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Five Steps to a Stellar Product Roadmap: Part One

Tony Scherba
December 9, 2019

We all know how vital a detailed product roadmap is to the creation of a great product. Without the shared understanding of vision, direction and priorities it provides, it can be impossible to keep everyone on your team pointed in the right direction.

Unfortunately, while many teams understand that getting their product roadmap right is a critical step in creating a successful product, they often mistakenly jump into creating solutions before thoroughly exploring the problem. These teams fail to understand that it’s the roadmapping pre-work that creates a truly standout end result.

To help the teams we work with truly understand their product's reason for being, we always host a product roadmapping workshop to lay the groundwork for the roadmap itself. We spend this strategy session defining the problem we want to solve and for whom we are solving it, considering solutions and working together to choose the best solution.

These workshops also allow our clients and stakeholders to fully flesh out their business goals, understand their competition and define metrics that will establish success.

We’ve found the following steps to be integral pre-work to creating an exceptional product roadmap:

1. Define your User Personas

A user persona is a fictional representation of your products ideal user. It captures their intent and the various factors that may contribute to their use of the product. It’s important for you to understand what your products ideal user struggles with and what it is they are trying to achieve, and well crafted user personas help you build an understanding of who you are designing the product for.

The first step of your workshop should be defining these user personas. If you have an established user base you should research your demographics prior to the workshop and bring as much information as possible with you to help in crafting them. If, on the other hand, your product is not yet established, you can create your user personas by determining who is most affected by the problems you are solving and needs the solutions you are creating.

Empathy Mapping

In order to get to the heart of your user persona, your team should collaborate on an empathy mapping activity. The following exercise will challenge your assumptions about your product’s ideal user and help identify their wants, needs and motivations in a way that typical interviews can't.

  1. On a whiteboard, draw a head and label each part in terms of how it controls the intake or output of sensory information(Think & Feel, Hear, See, Say & Do.)

  2. Create a familiar identity for the drawing based on the characteristics of an ideal user for the new product that is being  designed.

  3. Imagine this user in a context that might prompt him or her to think about your product. Using sticky notes, give each team member a few minutes to write down everything the user might be experiencing while using your product, starting with what the user is thinking and working your way through each of the functions.

  4. A facilitator should  then consolidate the sticky notes and looks for overlaps in responses, identifying  common themes that could spur the generation of new ideas.

Using all of your combined knowledge and common threads, synthesize one final user persona. It should include a name, age, and description, including the users overall goals, influences and feelings. It’s important to be specific - if you are building your product for too many people, you are building it for no one at all.

For more help with creating your user personas, you can download our User Persona Template and Guide!

2. User Journey Mapping

Your next step is to create a user journey map. A user journey map documents the path and actions your typical user will take when using your product, including how they will be introduced to it, and when and why they will use it.

Creating a user journey map allows you to understand how your ideal user will experience your product from start to finish. It documents the value the product will provide for its users, allowing you to understand their motivations in using it and ensure you are meeting their expectations.

You can create your user journey map in 7 steps:

  1. Review and discuss your user persona:
    Get clear on the users internal motivations and the value they will receive in using the product.

  2. Create Storyboards: Each member of the team should sketch out the frames of the user’s story including how they are introduced to the product and how they will use it. Avoid drawing interfaces - this step is about establishing the actual jobs the interfaces will perform. Once complete, each storyboard should be presented to the team.

  3. Create a Master Storyboard: Once all of the storyboards have been presented come to a consensus, iron out the details and create your master storyboard.

  4. Combine your User Journey’s: If you have multiple user personas, track the points at which your user’s will interact and hand off data. A service design blueprint is helpful for this.
  1. Identify and document the unknowns: More complex products withing larger organizations will have areas that require further investigation and communication with other departments. Document and assign these tasks to be completed as soon as possible.

  2. Identify pain points and opportunities: Go through the user journey you have created and identify pain points, or areas that may cause frustration for your users. These pain points often turn into design opportunities, allowing you to connect with your users.

  3. Formalize: Take some time to organize and format your user journey map. It should clearly outline all the steps your users will talk, along with the pain points and opportunities you will design for.

For more help with your user journey map, check out our User Journey Map Template and Guide!

Check out
Part Two of this blog series, featuring Ideation, Prioritization, and Roadmapping!

Tony Scherba is a CEO + Founding Partner at Yeti. Tony has been developing software since high school and has worked on digital products for global brands such as Google, MIT, Qualcomm, Hershey’s, Britney Spears and Harmon/Kardon. Tony’s writing about innovation and technology has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post and Inc. At Yeti, Tony works on strategy, product design and day to day operations, hopping in and working with the development teams when needed. Follow Tony on Twitter.

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