How to better facilitate engineers to develop an app for a market they are not familiar with?

There have been a few great posts, such as Handling your product manager and How to lead engineers through domination and fear, that share best practices of how engineers and product managers should work together. As the product manager of China team, whose goal is to build products that users in this market really love, I noticed that it is critical for product managers not only to listen to engineers and provide context of proposed features, but also to create opportunities for engineers to learn more about behaviors and thoughts of users in such market that the whole team may have no idea at all. In the following I’d like to share another three tips that I found useful to enable engineers to develop an app for a market that they are not familiar with :

First of all, invite engineers to listen to or conduct user interviews. The biggest challenge of developing apps for a new market is that the team may not understand the users well enough. Many assumptions we took for granted does not hold for users in different markets. User interviews can help the whole team, including product managers and engineers, to engage with potential users, understand the pain point and the thoughts when users are using our apps.

Secondly, provide engineers a smartphone that is popular in China. Also, make sure the phone is manufactured in China, have a local sim card, configured similarly to those of most local users and also have some popular apps installed. This can help engineers better understand local users and the context of how our apps will be used and observed. Also, due to differences in default settings and app behaviors, many actions that works on smartphones in US do not necessarily work on local smartphones.

Last but not the least, schedule in-market trip for engineers, if possible. There are at least two benefits. FIrst of all, it is easier for engineers to fix issues that are hard to reproduce in US, by observing users behavior in person and debug on the spot. Secondly, engineers can work on integrations with local partners more effectively.

Are you interested in developing an app that can serve billion people in emerging markets? We are hiring


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