Product roadmaps, product strategies, product development roadmaps: There are so many terms and planning strategies involved in building a great product. 

We’re here to help you make sense of these concepts and learn how to accomplish them well so you can achieve your product goals. 

In this article, we’re diving into one of the most granular roadmaps, a product development roadmap. We’ll outline: 

For more on higher-level product planning, dig into our guides on product strategy, product roadmaps, and product development. 

What is a product development roadmap? 

A product development roadmap (aka a product development plan) charts a detailed course for the entire scope of product development. 

Carly Blumenfeld, director of product marketing, content, and education at Bubble, describes it this way: 

“A product development plan is a comprehensive, strategic document that outlines the steps, timelines, resources, and processes involved in taking a product from concept to market launch. It serves as a roadmap guiding the product's lifecycle, ensuring that every aspect of development aligns with the overall business and product goals.” 

Product development roadmaps vs. product roadmaps 

Important clarification: Although sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, product development roadmaps aren't the same thing as product roadmaps. Confused yet? No worries, let’s break it down: 

Generally, a product roadmap is a higher-level visualization of your product strategy and covers a longer timeline. They focus on big-picture planning and map out overarching direction such as your product’s major themes and key milestones. 

A product development roadmap is typically more granular. It zooms in on the processes, timelines, goals, and strategy for actual product development at your current stage. Product development roadmaps are more likely to define specific features, designs, and work to be done to take your product from ideation to launch. 

What does a product development roadmap include? 

When we talked to Carly, she broke down for us the key components of a product development roadmap: 

  • Product vision and objectives: the end goal for your product when you launch and how you’ll measure success 
  • Feature breakdown: an outline of the specific features that'll be built 
  • Tech specifications: an outline of the technical requirements and solutions for your product 
  • Designs or design plans: wireframes, mockups, design frameworks, or other design plans that are relevant to the product build 
  • Release plan: critical tasks, testing, and development to happen before launch
  • Budget and timeline: could include major releases on a rough timeline, or exact dates that key releases and certain features will be launched 
  • Potential risks: what challenges and known risks need to be accounted for, and how you’ll manage them throughout product development 

Your roadmap may include other components, or you might loop some of these together. You can go more high-level or more granular, depending on your needs. The key is thinking through how your product development will support your overall product roadmap and strategy. 

Why is a product development roadmap important? 

You might be thinking, “Do I really need a product development roadmap if we are already creating a product roadmap?” 

Short answer: Yes. 

A product development roadmap offers many benefits, such as: 

Creating organization for complex processes. Product development is a long and complicated process that involves many steps and changes. A product development roadmap creates structure for the process, tasks, dependencies, and more. 

Facilitating cross-team collaboration. Similarly, product development requires everyone to be on the same page — and collaborate on tasks that require cross-functional teams. Being able to visualize the entire plan and understand how your team’s work fits within it helps remove roadblocks. Even better: It makes collaboration easier for everyone, from product managers to your development team, sales team, and even external stakeholders. 

Increasing communication. A good product roadmap communicates the plan and product vision to both internal and external stakeholders. If you can create a visual product roadmap, it makes it even easier for the team to understand what’s needed to move the product vision forward. 

Providing a centralized source of truth. Finally, a good product development roadmap provides a single source of truth for everyone to pull from. Clarifying the product strategy and vision via a centralized roadmap makes the product development process so much smoother. 

How to create a product development roadmap: five simple steps 

A product development roadmap guides all of your teams through the development of your product, and helps make sure you stay aligned with the broader strategy and plan for your product. 

Here are five key steps to follow to create a cohesive product development plan that keeps everyone on the same page: 

  1. Set your goals and strategy 
  2. Choose an appropriate roadmap framework 
  3. Map out the product development process
  4. Determine stakeholders and project owners
  5. Monitor and adjust 

The steps to create a product development roadmap.

Set your goals and strategy

One of the primary goals of a product development roadmap is to clearly detail the development work that needs to be done in order to align with the strategic direction and desired outcomes for your product. 

Sounds obvious, but it’s easy to get bogged down in the nitty-gritty of feature development without making sure that everything being built is consistent with your organization’s strategic objectives. 

A product development roadmap makes sure that everything aligns. 

A key clarification: Your product development roadmap doesn’t need to set the company's vision, but should take it into account when determining the strategic goals for the development phase. 

  • What do you want to accomplish? 
  • What are your success metrics  for launching these features? 
  • How will these goals map to the larger business objectives? 

Building your development roadmap based on your broader product roadmap can make this step a lot easier. 

Choose an appropriate roadmap framework

There are so many product roadmap examples to guide you in mapping out your big-picture product strategy and plan. 

A lot of the differences in product roadmap examples are determined based on your audience: are you creating an internal roadmap for your team, an external roadmap for stakeholders and investors, or a customer-facing roadmap to keep users aware of upcoming features? 

With product development roadmaps, you can break down most roadmap examples into two major frameworks: a waterfall roadmap or an agile roadmap. 

Waterfall roadmaps use a traditional, linear framework to map out how each phase of product development leads to the next. Like a waterfall that flows steadily, waterfall roadmaps use ‌sequential logic to create a development plan. 

For example, a waterfall roadmap might map out development phases such as outlining specs and requirements, validating ideas, designing, developing, launch, testing, and so on. 

An example of a waterfall roadmap.

Agile roadmaps fit within the agile development framework, and rely on epics, themes, and sprints to manage product development. They're much more flexible and iterative than traditional roadmaps. Neither is right or wrong; they're just separate frameworks.

An example of a scrum roadmap.

Map out product development process 

The development process — as most startup founders know — is much more complex than just deciding on features and building them. In general, the product development process involves six steps of its own: 

  1. Research 
  2. Ideate 
  3. Validate 
  4. Plan
  5. Develop and launch
  6. Analyze

The goal is to keep all these stages in mind as you map out your development plan. That is, identify the key steps and milestones you’ll need to accomplish to research and ideate the features you need, validate your ideas, design and develop them, and analyze their success. 

You can see how this looks practically in the roadmap examples above. Whether you use a waterfall or an agile framework, be sure that you’re detailing everything you need to make sure the development phase is a success. 

Determine stakeholders and project owners 

Since the product development roadmap is focused on granular development and specific tasks, use your roadmap to align stakeholders on who owns what tasks and phases. 

For this step, get input from all the teams responsible for product development — which is likely more than just your product managers or engineers. For example: 

  • Sales and marketing teams to validate positioning statements, pricing, and messaging
  • UI/UX and design teams to run user testing and feedback
  • Project or program managers to evaluate moving parts, dependencies, and timelines

…and so on. 

Assign tasks and roles so that everyone knows who’s responsible for what. No matter what kind of framework you’re using, coordinating your entire organization in a visible way helps make sure that pieces don’t fall through the cracks and supports your product’s success.  

Monitor and adjust your product development roadmap as needed 

No roadmap ever runs from start to finish flawlessly — creating space from the beginning for iteration and adjustments will make things smoother. 

Ideally, you can create a built-in review process to keep your development roadmap updated, aligned with current initiatives and product ideas, and have space to adjust as needed based on realistic timelines, roadblocks, and so on. 

Manage your entire product development with Bubble

With your product development plan in place, you can start building — faster and easier — with Bubble.

Bubble’s no-code visual editor lets you design and develop your product quickly — and at a fraction of the cost. Consolidate your roadmap with no-code tools that let you build, launch, test,  and iterate from day one. With Bubble, you don’t have to juggle multiple development tools or move from one to the other as you build and grow — go from MVP to fully-fledged product all in one place. Bubble has everything you need to launch and scale quickly. 

Want to bring on a lean team to help you execute faster? Bubble-Certified Developers and Bubble agencies can help bring your ideas to life, without driving up costs or development timelines.