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How to make your product roadmap a success: 5 best practices

Product roadmaps are a powerful tool for product teams. The simple act of creating one adds direction to your work. And using one well—in a user-centric and collaborative way—transforms your organization’s momentum. 

Last updated

5 Sep 2022

Product roadmap best practices help you get the most out of your strategy to manage and prioritize your backlog. Whether you’re about to create your first product roadmap or want to improve your current systems, this guide takes you through five actionable product roadmap tips to align your company around shared goals and get customers excited about your product's future.

Let users show you the way

Hotjar’s Heatmaps, Recordings, Surveys, and Feedback connect you with user experiences that guide your product roadmap.

5 product roadmap best practices to keep you in tune with user needs

New product initiatives inspire creativity and hope—but ideas don't always live up to expectations. 

If you’ve ever had a product roadmap experience that wasn’t as effective or enjoyable as you expected, no worries: implement these product roadmap best practices to turn your strategy around, or to create a new product roadmap with a strong foundation. 

1. Work on product discovery and delivery simultaneously 

You create your product roadmap with assumptions, data, goals, and priorities, but the user experience and product management are ever-changing.

Product teams have to balance the needs of both internal stakeholders and users, which means you have to make time for continuous discovery and delivery.

Continuous discovery is the active, ongoing process of looking for new user experience insights to inform product changes. Discovery is inherently user-centric and curious, so you’ll uncover new ideas to make data-informed product decisions in the future. 

You can prioritize continuous discovery through tasks like:

Continuous delivery is your product team’s ability to quickly, frequently, and sustainably launch product changes and updates like new features and bug fixes. As a bonus, continuous delivery gives you fresh opportunities to test and learn each time you develop an update or feature. 

Both continuous discovery and delivery move your product forward, so each deserves a place in your product roadmap process, using a dual-track product development strategy.

Even the most intentional product roadmaps can steer in a new direction as you release initiatives and collect user feedback. Discovery and delivery work together to move your product forward.

2. Consider both vision and strategy

As you build and use your product roadmap, remember to make room for your vision and strategy:

  • A vision keeps you focused on an outcome, while strategies move you toward the end goal

  • A vision lives at the top of your roadmap, while strategies live within it

 Let’s explore.

Your product roadmap vision is the outcome or impact of the product as a whole. You could ask yourself, “what do we want users to achieve?” or “how do we help users?” to determine your product vision

For example, Hotjar’s product vision is “giving our customers the insights they need to create experiences their users love”.

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Product roadmap strategies are the product initiatives and features you’ll use to achieve the vision. Ask yourself, “what features do users need to accomplish their tasks in our product?” or “what initiatives will help different user segments complete their jobs-to-be-done (JTBD)?”

For example, one Hotjar product strategy we’re using to reach our vision is to include ready-made in-app survey templates that make collecting user feedback fast and easy. (And we're well on our way! Log in to your Hotjar account today and navigate to Surveys to test a template or two on your site.)

Product roadmap strategies are the product initiatives and features you’ll use to achieve the vision. Ask yourself, “what features do users need to accomplish their tasks in our product?” or “what initiatives will help different user segments complete their jobs-to-be-done (JTBD)?”

For example, one Hotjar product strategy we’re using to reach our vision is to include ready-made in-app survey templates that make collecting user feedback fast and easy. (And we're well on our way! Log in to your Hotjar account today and navigate to Surveys to test a template or two on your site.)

#Our product roadmap has a list of strategies that support the guiding vision.
Our product roadmap has a list of strategies that support the guiding vision.

3. Use diverse user experience insights

Your product exists to serve your users, so you need to keep their goals, preferences, and experiences top of mind. Understanding users is an ongoing task, though.

You need to gather multiple data types, source feedback from all customer segments, and research over time to get a complete product experience picture.

A combination of general performance and user-level details give you context to make the best decisions. 

For example, traditional analytics can show you that a particular landing page has a high abandon rate and low conversion rate. But you need more information to understand why this problem exists and what to doabout it. To find out, you could use product experience insights tools—like feedback widgets and session recordings—to identify the exact issue, understand your users' blockers and pain points, and create a better experience.

This multi-faceted approach is how conversion rate optimization (CRO) agency The Good boosted conversion rates for its client, Swiss Gear. First, the agency used Google Analytics to audit Swiss Gear’s entire funnel. Then, they used Hotjar Heatmaps to bring quantitative data to life and Recordings to see the user experience in real-time. 

The team at The Good created user personas based on the insights they got from heatmaps and session recordings for further product development and testing. As a result of insights from Hotjar and their user-centric updates, The Good’s content optimizations increased revenue per visit on Swiss Gear’s mobile site by 28%.

#The Good watched real user interactions to find ways to improve website conversions.
The Good watched real user interactions to find ways to improve website conversions.

4. Consider multiple variables for product prioritization  

Every stakeholder and team member may have an opinion on your upcoming product initiatives. While the amount of input in every product prioritization decision can be overwhelming, you need to consider multiple variables to make decisions that balance user and company needs

Factors that influence your product roadmap include: 

A product prioritization framework makes these decisions easier. Having a go-to strategy for considering all angles takes the guesswork and pressure out of decision-making. Frameworks also help you get buy-in by articulating why you made the decision.

Pro-tip: customize your product prioritization framework

Our product prioritization framework guide includes four common models for decision-making:

  1. RICE

  2. MoSCoW

  3. Kano

  4. Cost of delay analysis

Andrei Beno, a Senior Growth Product Manager at Hotjar, suggests:

“Any team that’s just getting started with prioritization frameworks should use an existing one as a base and tailor it to make it their own.”

5. Pick a planning tool that fits your team and work style

You’ll need a central place to collaborate on your product roadmap, and the best product roadmap tools and software are the ones your team will use routinely. Remember: a well-loved post-it note collection is better than a specialized tool that collects digital dust. 

Choosing the right product roadmap tool depends on how your team works. For example:

You can always start slow if you’re unsure about creating a collaborative product roadmap. Try working within and across teams on smaller tasks before you spend a week creating a complex roadmap that people aren’t sure how to use.

#Four Kanban-style product roadmaps from Hotjar, Prisma, MUI, and Craft CMS
Four Kanban-style product roadmaps from Hotjar, Prisma, MUI, and Craft CMS

Keep your users close with product experience insights

Creating and growing a product is a personal experience. If your product is the taxi that takes users where they want to go, you wouldn't dream of driving off without asking their destination first.

The best ways to remain user-centric while you build and implement your product roadmap are to talk to and observe your users, then share what you learn with your team. 

User insights help you act on what’s true—not assumed—so you can make effective decisions quickly. Data-informed decisions set your product roadmap trajectory (and adjust your course), so your plans stay true to user needs.

Learn from users to advocate for users

The best way to support users is to understand their perspective with Hotjar’s user experience insights.

Frequently asked questions