How to Use Research to Validate Your Product Roadmap

Product Roadmap

A product roadmap can be determined by a variety of goals and interests. Sometimes, they come from user research. Other times, they are decided by business initiatives, technical goals, marketing campaigns, competitor launches, customer requests, etc. 

When your product roadmap decisions are based on initiatives outside of user research findings, it’s important to take time to validate those decisions with research. You can use your findings to compare the importance of each effort based on how strongly it aligns with your overall product goals and strategy.

Using research to inform your product roadmap

There are three main categories to include on your roadmap:

New Features

In order to determine whether a new feature should be added to your product roadmap, you’ll want to consider your overall goals and then tailor your research to discover if the feature is in line with them. 

Here are some suggested approaches:

  1. Use a survey of your existing users to determine if the new feature would lead to an increase in usage or improved experience. You can also ask users to pick their top three features from a list.
  2. Use a survey of potential customers to determine if the new feature might increase adoption.
  3. Conduct interviews with users asking how they would solve the problem the new feature addresses, and ask them how they would expect the new feature to perform.
  4. Conduct a competitor analysis to determine how competitors have implemented similar features, how popular they are with users, and what the pain points are. Reviews on competitor products are a great source for this kind of information.
  5. Perform a creative card sort to determine which features are most desired. With a “reverse open card sort” you can give potential users the main categories of your information architecture and ask them to fill in the features they expect to be available within those categories (vs a traditional open card sort where users sort features into categories which they then name). This will give you an idea of which features are most essential to your potential users. 

Fixes, Updates, and Improvements

Again, think about your overall product goals and whether the issues that need fixed, or the pain points that could be solved, are large barriers to accomplishing your overall product goals.

Ways to test the importance of these efforts include:

  1. Conduct usability testing to determine the extent of the issue. How long does it really take for users to overcome this pain point? Is it significantly affecting their experience, or are they able to overcome it somewhat easily?
  2. Survey your existing customers to determine whether they have ever had issues with this part of the experience, or whether they have ever successfully accomplished the task you think is broken. Ask what their top issues with the product are, or the top areas for improvement.
  3. Monitor and quantify customer feedback and customer service issues. Track the number of complaints for a certain experience, as well as the severity of the complaint. Compare these issues to one another, as well as your product goals, to determine which ones to tackle sooner rather than later.
  4. Tag and monitor issues from a variety of moderating testing. Throughout all of your moderated testing, regardless of what experience you are focusing on, you can tag pain points to keep track of common issues. By tagging all user pain points, even when they are secondary to your primary testing goals, you can then monitor common issues to determine their frequency. For example, you may notice through testing multiple different features that all users had trouble finding a certain button style. By tagging this issue, you can see how often it comes up and, using Tetra Insights, revisit these moments to further inform how to solve the issue.

Removals

Removing features that detract from the experience is sometimes just as important as adding new features, but is often overlooked. It’s important to make sure you aren’t removing features simply because they are not used often. Underused features may simply be too hard to find or misunderstood. Or, they may be essential to certain users even though they are not so to the average user. Some ways to use research to ensure you are correctly removing a feature are to:

  1. Conduct usability tests with users who do use this feature. Understand why they use it and what the impact would be if you removed it. How would they then accomplish the tasks? How would this impact their experience with the product?
  2. Conduct a survey of all your users to gauge awareness of the feature. Do users understand what it is and simply not need it? Do they not know it exists? Or do they not understand how to use it?
  3. Conduct a survey on the value of this feature. Without mentioning the feature name specifically, how highly do users rank the different functionalities this feature offers compared to other features? If users rank the functionality highly but do not report using the actual feature, there is likely an awareness or user experience issue, and the feature should be reworked instead of removed.

These basic research strategies can help product managers and researchers work together to validate a successful product roadmap. They will not only help you ensure the right efforts are included in your map, but also help you rank each effort based on the value it provides to users and how strongly it aligns with your product goals.

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