In an agile world, product teams continuously ship products to deliver business value. As they provide new solutions to the market, they discover new ways to improve user experience. To keep track of these areas of improvement, UX teams rely on UX roadmaps.
This article will discuss all you need to know about UX roadmaps, including their features and how to create them. Here's what we'll cover:
- What are UX roadmaps?
- Why do product teams need UX roadmaps?
- UX roadmaps vs. product roadmaps
- The challenge with creating UX roadmaps?
- How to build UX roadmaps
What are UX Roadmaps?
A UX roadmap is a prioritized list of users' needs and pain points, plus an action plan to address these concerns. Think of it as the North Star that provides strategic direction regarding the ultimate user experience you want to create for your target audience.
A UX roadmap is based on high-level priorities drawn from user research insights. While it is commonly structured as a list, a UX roadmap can also be a spreadsheet, slide deck, or even a bunch of sticky notes—really, there are no strict rules.
Features of UX Roadmaps
- UX roadmaps are user-centered and based on user research
- They are part of a larger product strategy
- A UX roadmap serves as a prototype for future processes and UX improvements.
Why Do Product Teams Need UX Roadmaps?
Imagine setting out on a journey with a group of friends, but no one has the exact idea of the destination or how to get there—they simply know they're out on a trip. Chances are, halfway down the road, someone might ask the team to turn back or even make a random stop.
Sounds chaotic, yea?
Like planning a fun trip with friends, product development requires a well-laid-out UX roadmap from the get-go. This high-level overview sets the pace for plans and goals relating to a product's user experience, user interface, and user research.
Without this, some members of your product team will likely focus on the wrong priorities. For example, they might spend time-solving problems that have no real impact on the overall user experience.
Specifically, a user roadmap:
- Aligns the work of the UX team with strategic goals and priorities of the business
- Gives product teams customer-tested features for delivery
- Keeps business stakeholders informed on the progress and plan of action
- Helps teams to prioritize users' needs, experience, and usability in the early stages of the project
- Enables stakeholders to evaluate the impact of different product development stages on user experience
UX Roadmap vs. Product Roadmap: What's the Difference?
If you did a rough Google search for “UX roadmaps,” you'd see a handful of results mentioning product roadmaps. In some cases, both concepts are used interchangeably as if they refer to the same idea. But this is hardly the case.
So what's the big difference between a UX roadmap and a product roadmap? Several lines exist between these concepts in terms of goals, inputs, and outcomes. Let's discuss them in detail.
A UX roadmap primarily seeks to improve user experience and overall usability. It spells out high-level priorities that help you to solve users' needs and pain points.
On the other hand, a product roadmap defines the direction of a product offering, including its core feature list. In other words, product roadmaps focus on feature development.
A UX roadmap depends on user research insights, while a product roadmap is built based on feature requests and product improvement data.
Product teams depend on UX roadmaps for creating user-centered solutions and validated designs. On the other hand, a product roadmap helps you arrive at a detailed delivery timeline for new product features.
Understanding how these concepts differ gives you a clearer idea of their roles in helping product teams ship out solutions with the right features that address users’ pain points. For example, the product roadmap enables you to manage the engineering side of things while the UX roadmap takes care of the design work.
The Challenge with Creating UX Roadmaps
Unlike going on a fun trip with friends, creating UX roadmaps wouldn't leave you bouncing off the walls. Lots of work goes into conducting user research, deriving insights, and ultimately getting the buy-in from decision-making stakeholders.
Keeping Track of Customer Learnings
Synthesizing large volumes of user research data can be a chore. It's hard to keep track of customer learnings when they're scattered in bits and pieces all over the place.
Epiphany's insight management tool can help here. It allows you to organize key customer learnings in a central database and access them in real time.
On its own, user research data can only do so much. The real power lies in extracting relevant insights to help you understand user behavior.
Unfortunately, when writing insight statements, many researchers simply regurgitate facts, figures, and findings that say nothing about users' experiences. A good insight statement inspires product ideation by sharing new information about customers' experiences.
Getting Stakeholder Buy-in
Getting the decision-makers on your team is usually the hardest knot to crack. Many user experience teams miss the mark when aligning key decision-makers with the action plan.
Stakeholders aren't impressed by fancy features or UX jargon. Instead, they want to know how your proposed ideas, roadmap, and solutions lead to profitability. It is almost impossible to get support from key decision-makers if you cannot tie your findings to specific business goals.
Here are a few hacks to help you push through this challenge:
- Understand the role of each stakeholder
- Streamline your communication
- Emphasize how the project ties to key business goals
- Ensure that the stakeholders understand their role in the project's success
- Back up any claims with data—statistics, facts, figures, and findings
How to Build UX Roadmaps
All UX roadmaps have the same fundamental structure—the context dimension and themes.
The context dimension communicates the full scope of the project in terms of timelines, ownership, and high-level goals. On the other hand, the themes cover the project's focus areas, priority tasks, and problems to be solved.
Now that you've got the hang of that, let's dive into building UX roadmaps from scratch.
Bring Customer Learnings to One Place
It's nearly impossible to keep track of things when you have a lot of data scattered around. You will miss important information at some point.
The first thing you need to do is gather all your customer information in one place. A user research database can help you organize key insights and findings.
Organize Opportunities Uncovered into Themes
As you look through customer learnings, you will discover patterns that lead to product opportunities, like recurring pain points. Most product teams get carried away here and dump these opportunities into the UX roadmap in their raw form. Expectedly, this turns the roadmap on its head.
So what do you do?
Instead of an "idea dump,” consider organizing product opportunities into the theme dimension of your UX roadmap. A theme helps you communicate product opportunities in terms of ownership, business outcomes, and beneficiaries.
Organizing opportunities uncovered into themes allows you to examine ideas critically. In the end, you might realize that an opportunity you were psyched about doesn't solve any real problem.
Prioritize the Pain Points to Address Based on Business Benefits
Remember what we said about getting key stakeholder buy-in? This is where it comes in.
As much as you want to solve core problems for users, you must ensure that these pain points align with specific business outcomes. Of course, this doesn't mean sacrificing product/market fit on the altar of profitability. Instead, it's about aligning the organization's objectives with pain point solutions.
For example, if the organization's Q3 goal is increased user engagement, it is wise to focus on a pain point tied to this objective. Think of it this way: By solving X problems for the user, the company achieves y goals.
Validate Solutions with Users
Before becoming invested in an idea and adding it to your UX roadmap, take some time to validate this solution with your target market.
There are many ways to pull this off. For example, you can send a survey to a small group of your target audience to gather real-time feedback. If possible, sneak in an incentive or two to encourage participants.
Engage the Team
Collaborating with cross-functional teams requires putting in extra effort for seamless communication. As things progress, everyone needs to be abreast of information at all times.
While working on the UX roadmap, you need to ensure that your design and dev teams are on the same page.
The most effective way to achieve this is by sharing user insights regularly. Epiphany enables UX teams to integrate user research insights into the product planning process easily.
Track your Progress
Stay on top of things as they move from one stage to another. And don't forget to celebrate your wins too!
Tracking your progress enables you to discover loopholes and lapses and make iterations along the way. At the same time, it provides real-time data for aligning product stakeholders around the plan of action.
A well-laid-out UX roadmap sets up your product team for success. By providing high-level direction, UX roadmaps help you evaluate opportunities to improve the user experience before implementation.
With Epiphany, it's even easier to organize user research, create visual UX roadmaps, and align product stakeholders around user experience action plans.