use. 

We must continue to engage our users. While Steve Jobs felt it was his job to tell people what they needed, most of us aren’t him. To be a good product manager, I must continue to ask questions and gain feedback. Only then can I help put the right products in your hands.

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