Roadmaps are one of the best tools a team can have during their product journey. Let's go over what they are and how to make them work for you.
What is a product roadmap?
A product roadmap is a feature used by companies to provide a visual image of their upcoming product updates. Though there are many different types of product roadmaps, items are typically organized according to their progress or status (e.g. planned, in progress, completed) and sometimes include the estimated completion date.
Roadmaps are typically used by companies to internally keep track of their product changes, but publicizing a roadmap has several extra benefits.
Publicising your product roadmap is a great way to keep everyone in the loop, from customers to potential connections to shareholders. By being open about current progress and future goals, everyone knows what to expect and what to look forward to.
Similarly, this increased transparency can help your current users feel more involved in your product’s progress and become more attached and loyal to your company.
Define your responsibilities
Keeping a public roadmap can help keep you and your product team accountable to your deadlines and responsibilities. It can also help keep your team’s momentum going, as everyone knows what to work on next in the process and what to look forward to in the future.
Keep expectations clear
If you have your company’s next steps already planned out and visible on your site, customers and potential investors can use that as a resource to understand your company’s future and progress.
Stand out from competitors
Your product roadmap can help you gain more clients as although you might not currently have a feature a potential customer might want, if they see it coming up in your roadmap they may still stay interested. Allowing your customers to vote on feature requests can also boost interest in your product as well.
Furthermore, publicising your roadmap can also help differentiate you from other companies by keeping your next steps open and discussing features that they might not have.
How to prioritize roadmap features
Deciding which features to prioritize on your roadmap can be difficult, but there are many strategies and frameworks you can use to help you choose.
What factors should you consider?
Looking at the impact of several important factors can help you decide how to approach feature prioritization.
What objectives are you focusing on for each feature build?
Often, these features will come from your team’s product vision, and as such define your company’s direction. It’s important to ask how your features align to product objectives or overall goals and how much they will impact those objectives.
How do your chosen features impact use cases?
Your product should have several specific use cases that cater to specific customer groups. Identifying and utilizing these use cases for your product can help you choose which features fit within them and thus which ones may be more important to prioritize.
The desires of your customer base are also very important to keep in mind while choosing which features to prioritize. What features do they want? What features are they most looking forward to? Knowing the answers to these questions is vital to keeping your audience engaged and satisfied with your product.
Likewise, it is important to know how much of your customer base will be affected by your chosen feature. If it only impacts a small portion of your audience, then it may not be a good one to prioritize. But if it will improve or affect something a large percentage of your customer base uses, and therefore has a higher customer impact, it may be more important to prioritize.
One of the last things to consider is the amount of work that will go into your chosen feature. This includes the overall amount of effort, the size of your team, and the amount of time that will go into working on that feature.
Knowing this information can help you decide what to focus on in your roadmap. You may choose to prioritize features that require more work over ones that require less in order to get them done quicker.
How to gather the right data
There are five different ways you can collect data that will help you decide which features and action items to prioritize.
Work to identify the specific steps or parts in your workflow where customers are getting stuck or having trouble. This can help you identify customer pain points and decide where changes need to be made.
By recording what people do with their mouse and where they click, you can gather insights into what draws your customers’ attention and what parts of your site they visit the most.
This type of freely-given customer feedback can be one of the best ways to gather information. Often, dedicated customers will want to help you improve your product. Use this feedback to figure out pain points and any popular requests and factor them into what you want to prioritize.
One of the easiest ways to gather this feedback is with UserVitals, an all-in-one customer feedback and product management system. This tool brings together information from across social media, custom widgets on your site and integrations with other platforms so you can view, sort, and analyze it all in the same place.
UserVitals also makes it easy to set up, update and release your public roadmap. Learn more about how UserVitals can help you today.
Support tickets and transcripts
Reviewing support tickets and transcripts can help you find out common pain points and requests, allowing you to determine what should be prioritized or fixed first.
User testing involves observing current and potential users as they use your product and walk themselves through the process. This can give you a unique view into their thoughts and experiences and let you know what they want out of your product.
The RICE method
The last and perhaps most popular way to figure out how to prioritize different features is by using the RICE Method. This method helps you quantify and score features based on four factors:
- Reach: how many people will this feature affect in a given period of time (for example, how many customers per quarter or transactions per month)?
- Impact: how much will this feature positively impact your product objectives or long-term goals? Is it part of the ‘larger picture’, or a separate, smaller fix?
- Confidence: based on the information you have right now, how confident are you that this feature will be a success in terms of its reception?
- Effort: how much time will this feature require from all teams involved in its development?
Once you’ve scored each potential feature based on this matrix, multiply Reach, Impact and Confidence together, and then divide that number by Effort. This final score will give a numerical measure of total impact per time worked, so you can prioritize features more accurately and objectively.
How to create a product roadmap in six steps
We've discussed the benefits of having a public roadmap as well as how to prioritize the features you include on it. Now, let's discuss how to create your own roadmap.
Start with research and build context
First and foremost, you'll need data and information on your product in order to make informed decisions about where to go with it. A lot this has already been covered in our section on how to prioritize your roadmap features, and the techniques are largely the same. You just need to know how your user base is feeling about your product and how it compares to the rest of your industry.
Starting off with this information base will help give context to what you want to include on your roadmap and better inform your choices.
Decide what you want your outcomes to be
Every roadmap needs to have goals to shape and focus your plans. Figure out what you want you want from each stage of your roadmap, and use that to guide your plans later on for your product strategy.
Organize problems into higher-level themes
Once you've decided what your goals are for your product roadmap and done all of your research, it's time to organize the items you want on your roadmap into larger themes. For instance, do you have several smaller design features that could all improve user experience? What about bug fixes, or new features?
Organizing and categorizing items on your roadmap will help you clean things up, making the process less messy for you and more readable for your users.
Prioritize features and themes into specific initiatives
Now that you have all your bits and pieces together, it's time to prioritize features and figure out how exactly you're going to tackle each one. Though you don't need to put every detail onto your roadmap--in fact, we encourage you to keep it fairly high-level--it's important to have a plan for how you're going to tackle and execute each item.
Set metrics to measure your success
Before you publish your roadmap, you'll have to figure out a way to measure its success. Often, a one-size-fits-all approach might not work; different features may be better reflected by different metrics, like time spent on a specific page or returning site visitors. Are you getting more signups, or retaining more customers?
Another general way to measure success is by looking at support tickets and feedback. After implementing new features or fixing issues, what are your users saying? Have complaints decreased? Are they happy with the new update?
Review your roadmap with other internal teams
Though we've saved this step for last, it's still very important. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not having open, continuous communication with other teams on your product, because that can cut off so much important and helpful feedback you can't get anywhere else. Different teams will often have different, fresh perspectives on things that you may not think of, and this can help everyone stay on the same page and create better work together.
Once you have all this done and your roadmap has been reviewed, it's time to publish!
Best practices for roadmaps
Last but not least, let's go over some of our best tips and tricks for perfecting your roadmap.
Keep your narrative clear
Your roadmap needs to be clear and concise, but the best ones also tell a story about why and how you organized features. This can mean adding context, extra information, and anything else that makes it easier and more approachable for non-techy users.
One way to do this is by keeping in mind your larger themes and outcomes. Linking features together based on this can help you create a narrative and keep readers' attention.
This might sound a little counter-intuitive to what we just said, but it's important to make sure you stay on track with your roadmap and don't add in any unnecessary information. By keeping your roadmap high-level, you can focus more on your strategy, goals and key themes, instead of over-loading on information about individual features and problems.
One of the most common downfalls in the product world, especially in a product's earlier stages, is setting your expectations and goals too high and biting off more than you can chew. Don't promise too much, and be realistic about what your team can accomplish in a certain time period. Looking back at prior workflows can help you have a better idea of this, but simply bringing everyone on your team in to discuss the workload can do wonders for a realistic, achievable roadmap.
Be open about what you don’t know
No one knows everything, and claiming otherwise can hurt you in the long run. Being honest about what you don't know yet can actually help you seem more trustworthy to your customers as it can humanize your product.
Keep your users in mind
You need to keep your users in mind through every step of the process, from your product plan all the way to your final product. That includes your roadmap. While this document will be helpful for your development and other internal teams too, your public roadmap is first and foremost for customers and potential clients. It's a great way to keep current users involved in your product and market yourself at the same time.
What does your product roadmap look like? Do you have any tips or tricks we missed?