Every company has a vision.
Some may want to bring massive change to the world.
Others just want to make your commute a little easier.
But all of them have a vision that they are working towards each day. And with every new feature, they get a little closer to that goal.
Companies are usually very skilled at communicating a vision to their employees and the world.
However, explaining how they are going to get to that point or take on the world, is usually lacking.
It’s relatively easy to come up with great ideas but putting those ideas into motion on a daily basis isn’t as simple.
That is why I’m such a big fan of using a product roadmap.
With a well-defined roadmap, you can show exactly what each team or individual is working on.
And at the same time, how those tasks help shape your company vision.
From planning a new ebook to implementing a whole new product. You can use a well thought out roadmap to hit all your goals.
Not sure where to start? Well, you’re in the right place!
In this article, I will show how to build the perfect one with 20+ professional product roadmap templates, tips, and examples!
Let’s get into it!
1. Do some real customer research before starting your product roadmap
I’m pretty confident that every team has a list of projects or ideas they want to work on as soon as possible. That’s great, but you also should take the time to do some in-depth customer research.
In this example from Intercom, they asked their customers why they weren’t using a certain feature. This helps them attack the root of the problem, instead of creating fixes they thought would help.
And this approach helped them create a product roadmap that focused on their customer needs, not just their ideas.
2. Present important information to all stakeholders
Most product roadmaps feature a collection of ideas from a very diverse group of stakeholders. From the marketing team to the customer success team, and even the executives.
Or if you’re working with a client, like in this product roadmap template, you’re going to have to break it down into internal and external responsibilities.
On this particular roadmap, they masterfully show how both sides are working towards a singular goal as well. This will keep everyone on the same page, and hopefully, help avoid costly mistakes.
3. Build a mind map to visualize complicated ideas or processes
Keeping things organized while you’re creating a product roadmap can be tough. And showing how all of those things are connected is even more difficult.
Especially when your roadmap has more than even a few steps or sections! Thankfully with a simple mind map, you can illustrate how everything is connected.
In this example, they use a mind map to break down a complicated process into individual steps. I’m confident that if someone were to quickly glance at this graphic they would know exactly how to follow the process.
4. Inject some of your company culture into the product roadmap template
Adding your company branding to any graphic is a great idea in my book. This approach can make any graphic, even a roadmap, feel a lot more genuine. And when you’re trying to sell your whole team on a year-long project that can be a big deal.
For example in this product roadmap template, they not only feature their brand colors but also a giant donut. This obviously fits a fun bakery extremely well.
A genuine visual approach like this can help your team feel like they are working on something that matters to the company. Instead of only checking tasks off a list.
5. Feature a timeline to help navigate your product roadmap template
If your product roadmap isn’t going to follow traditional reading principles you should definitely use a timeline. This can be a simple line or a little more complicated, like in the example above.
I can see people getting very confused while reading this roadmap without a central timeline. Especially because there’s no pattern or reason for each point to be where it is.
But with the timeline, all of the points are connected and easy to navigate.
When you’re working on a new product or project it’s often difficult to see exactly where all that hard work is going. Or even what you’re working towards each week. Especially if you aren’t involved in the day-to-day activities or familiar with the product.
That is why I like how this product roadmap assigned a deliverable for each step of the product launch. These don’t have to be set in stone, but you can use them as little milestones as you build a product.
7. Educate your customers with a tentative product roadmap
Like I said above, there are many stakeholders involved in developing a new product. However, some brands forget that customers are also stakeholders. And trust me, they are eager to stay informed.
With a simple roadmap, like in the example above, you can be extremely transparent about your business plan. And ensure that your most loyal customers know exactly what their favorite company is building.
Plus, a roadmap like this can get people excited about new products or projects that they can be a part of.
8. Use scorecards to grade each step of the product roadmap template
Some steps in your product roadmap may have different standards than all the others.
Like if you’re brainstorming ideas or working on wireframes, those don’t need to be perfect in some aspects. They’re usually just a jumping off point for other projects. But others need to be ready to be seen by the public when completed.
Use a scorecard or grading system to show what level of polish you want on each step. For example In product roadmap, they use four metrics to show what is most important for completion at that particular step.
9. Ensure experiments and tasks actually impact your product goals
I have been called overly optimistic when it comes to planning new projects or products. Now, sometimes that comes back to bite me when I realize I’m in over my head. Or it doesn’t impact the goal the way I wanted it to.
However, since I started using this sprint validator my experiments have been a lot more realistic. And best of all, I know that they will actually be goal-oriented, and help the company grow.
Go ahead and consult this validator before you add any lofty projects, experiments, or tasks to your product roadmap. It takes a few minutes to complete but will save you many hours and headaches in the future.
10. Feature icons as content or information headers
I would recommend using icons on every part of your product roadmap. They are extremely eye-catching and can be used in a variety of helpful ways.
In this example, they are visual anchors that give the content something to grab onto.
Without these well-designed icons, the written content would be floating in white space. And instead of an exciting product roadmap, it would look like another boring corporate document.
11. Estimate time frames or workload with a simple graph
Communicating how much effort or time project requires is very difficult. Something could look extremely benign on paper to an uninformed party but actually, end up taking a long time to complete.
You can combat this confusion by using a graph or chart to visualize whatever metric you care about. The designers actually do this for each project in this product roadmap template above as well.
Now even the most uninformed person can tell that Phase 6 is going to take a long time to complete.
12. Use tags to keep track of tasks, projects, and experiments
At Venngage we like to break our product roadmaps down into their smallest parts. The only problem is some of these roadmaps end up having hundreds of smaller tasks or experiments.
To keep track of all these smaller inputs we use very descriptive tags on each one. Just like on this product roadmap example from Invision.
These tags can reference the project, goal, or really anything that helps you keep them organized.
13. Turn your product roadmap into a checklist
Everyone loves a good checklist, especially when working on a long or complicated project. And this one from Larry Kim is an amazing one to reference for your product roadmap.
Not only does he break it down into colorful sections, each is very actionable and can be marked as complete. Use this approach on your roadmap to help inform everyone of the tasks that need to be completed at each stage.
There’s something extra satisfying about checking off a task, too!
14. Create a unified product roadmap template
As your company grows, the collaborations between teams usually shrink. This is commonly referred to as siloing, and it affects a ton of companies–from startups to Fortune 500 brands.
An easy way to fight back against some of those effects is to make sure everyone is on the same page. This can be achieved with a unified product roadmap template, like the example above.
Now each of the teams can see what the others are working on, and stay up to date with day to day activities.
15. Assign themes to main parts of the project roadmap
Using simple themes for each of the main sections of your roadmap can be very beneficial. These labels will allow people to see exactly where their work is making an impact from the beginning.
Breaking it down into these themes will also help readers see the whole process clearly as well. If they have to read all of the supporting information to understand the process, your roadmap isn’t going to be effective.
16. Include necessary approval steps or hurdles
A lot of the time you’re going to need to get approval from someone outside of your team while working on a product. This could be something as simple as getting sign-off on a color palette, or as complex as coordinating the launch of a new ad campaign.
And any project or deliverable that needs some sort of approval should be indicated on your product roadmap.
In the example above, you can see how there are a ton of approval hurdles that they have to navigate. But knowing that information in advance can help speed up the process significantly.
17. Take the time for weekly review and reflection
One of the most important things to realize about your product roadmap is that it’s not absolute. I’m confident that unforeseen things will come up and throw your timeline off by at least a few days.
But a simple weekly review can fight back against some of the common delays any product will face. By taking the time to review your projects and tasks, problems or delays can be spotted before they wreck your roadmap.
At Venngage we do this every week, and I would recommend that your company does as well on their product roadmap template.
18. Design a timeline-centric product roadmap
Timeline infographics are one of the easiest graphics to create and read. This is because almost everyone has interacted with or read one in the past.
You can use this familiarity to your advantage by creating a timeline-inspired roadmap. In this Pepto Bismol inspired product roadmap template, I’m confident you can follow the process almost without any directions.
Using this approach is ideal for laying out high-level projects, but I wouldn’t use it for daily experiments or tasks.
19. Add an eye-catching icon to highlight an important date or event
Icons are perfect for bringing attention to an important date or event on your product roadmap. This is because they stand out from the written content or text like a sore thumb. Your eye is drawn to things that are different from the rest, and you can use this to your advantage.
As you can see in the product roadmap template above, they use a singular star to highlight their launch date. And almost it jumps off the page!
You can use more icons to denote deadlines, review dates or really any other important event!
20. Visualize how workloads change throughout the whole roadmap
In this product roadmap example, they not only outline all of their new projects, they also show exactly how much effort they are going to need from each of their employees at each point.
As you can see in the beginning, they are obviously going to need some major input from management. But later on, they need more engineers and content editors
I really think this approach can be used to accurately plan for the future and allocate resources correctly. This can help your company avoid delays and bottlenecks as well.
21. Assign tasks and projects to specific owners
Keeping your team or employees accountable is very important. If they aren’t working towards a singular or defined goal, your product roadmap can go off the rails rather quickly.
At Venngage, we assign each project, input, and experiment to an individual. They are in charge of seeing the project through to the end and will report on any problems in the process.
This has helped us stay very true to our product roadmap, and spread the accountability around. And as you can see in this product roadmap template, each experiment or project has a specified owner.
22. Trim the roadmap down to the essential elements
There are no rules out there that say your product roadmap needs to read like a college essay. I actually like the ones that keep it brief, like this example above. Especially if you’re presenting it to people outside of your team, or with limited knowledge of the product.
Most of the time, people outside of your team aren’t going to care about the smaller details. So by taking an “essentials only” approach, you can inform without overwhelming them.
23. Give each step or project its own distinct color
In this product roadmap template, there are twelve different colors to show each section is unique. This allows the reader to quickly see that there are a bunch of individual, but somewhat related, sections on this roadmap.
Now you don’t have to use that many colors, but I would recommend assigning some distinct colors to different projects or products. It may seem insignificant, but when you’re juggling hundreds of inputs it will make the difference.
Hopefully, you found a few examples or tips that will help you build a perfect product roadmap. Because you really can’t build a great company or product without a well-defined plan.
A few of my favorite tips were:
- Do some serious background research
- Educate your customers as well as your team
- Feature icons as information anchors
- Use tags to keep track of inputs and tasks
- Assign tasks and projects to specific people
- Trim the roadmap down to its essential parts
Here at Venngage, we use a product roadmap to plan out all of our projects and ideas. And since we have started using a process like this, our productivity has exploded!
So I would wholeheartedly recommend building one for your brand or company. If you need some more tips I would check out this article as well!