Ever been driving somewhere unfamiliar when suddenly your maps app crashes, leaving you scrambling to find your way? 

What was initially a simple task‌ — ‌following the blue line on the screen‌ — ‌quickly becomes a struggle. You’re trying to read street signs and figure out where the one-ways are while also getting your directions to work while also trying to make decisions about where to turn when you reach an intersection. By the time your map is back, you’re ten minutes off-course and searching for somewhere to make a U-turn. 

Managing a startup without a product roadmap can feel pretty similar. 

A startup roadmap functions like a good maps app, helping you decide where to go and how to get there as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

In this article, we sat down with two of Bubble’s lead product managers, Laura Oppenheimer and Steve Harrington, to get their best advice on how startups can create effective product roadmaps. We’ll discuss: 

  • What exactly a product roadmap should include
  • Why you need a roadmap
  • How to create a product roadmap from scratch 
  • Our favorite frameworks for roadmaps

What is a product roadmap? 

A product roadmap (sometimes called a product strategy roadmap) helps define both your destination and your directions. It’s a plan for what you’re going to deliver to your users in the future, and the work your team needs to do to accomplish that.

 “A product roadmap defines the work your team will undertake over the coming quarters to deliver on the product vision and achieve the objectives you set for the team.” — Steve Harrington

The most important thing to keep in mind is that a startup’s product roadmap should be considered a flexible and adaptable plan, not a high-stakes legal agreement. 

“Typically, I have a high-fidelity plan for the next quarter, a good sense of what's going to happen in the next [six months], and a loose sketch of what will happen in the next year,” says Laura Oppenheimer. 

At a minimum, your roadmap should include the following key elements: 

  • What to work on: expected and prioritized features to be created 
  • When it will launch: timelines and key milestones (or product versions and release dates) 
  • Why it’s prioritized: how it connects to business goals and overall vision 
  • Who will work on it: in other words, resources 
  • How to measure impact: metrics for success, impact, or reach

But before we dive into exactly how to create a product strategy roadmap for your startup, let’s back up for a minute to understand why roadmaps are such an essential tool. 

Why product roadmaps are essential for startups 

Startup roadmaps are essential for moving quickly and iterating effectively while keeping the whole team aligned on your company’s bigger mission and vision. Many startups struggle with staying focused‌. After all, there’s so much to be done, and such limited time (and resources) to do it all! A product roadmap gives you a clear direction and helps your team align on key priorities.

Steve summed it up this way: 

The roadmap is a way to ensure that the work you’re doing today is aligned with the direction of your product and the work you'll be delivering in the future. In doing so, it helps align the team around your vision and provides context to help shape the implementation in a way that's forward-thinking.

Particularly for startups, it can help motivate your team by allowing them to see how their work will impact the product and the business in the long term."

Here’s how startup roadmaps deliver some of these benefits. 

Roadmaps make sure your work aligns with your vision 

As Steve pointed out, a roadmap gives you a clear outline to make sure the work that your team is doing day in and day out aligns with the long-term vision and direction of your product. Roadmapping helps give your team a chance to align on the “why” of your product‌ — ‌and then figure out together how to get there. 

“​​It's so important to get your team (developers, designers, etc.) aligned on the why. Why are we here? Why is this company/product/app important? From there, you can paint a picture of where you're going with your roadmap. Your roadmap should map up to your why.” — Laura Oppenheimer

Roadmaps help you decide where you’re going 

Even when your team is aligned on your startup’s strategy, breaking down big-picture visions into day-to-day work and projects can be complicated. When you’re a startup moving fast and iterating quickly, having a clear roadmap makes sure you have all the steps in place to hit key milestones and ensure your product’s success. 

A good roadmap will also allow your team to prioritize and focus on the most effective tasks and projects that align with your big-picture outcomes rather than working “ad-hoc” based on whatever seems most important at the moment. The result? More efficient processes, faster development and delivery, and more effective outcomes. 

Roadmaps help strengthen team and stakeholder alignment 

With a clear roadmap, you can also strengthen and simplify communication both to internal teams and external stakeholders. Internal teams gain greater clarity and context as to how their work contributes to the product and vision long-term. External stakeholders can understand more clearly what to expect from your company and product

If you’re working on obtaining funding, a startup roadmap can also include financial projections that make it easier for potential investors to visualize your growth. 

Roadmaps help with effective resource allocation 

Finally, roadmaps are super useful on a practical level to help allocate resources effectively and plan your workflow. When you know exactly what you’re aiming to do and when, you can make sure you're committing the right resources to each initiative. Roadmapping your resource allocation can also help you identify potential roadblocks in your product strategy.

So, a product roadmap is essential for startups trying to do a lot with a small team‌. Here’s ‌how to create one. 

How to create a product roadmap 

Creating a product roadmap can feel daunting. That said, the development process comes down to four stages: organizing, prioritizing, communicating, and iterating. 

In the organizing stage, you’ll clarify the overall vision for your product based on market research. From there, you’ll develop the key themes and focuses for your strategy roadmap. Next, you’ll prioritize your ideas to create a roadmap for what you can actually accomplish in your given timeline. Once you’ve got your startup roadmap outlined, you’ll want to find a way to visualize your plan so you can communicate it clearly to your team and key stakeholders. 

Finally, you’ll want to return to your roadmap‌ (ideally quarterly‌‌) to track progress and iterate on your product and roadmap based on customer feedback. 

Remember, your roadmap doesn’t need to be fancy or perfect. As Steve says:  

“The most important step is to make one! Even if you know things might change, writing it out, sharing it across your team(s), and reflecting on it/updating it each quarter are essential to keeping your development work focused on your business goals.”

Here’s how we tackle each of these four stages: 

Organizing your product roadmap as a startup 

Before you can create an actionable, prioritized product roadmap, you’ll first need to get your foundation in place. 

Start by bringing the team together and aligning on the following questions: 

  • What's our vision for this product? What’s the focus for the upcoming quarter or year? 
  • What problem are we solving for our end-users? 
  • What do customers need and want from our product? 
  • What measurable goals can we commit to, given our priorities and resources? 
  • What timeframes are we planning for? 

When building your roadmap, it’s often most helpful to start with your customers.  

“Talking to your customers is key to building a product roadmap. You need to know what your customers (and prospective customers) want, what would make them 10 times happier with your product, [and] what would make them buy.” — Laura Oppenheimer

Once you understand your target market and your vision for the product, you can start to develop themes or focuses. These will help organize and direct the work you’ll do and your product strategy. 

“Themes for your product work…should be specific around your product area, but general enough that they are never really completed in the way a specific feature is. For example, your themes may center around enhancing performance, improving usability and design, and developing a richer feature set for your users. From there, you can think about how you want to make progress across each theme, and evaluate how much time you are investing in each as you plan the work for each quarter.” — Steve Harrington

Even if the effort or number of new features you apply to each theme isn’t consistent across every quarter, having themes for your product vision and roadmap will help you regularly consider‌ — ‌and make progress on — all of your team’s goals and objectives. 

Prioritizing your product roadmap features

Prioritizing your potential features is one of the most difficult‌ — ‌and important‌ — ‌steps in creating a startup’s product roadmap. In the organizing step, you’ve considered your customers, your vision for the product, and all of the potential features and projects you could work on. In this next step, you need to ruthlessly prioritize what you actually will work on, and add it to your roadmap. 

You’ll also want to carefully consider your resources and dependencies as well. Your team isn’t limitless, after all. Factoring this in will help you create an achievable plan and allocate resources effectively. 

A prioritization framework, such as the RICE framework and Impact x Effort matrix, can help you do this more effectively. (Keep reading for some of our favorite frameworks and how to use them!) 

That said, when it comes to prioritization, don’t overthink it. “The act of planning out a roadmap is more important than perfect execution,” Laura reminded us. “Planning forces you to think about your customer (and hopefully talk to them), size your initiatives, and be honest about what you think will have an impact.” 

One often-overlooked piece of prioritization: don’t forget to factor in customer-facing progress. 

Many high-value projects with high customer impact‌ will take more than a quarter to build and ship. Those projects should absolutely be prioritized: just don’t forget to take the customer’s perspective into account. They can’t see everything happening behind the scenes!

A roadmap can help you balance both of these priorities:

“It’s really important to show progress to your users so they know things are getting better and remain confident in your product for the future. You want to avoid going multiple quarters without any meaningful customer-facing changes. Consider using your roadmap to help you mix in some smaller customer-facing wins even if the majority of your time is being spent building out a longer-term project.” - Steve Harrington

How to effectively visualize and communicate your product roadmap 

Once you have your highest-priority features and projects mapped out, it’s time to turn your roadmapping energy toward visualizing and communicating your plan. 

A visualization can serve as a valuable internal roadmap, but it’s also a great way to communicate with external stakeholders and manage expectations. Your product roadmap can even be a way to communicate with customers and generate confidence and excitement in the future of your product. 

“Many enterprise companies want to communicate their roadmap to customers and prospective customers ahead of time,” Laura pointed out. “A product roadmap also gives you a way to align on what is ‘safe’ to talk about publicly and what’s not quite ready for customer eyes.” 

The best way to simplify roadmap communication and sharing is to create a visualized roadmap that’s clear, simplified, and easy to understand. There are many roadmap templates you can use to visualize your roadmap: goal-focused roadmaps, Jira boards, Gantt charts, or a simple timeline. Which is right for you depends on who you’re sharing your roadmap with (i.e., internal teams or prospective customers) and what level of detail you want to convey. 

The goal is a high-level roadmap that’s accessible to everyone so you can provide alignment and clear communication. The more clarity you can provide with your roadmap, the easier it is to ensure that your teams know what to work on. 

Making your product roadmap flexible and iterable 

Finally, your product roadmap isn’t done once you hit “publish” on that Jira board. Instead, you should make sure that your roadmap is flexible enough to grow and change as your priorities do. 

This is a delicate balance with roadmapping. On the one hand, you want your roadmap to keep you focused on your North Star and avoid chasing after the newest shiny project. 

At the same time, flexibility and adaptability are a big part of product roadmap design. Your customer needs may change, or customer feedback may point you in a different direction than you originally anticipated. Team resources may change and you need to be able to keep your product vision moving forward anyway. 

One way to keep your product roadmap flexible is to ship smaller updates first, then incorporate user feedback on those features to iterate on your product more quickly. 

Steve shared a great analogy: 

“Instead of trying to build your fully-fledged vision from the start, think about breaking your product down into smaller steps that can each solve a customer problem and are useful on their own.

Consider the example of introducing a car to market‌ — ‌to make a car, you might start by building the frame, then the engine, the body, and every other component. Because none of the parts are‌ useful on their own, you would need to develop and build the entire complicated, expensive product before you can get any real feedback from users.So instead of building the frame of the car, first build a skateboard and ship that. Then incorporate what you learn into your designs for a bicycle. Only then can you work on the car.

At each stage, you'll learn more about how your users want to get around, which will help you prioritize features and set the right requirements for the next stage. In the meantime, your customers are still getting value and you'll ultimately be able to build the car best suited to customer needs faster."

When you develop your roadmap with an iterative and flexible mindset, you‌ give your team and product more flexibility to grow in the direction it needs to‌ — ‌allowing you to deliver better solutions to your customers, faster. 

Building your product on a no-code tool like Bubble allows you to build, test, and iterate even faster. Instead of building a prototype or MVP to acquire user feedback just to have to rebuild it “for real” later, you can build something that users can interact with and react to from day one.

Plus, when you build on Bubble, your MVP can scale seamlessly into your product and business in the future, evolving naturally from its first iteration. There’s no faster or less expensive way to get your business off the ground. 

Our favorite frameworks for creating product roadmaps 

Prioritization is often the most difficult step of roadmapping. Even if you’ve aligned all relevant stakeholders around your “why,” agreeing on what features and steps map up to that why isn’t always straightforward. 

A prioritization framework can provide valuable insights into which features and products best align with your larger goals and vision. They can also help you add a layer of quantitative metrics to your decision-making process, so you’re not relying solely on intuition. 

Here are three of our team’s favorites: 

RICE framework: Reach, Impact, Confidence, Effort 

The RICE framework is one of the most popular prioritization frameworks among product managers. It uses a scoring system to evaluate each project or potential feature against four elements: Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort. 

  • Reach measures how many users this feature or initiative will impact during a given period. That is, how many users are going to notice, use, or be affected by this? 
  • Impact measures how much this feature or initiative will really affect users. This can be qualitative or quantitative. 
  • Confidence measures how much data you have to back up your estimates of reach and impact. Are you looking at concrete data or making an intuitive guess? 
  • Effort measures the cost of getting the above benefits, generally measured in terms of resources and timeframe. That is, how much time investment from how many team members will be required to ship this feature or initiative? 

RICE Framework





How many users will notice, use, or be affected by this feature? 

How strongly will this feature impact affected users? 

How confident are we about the reach and impact of this feature? 

How much effort, resources, and time will shipping this feature require? 

Consider measuring with: 

customers per quarter, signups per month

Consider measuring where: 

3 = high impact 

2 = medium impact

1 = low impact

Consider measuring where: 

3 = high confidence 

2 = medium confidence 

1 = low confidence

Consider measuring with: 

persons per month (where each person is the amount of work / hours a single employee can contribute in one month)

As Laura points out, this framework “works more effectively at a slightly bigger scale, so you have enough data to estimate ‘reach’ and enough experience building to estimate ‘effort.’” For startups in the early stages of building, one of the frameworks below might be more useful.

Impact x Effort Matrix 

The Impact x Effort matrix is a clear and handy way to prioritize features. It’s similar to the RICE framework in that it focuses on impact to your audience and internal effort. However, this matrix allows you to map out potential features with less data, so it’s a lot easier to use as a startup.

The matrix introduces four options: 

  • Low-effort, high-impact: features and projects that don’t require much time or effort from your team, but still have a significant impact on user experience. These are quick wins and typically should be prioritized. 
  • High-effort, high-impact: features and projects that require a lot of time and effort from your team, but also have a significant impact on user experience. These should also be a priority for your team, interspersed with some quick, customer-facing wins.
  • Low-effort, low-impact: features and projects that don’t require much effort and don’t have much impact on your customers either. 
  • High-effort, low-impact: features and projects that require a lot of time and effort from your team, but make little impact on user experiences. These low-impact features should only be slated in as time and budget allows, when the impact they’ll have on your internal team or stakeholders can justify the effort.

Impact x Effort Matrix

Low effort

High impact

High effort

High impact, low effort, 

(Quick wins)

High effort, high impact, 

(Important projects)

Low effort, low impact, 


High effort, low impact, 


Low impact

MoSCoW Framework 

The MoSCoW framework is also great for startups because it sorts all features into four categories: 

  • Must-haves are non-negotiables for your product vision at the current stage.
  • Should-haves are important to the project, but not vital or urgent at the current stage. 
  • Could-haves are desirable but not important at the current stage. 
  • Won’t-haves are features that would be nice to have, but have no measurable impact or are out of budget or scope at the current stage. 

One major benefit of the MoSCoW framework is that it allows you to easily table “could-haves” and “won’t-haves” for later iterations of your product, while still creating clear categories to prioritize your roadmap.  

MoSCoW Framework



  • Non-negotiable features 

  • Unable to make your product work safely without it 

  • Essential for current business goals

  • Important to the product, but not currently vital 

  • Product still would work safely without it, but may cause some user frustration or require workarounds



  • Desirable, but not important at the current stage 

  • Doesn’t significantly affect the performance of the product or user experience 

  • Should only be done if there’s additional time or budget, or if this is an important and easy customer-facing win

  • Nice to have, but has no measurable impact on user experience or product functionality

  • Out of budget or scope given current resources

Making your product roadmap a reality  

At the end of the day, your product roadmap is just that‌ — ‌a map. Your direction and even your destination can change over time as you build, improve, get customer feedback, and iterate on your product. 

Once you have your product roadmap in place, you want to start building, gathering customer feedback, and iterating on your product as quickly and efficiently as possible. One way to make this easier: build your product on Bubble. 

With Bubble, you can start building for free and go from MVP to fully-fledged product in one no-code tool. Simplify the building process by designing your product exactly the way you envision it from the start, without the need for an entire dev team. Plus, you can ship and iterate more quickly with Bubble’s built-in plugins (or use APIs) for an all-in-one tech stack that allows you to gather user feedback, run A/B testing, and understand user behavior.  

Want to bring in a partner to help you execute your ideas quickly and flexibly? Bubble Developers and agencies are available to help you launch and iterate your product‌ — ‌and skip having to hire an entire development team just to get started. Or, get started yourself for free with Bubble’s no-code tools.