Three tools that newbie Product Managers will find useful

Now that it’s been almost a year since I transitioned to be a Product Manager, I thought it might be worthwhile to share few tools with fellow PMs that have helped me stay productive. I’ve picked three services that I use almost everyday.

BALSAMIQ

A wireframe is your first step towards manifesting an idea – it helps you visualise how a feature would be used and communicate the direction you’d plan to take with your co-workers. You can start with a pen-paper sketch like Jack did with Twitter.

twttr sketch

However, if you are more comfortable with using a software tool (as I am), I’d recommend using Balsamiq. It has just enough UI elements to help you get started with creating mockups for mobile apps and desktop websites. Once you get a hang of it, you can start defining interactions and workflows.

A tool like Balsamiq takes you from

thinking

to

Twitter Signup Box

Wireframe for Twitter Signup Box

At this point, your designer will have a fair idea of what you are trying to accomplish and both of you can translate the wireframe into something that looks like this:

Actual Twitter Signup Box

Actual Twitter Signup Box

You can use Markups to convey any additional info to your designers or developer as well as export mockups to PNGs / PDFs for sharing.

Pro Tip: Use Geometric Shape containers for quickly building text fields, call-to-action buttons and add icons and placeholder text to them. For example, the below wireframe was built using just Geometric Shape containers.

Geometric Shape Containers

Geometric Shape Containers

BASECAMP

Communication and clarity of purpose among different functions such as Marketing, Engineering, Design and Product Management are critically important, especially for teams that are nimble. Enter Basecamp.

Having used productivity tools like Asana, JIRA, Trello etc., I find Basecamp easy to use and good enough to get most of my tasks done. I use it for discussions, assigning tasks, uploading files, and keeping track of what’s happening on other projects through ‘Progress’.

My favorite part in Basecamp is the following widget that helps me add to-dos swiftly – I can define a task, assign it to a colleague (or to myself), set a due-date and attach files – all at one go.

Adding a to-do

Adding a to-do

Protip: Create checklists for various events that occur frequently such as an SDK release, feature update or social media strategy while publishing a new blog. It’s simple and makes sure you don’t miss a thing.

MIXPANEL

In God we trust; all others must bring data.
— W. Edwards Deming

Tools like Mixpanel help you make data-informed decisions. By spreading event trackers (header_menu_create_app, download_sdk_onboarding) and user properties (job_role, activated) across the website, I keep a tab on how users are engaging with the website. It helps me go beyond vanity metrics to track user journeys, drop-off points in a certain workflow, and generate funnels and weekly reports.

I use it rigorously for managing email lifecycle and staying in touch with users at various points. For example, the following targeting allows me to check how things are going with users who signed up more than 7 days ago and tried using the SDK. I get responses frequently and adjust email messaging / workflows accordingly.

Mixpanel Notifications

Mixpanel Notifications

Protip: To get further insights about your users, make the most of super-properties that help you capture stuff besides standard properties like name, email, browser, country, etc. Also, by displaying the Mixpanel badge on the footer, you get 200,000 data points every month and 25,000 people profiles for free.

Well, that’s about it! If there are any services that enhance your productivity as a Product Manager, feel free to share them through comments or by tweeting me.