The launch of a new product or feature is a stressful time for a company, particularly Product Managers. You want your launch to be a success and act as a springboard for new deals - but for that to happen your team needs to decide which strategies to execute and which to ditch.
The end result of that is a launch roadmap: a doc that details the tasks and timelines behind getting users interacting with your new feature or product.
A roadmap will make it easier to identify your goals, set out your strategy, and designate tasks to different teams and members. It sounds like this one document has a lot to cover, but with a designer or just a good roadmap maker, you can design a product roadmap that will help you implement your launch strategy and get members aligned around a single source of truth.
Here are a few tips on how to create the product launch roadmap that your new release deserves.
Start with Customer Research
Your product roadmap is focused on a specific goal: the launch of your product. But getting there requires the feedback of a number of people, and chief among them are your customers.
Though this may seem like a labor-intensive task, your product launch will not be complete without asking your customers for their thoughts on what you have produced so far, and what they wish you would do differently.
Chameleon adds beta users of new products and features to its Slack instance to have a direct line of communication for support, bug hunting, and - as a great end result - improving feature adoption among beta users.
Have you had customers who weren’t happy with how a product worked? Find out before creating your roadmap. Knowing what makes customers happy will help you organize your launch and the further development of the product itself.
The above example of a customer journey outlines what the process for customers is now and how it can be changed in the future. A chart like this could be the launching point for creating your roadmap.
Actionable Roadmap Goals
With customer research complete, you also need to think about what kinds of goals you have to outline for your product roadmap. But, more importantly, you need to decide what does and doesn’t impact your overall goal.
💡 Chameleon has put together a series of best-practice product/feature launch goals here to make this section even easier.
A little bit of analysis is needed for this phase of your roadmap. Find out how to set effective sales goals and list out how you want to achieve them. What are the resources you will need, and how much effort and man-hours are required to reach this goal? You can then understand what tasks you have to undertake to achieve those goals.
Once you have the answers to these questions, you can decide whether or not you want to work towards your goals in this particular manner or not.
Organizing Your Roadmap Template
Check out their article for a great product roadmap overview!
Once you have chosen a roadmap template or format that suits your needs, you can add your brand identity. According to the latest branding statistics, branding is a necessity for both external and internal company communications. And, it's particularly important for launches since they often involve employees and customers.
With your branding in place, you should be looking at choosing a select set of icons as a visual reference in your product roadmap. Icons are a simple, yet poignant tool for sharing and organizing information effectively. Icons also remove the need for adding long paragraphs to explain a subject, as you can see in the example below.
Expand the Roadmap Color Palette
Visuals like icons help better with recall, as do colors. Using a set of contrasting colors in your roadmap will make information stand out and lead to people remembering points better.
You can also use colors to demarcate sections or phases of the product launch. This will make it easier for your readers to access the section most relevant to them.
Alongside a varied color palette, you should also use shades of colors, especially if you only have access to a limited color palette. You can see in the roadmap below how shades of a single color have been used to create sections.
By using shades of the same color, you can expand the number of colors you can use, while still remaining minimalist.
Create a Roadmap Index
An index provides brief description of what the roadmap is, what ideas you are looking to implement, and outlines the various phases. You can choose to show this in a variety of ways: as a standard index, a timeline, a mind map, graphs, or as a table.
For anyone reading your roadmap, an index will ease them into the project and give them the lay of the land before they begin working.
Add Milestone Highlights
A product roadmap doc is likely to cover a lot of information! If you want to hold your reader's attention, you need to make the document skimmable.
The modern human is increasingly busier and more overloaded with information than even, and our attention spans have decreased as a result. We're used to skimming over headlines in our social media feeds, and quickly scanning through any articles we do click on.
Add visual heirachy to your roadmap by pinpointing the salient points you need readers to focus on and highlighting them. You can achieve this in a number of ways - you can use bold or italics, break sections down to include more subheadings, or underline key phrases so they are immediately noticeable, as you can see in the example below.
What you will also have noticed is that these highlights don’t only extend to headings or subheadings; you could emphasize different words and phrases within the body text of your product roadmap. This will ensure that your readers know exactly what is the most pertinent information they need to get from that section.
Add Calls to Action
Your product roadmap will have sections that are relevant to some staff members, but not others. But you don’t want the employees who aren’t involved in every step of the product launch to miss key deadlines or deliverables, which is why you need to include calls to action across your roadmap.
Instead of focusing on one end goal—the launch of the actual product—break down your phases into smaller goals and include a call to action for each of them.
For every phase of the project, include a section about what needs to be achieved or produced by the end of it. Use the aforementioned ways of highlighting text to make this call to action stand out to the reader.
Including calls to action every step of the way will make the end goal feel more achievable, while also making your roadmap relevant to those who may not be involved in every aspect of the launch.
Visualize Product Launch Timelines
A great way to structure your roadmap is by creating a timeline. Using a simple timeline maker tool, you can design a timeline that shows every step of your product launch with the amount of time required for each phase. You can also include what needs to be achieved within each phase.
You can see in this timeline roadmap below how each step towards the goal has been clearly outlined.
A timeline is a great way to show a project at a high level so everyone has a clear understanding of what needs to be achieved and by when.
Use a Checklist
Aside from timelines, checklists are another great tool to use in your product roadmap. Checklists break down a massive project, like a product launch, into smaller actionable tasks that can be achieved and marked off when completed.
A checklist will require some work to create as it needs bigger goals to be broken down into its minutest components. But once that part is decided, the checklist will make it so much easier for everyone involved in the project to manage their workload.
Look at this checklist below which breaks down a marketing campaign into smaller, achievable tasks.
Checklists also make the product manager’s job better; they will no longer need to keep following up with colleagues about whether or not tasks have been completed. A quick glance at the checklist will tell you everything you need to know, so you can move on to the next task. Using a specialized tool like ProductPlan also makes sharing a roadmap overview an easy task.
Include Dates Updated
A project as big as a product launch will require many hands to be involved from multiple different dfeparments. Not everyone will be privy to changes or updates made to the plan—and we all know that plans are constantly subject to change. You don’t want someone to be working off of redundant information, but you can hardly email every single person about every slight change.
This is why your product roadmap needs to have a section that includes the date it was last updated. This doesn’t need to be overly large or interfere with your design. You can choose to tuck it away in a corner—but make it visible enough that everyone can easily notice it when they look at the roadmap.
The important thing to remember is that everyone is looking to this one document for their workflow so they need to know when things have changed. A key aspect of project management skills is ensuring that everyone is onboard and in the know at all times. Adding a small note about the date it was last updated will make it easier for everyone to work, and save you the hassle of coordinating endless email exchanges.
With a few key tasks, you can create a roadmap that is succinct, informative, and goal-oriented. You need to do a little bit of research, make sure that your roadmap is easy to skim through without losing out on the salient features of the project, and keep in mind that the ever-changing nature of a live project needs to be reflected.
The building blocks of a strong plan can be found within a product roadmap, and that will help you create a successful product launch.
All images sourced from Venngage.
Guest contribution from Ronita Mohan
Ronita Mohan is a content marketer at Venngage, the online infographic and design platform. Ronita is interested in a variety of topics related to digital marketing, visual content, and online engagement, which she enjoys researching and writing about. Follow @Venngage on Twitter.