Are you having trouble aligning your UX efforts with your overall product vision? Roadmaps could be the solution!
Roadmaps that include UX work can help align efforts with the overall product vision. These come in three scopes: product, field, and specialty. Product roadmaps include all future problems to be solved and require collaboration across multiple departments. Field roadmaps focus on all future UX problems and educate stakeholders on user-centered design processes. Specialty roadmaps focus on a specific UX area and help communicate bandwidth and resource allocation. The scope of each roadmap should match the desired benefits.
A roadmap is a comprehensive plan that outlines a team’s future goals and objectives and guides decision-making and prioritization. It is a living document that keeps the team aligned and focused on a shared vision. It is not meant to track the progress of specific tasks but rather to communicate the overall direction and purpose of a team’s work. Roadmap items are often open-ended, representing a range of possible projects and activities that have yet to be fully defined.
Understanding the three scopes of roadmap that include UX work, i.e., product, field, and specialty, and when to use them, can help focus your process, effort, and goals.
First, let’s discuss the broadest type of roadmap, the product roadmap. These roadmaps represent all problems that need to be solved, including UX, marketing, content, research, development, and support or operations. This is the most labor-intensive type of roadmap as it requires collaboration across multiple departments, for example, product management, user experience, engineering, content strategy, customer success, and even marketing. Product roadmaps capture a strategic vision across an entire product because everyone is involved.
Product roadmaps have three main benefits. First, they force cross-functional collaboration by facilitating significant discussions and creating co-ownership across disciplines. Second, they create a shared mental model of a vision as a shared visual representation of future effort. And last, they break down department silos. We can see how our work relates to other departments’ work because this roadmap includes all problems, not just UX ones. It communicates relationships, dependencies, and the role our work plays in the greater vision.
Next, we have field roadmaps. These represent all problems to be solved by UX, for example, design, research, and content, but they do not include problems outside of UX, like marketing, development, and support. Field roadmaps provide a way to align across UX areas and educate stakeholders on user-centered design processes.
There are two primary benefits of field roadmaps. First, they help bridge UX areas by interweaving objectives from all UX areas into one visual. For example, the design team can see what the research team is tackling. The roadmap enables general awareness and fosters cross-pollination. For example, designers can observe research relevant to their future work. The second benefit is communicating the UX design process to stakeholders. While a user-centered design approach is second nature for most UX practitioners, many teams still need to educate their stakeholders on what it means to design user-first. A field roadmap communicates the design process from early discovery work to content creation to wireframing because future UX work is clearly articulated and prioritized.
Last, we have specialty roadmaps. These are a subset of field roadmaps and only focus on one UX area, for example, user research. Specialty roadmaps can cover multiple products or product features but will only ever include efforts only related to that roadmap’s specialty. This type of minimal granularity roadmap is most common in small teams or organizations with a low bandwidth, for example, when an individual operates as a team of one or wants to contribute to the strategic approach of their personal work. There are three primary benefits to specialty roadmaps. First, they help communicate bandwidth and resource allocation. Second, they unite and align team members within one UX area and are the easiest and quickest to create due to their scoped nature, especially if the creator is the primary owner. Collaboration isn’t required, and far fewer politics are involved than in creating product or field roadmaps.
Specialty roadmaps are a great starting point for UX practitioners creating their first roadmap.
Let’s summarize what we’ve learned:
- Roadmaps that include UX work can have three scopes: product, field, and specialty.
- Product roadmaps represent all problems that need to be solved, including UX marketing content, research, development, and support or operations.
- Field roadmaps represent all problems to be solved by UX but do not include problems outside of UX.
- Specialty roadmaps are a subset of field roadmaps and only focus on one UX area.
- Product roadmaps facilitate cross-functional collaboration, create a shared mental model of the vision, and break down department silos.
- Field roadmaps help bridge UX areas, foster cross-pollination, and communicate the UX design process to stakeholders.
- Specialty roadmaps help communicate bandwidth and resource allocation and unite and align team members within one UX area. They are the easiest to create.
- The scope of your roadmap should match the benefits you hope to achieve.
In conclusion, product roadmaps effectively promote collaboration and unity among different departments but may not effectively convey all aspects of the UX process. Field roadmaps, on the other hand, effectively convey the UX design process to stakeholders by highlighting UX problems that need to be addressed across all areas of UX. Specialty roadmaps, meanwhile, are useful for securing resources and managing workload by clearly identifying who is responsible for what. When creating a roadmap, it is important to consider the initiative’s primary goal and choose a scope that aligns with it. Each type of roadmap serves a different purpose, and the one you choose should match the benefits you hope to attain.