UX-Driven Roadmapping: Aligning User Needs with Product Strategy

September 11, 2023

UX-driven product roadmaps are powerful tools that foster a direct connection between users’ needs and product strategy. But how can we create and execute such roadmaps effectively?

In this article, I’ll explore the practical steps to building a product roadmap that not only meets users’ needs but also ensures a product’s success by keeping the user experience at its core. So let’s get ready to dive into a roadmapping strategy that enhances user experiences, increases user satisfaction, and delivers successful business outcomes.

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What Is UX-Driven Roadmapping?

UX-driven roadmapping is a process that places the user experience at the heart of product planning and development. Its focus is user-centricity. By creating a product roadmap with a specific focus on the user experience, you can ensure that your strategic plans outline the vision, direction, and progress of a product over time.

Figure 1 demonstrates how UX research can inform UX-driven roadmapping. Rather than relying solely on business goals or technical capabilities, UX-driven roadmapping prioritizes the needs, preferences, and painpoints of actual users. It uses the data you’ve gathered by conducting UX research such as user interviews, surveys, and usability tests to inform the features and improvements that go into the product roadmap.

Figure 1—Conducting UX research to inform UX-driven roadmapping
Conducting UX research to inform UX-driven roadmapping

Image source: HubSpot

Let’s use a mobile-banking app as a simple example. Without UX-driven roadmapping, a company might decide to add features that are based on the latest technological trends or what they think customers might want—such as a budgeting tool or a new design for a dashboard. However, if users find the app difficult to navigate or feel that the new features don’t cater to their needs, they might start looking for alternative solutions.

On the other hand, with a UX-driven roadmap, a company would first endeavor to understand their users’ needs. For example, they might find that users want simpler navigation or clearer information about their transactions. Based on these insights, the product roadmap would prioritize improvements that would address these issues.

Ultimately, a UX-driven roadmapping process would ensure that continuous product improvements and refinements are based on actual user needs and feedback, which can lead to higher customer satisfaction and a more successful product.

Figure 2 shows an example of a UX roadmap that outlines future UX research and design work for a customer portal.

Figure 2—An example UX roadmap for a customer portal
An example UX roadmap for a customer portal

A UX roadmap is a strategic plan that outlines the steps and initiatives that a product or service team intends to take to improve and enhance the future user experience of their offering. It is a visual document that guides the team in creating or refining the product to make the users’ interactions more satisfying, effective, and enjoyable.

Unlike other types of roadmaps that might focus on product features, business goals, or technical requirements, a UX roadmap is user centric. It details the user-related issues that the product team needs to address and what improvements to make to the overall user experience.

How to Create a UX-Driven Roadmap?

Creating a UX-driven roadmap involves several steps, each of which is crucial in ensuring that the product aligns with the needs and expectations of its users. This step-by-step process comprises nine steps.

1. Define your objectives.

Start by identifying the business objectives or goals that you’re aiming to achieve with the product. These could be anything from increasing user engagement, to improving user retention, to reducing customer-support queries.

Example: If you’re working on an ecommerce app, one of your objectives could be to decrease the shopping-cart abandonment rate or to create a fantastic user-onboarding experience.

2. Conduct user research.

You should carry out extensive UX research to gain insights into users’ motivations, needs, behaviors, and painpoints. Research techniques could include surveys, user interviews, usability testing, and the analysis of actual user-behavior data.

Example: Your research might reveal that users of your ecommerce app are abandoning their cart because of an overly complex checkout process.

3. Create user personas.

Based on your user research, create personas that represent the users. These personas should capture key characteristics of the product’s different user groups, including their goals, challenges, and preferences. Figure 3 shows an example of a user persona.

Figure 3—A user persona
A user persona

Image source: UX Collective on Medium, by Emma Coulthard

4. Identify UX goals.

Defining UX goals involves translating both broader business objectives and your insights from user research into actionable plans for improving the user experience. UX goals should directly address users’ painpoints, improve their overall experience with the product, and align with business objectives.

Consider the user research that you’ve conducted. What common issues have users identified? What do users need or want from the product that they’re not yet getting? Look for trends in your data that point to areas where the user experience needs improvement.

Example: Let’s consider that ecommerce app again. Through user feedback, we’ve identified that the checkout process is overly complicated, leading to shopping-cart abandonment. Our UX goal, therefore, should be to simplify the checkout process, making it more user friendly and easy to learn. This specific UX goal not only addresses a user painpoint but also aligns with our business objective to reduce cart-abandonment rates.

5. Prioritize features and improvements.

Once you’ve identified the UX goals, it’s time to generate a list of potential features and improvements that could help achieve them. This process involves brainstorming with your team, conducting a competitive analysis, and revisiting user feedback for inspiration.

However, not all ideas for features and improvements can or should be implemented at once, so it’s important to prioritize them based on such factors as the following:

  • user impact—How significantly would this feature or improvement affect the user experience?
  • business value—How much value would this feature or improvement bring to the business in terms of objectives that you’ve met or its return on investment (ROI)?
  • feasibility—What resources—such as time, budget, and personnel—would be necessary to implement this feature or improvement? Is it feasible considering the current constraints?

One popular method of prioritization is the RICE Scoring Model (Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort). This model can help you to calculate a score for each feature or improvement, which you can then use to prioritize your list.

6. Create a UX map.

A UX map, or customer journey map, is a comprehensive visual representation of the user’s journey through your product. It identifies the different touchpoints the user has with your product and the user’s actions, thoughts, and emotions at each stage. This map highlights areas where users experience friction, encounter errors, or become confused, which are the potential areas for improvement.

Creating a UX map requires a deep understanding of the user personas and users’ interactions with your product. You’ll need to outline the various stages of their journey, from the moment they first engage with the product to their achieving their goals. You should also highlight users’ emotional state at each stage. Are users confused, delighted, or frustrated?

A UX map can help you visualize the user experience, understand the context of user interactions, and pinpoint areas in the user journey that need improvement, as Figure 4 shows.

Figure 4—An example customer-journey map
An example customer-journey map

Image source: Qualtrics

7. Build your roadmap.

Once you’ve identified your UX goals, prioritized the features, and created your UX map, you can begin building your UX-driven roadmap. This roadmap can serve as a strategic plan for the product’s user-experience enhancements over a given period. Your roadmap should clearly outline the following:

  • your UX goals
  • the features and improvements that can help achieve those goals
  • a tentative timeline that indicates when you’ll implement each feature or improvement

Remember, while it’s important to stick to your roadmap, it should be flexible. User needs can change over time, new technologies can emerge, or business objectives can shift. Regularly review and revise your roadmap as necessary to reflect such changes.

8. Share and review your roadmap.

Once you’ve developed your UX-driven roadmap, it’s important to share it with the product team and business stakeholders. This includes everyone from developers and designers to marketing personnel and company executives. Marketing can share tips they’ve discovered by regularly interacting with customers and observing the markets. Encourage them to provide feedback and suggestions.

By involving all stakeholders, you can ensure that your product team has a shared understanding of the product’s UX goals and makes a coordinated effort to achieve them. Plus, this fosters a culture of transparency, ensuring that everyone is on the same page regarding the product’s direction and objectives.

As you gather feedback and make necessary adjustments, remember that your UX-driven roadmap is a living document. It should evolve with your product, users’ needs, and market trends. Regularly reviewing and updating your roadmap ensures that it remains relevant and can effectively guide your UX strategy.

9. Iterate and update your roadmap.

A UX-driven roadmap isn’t a one-and-done document. It’s a dynamic plan that you should regularly review and update based on user feedback, changes in business objectives, or new insights from ongoing user research. By following this process, you can create a UX-driven roadmap that ensures your product strategy aligns with users’ needs and leads to a more engaging, successful product.

While it is important to review your UX-driven roadmap regularly, there is no set rule for how often you should do this. The frequency depends on various factors, including the nature of your product, the pace of change in your industry, and the feedback cycle from users. However, it’s also good practice to align your roadmap-review process with your product’s development cycles or any major business-planning activities.

Final Thoughts

In wrapping up this deep dive into UX-driven roadmapping, it’s important to recognize that understanding and implementing this approach is just the beginning. The real journey begins when you start applying these principles to the product-development process, continuously adapting and improving it to meet users’ needs effectively.

Remember, your users should be at the heart of the product-development process, and your commitment to meeting users’ needs can be the distinguishing factor that sets your product apart in today’s competitive landscape. So, get started on your UX-driven roadmap, but don’t stop there. Foster a culture that promotes ongoing user research, feedback, and design iteration within your team. 

Founder & CEO at Inturact

Houston, Texas, USA

Trevor HatfieldTrevor founded Inturact, a company that provides business-to-business (B2B), software-as-a-service (SaaS) user-onboarding and customer-onboarding solutions. These products help SaaS companies identify and solve actual product-onboarding problems, reduce risk, and provide a clear path to increases in paid conversions and better customer retention.  Read More

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