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A problem well stated is a problem half solved.
– Charles Kettering
A Product Manager dons numerous hats – that of a skilled negotiator, a conflict resolver, a smart bargainer, a product visionary, a smooth communicator, and so on. But the most important role this individual plays is that of a problem solver. So yes, for a Product Manager, there’s no sweeter feeling than that of a problem being solved. A UX roadmap is the one tool that helps them create a product that provides for the users’ needs and stems frustration.
Call it usability or ease of use, UX has been a driving factor in business success. Good user experience is the common denominator in several success parameters such as increased productivity, reduced errors, and saved costs on training. As a result, it is an essential skill in the arsenal of a Product Manager.
What is a UX roadmap and isn’t the design team in charge of it?
According to NN, a UX roadmap is a strategic, living artifact that aligns, prioritizes, and communicates a UX team’s future work and problems to solve. User experience is not just the responsibility of the design team, it encompasses the whole organization. UX is what determines if the resultant product will actually be of value to the users and how that will ultimately impact the company’s fortunes. The user experience roadmap is what precedes the design and development of the digital product.
Since Product Managers are in charge of developing a vision for the product, they have to also be well-acquainted with what user experience actually means. Although UX goals and objectives encompass usability, visual design, interactions, microcopy tonality, etc., this outcome-based roadmap is what contains the bird’s eye view of things to come in order of priority.
Things to do before creating a UX roadmap
- Conduct UX discovery and strategy workshops every quarter to uncover the right user needs and pain points.
- Use the data and insights gathered from these workshops to create the goals that will be a part of the UX roadmap.
- Create a high-level timeline for completing those goals. These timelines should take into account the time required for unanticipated and expected challenges, iteration, and testing prototypes. This ensures that the goals are set against a reasonable timeline and accounts for all the necessary UX functions.
Create a 3-step UX roadmap
Successful user experience strategies and roadmaps are all about researching and acknowledging the constraints and concerns from all sides. A UX roadmap is the guiding star of the project which helps the designers, researchers, developers, and stakeholders align around a single vision and set of priorities. A good product roadmap is made up of high-level goals to accomplish, such as increasing productivity numbers or reducing design debt and how to prioritize them.
Here’s how to get started.
Step 1: List out high-level needs
- Who is going to be the recipients of this experience? (customers, employees, third-party users)
- What is the problem that is to be solved? (improved productivity, faster query resolution)
Step 2: List out the high-level goals
Objectives (reducing design debt, simplifying onboarding, etc.)
Step 3: Set a timeline for reviews
Review timeline (monthly, quarterly, half-yearly)
Defining a successful UX roadmap
Roadmaps are successful when they make realistic promises, value functionality over pretty visuals, or are strategic documents instead of feature-specific release plans. Successful UX roadmaps can be defined by the following characteristics –
User research is the foundation
Being user-oriented is the basic need of any UX-related activity, and roadmaps are no different. Consider the goals in the roadmap as user problems to solve; problems that have been outlined from qualitative and quantitative user research exercises. The goals in the roadmap, both, present and future, should only and only be research-based and not derived from stakeholder hunches.
User-first, and not feature-first
Most importantly, outcomes should be prioritized over outputs. Refrain from listing specific features as goals in the roadmap (making a specific button more visible), stick to the high-level priorities (creating a unified design library). Listing specific features in the roadmap only causes mismatched objectives and may disrupt iteration flows.
Based on the right context
Roadmaps should be a part of the company’s large-scale UX strategy. Placing the goals in the right context frames the meaning and use of the roadmap, therefore, it can be understood by all stakeholders.
Ongoing and collaborative
A UX roadmap is essentially a prototype for the future UX strategy. Thus, it is important to set it straight that goals on the roadmap will change as new variables and insights emerge. An ideal roadmap is a collaborative exercise between multiple stakeholders, including the product team, the designers, developers, SMEs, and users. In fact, this collaboration is what can give it the right support and buy-in.
A UX roadmap is essentially a strategic document. It is a point of guidance for designers, researchers, developers, and stakeholders to define, prioritize, and then align future work towards the UX team’s vision.