Prioritising Your UX Roadmap Without Guesswork
Sep 23, 2022
UX teams determine the success of a digital program across user experience, product design, and enterprise design. The challenge in UX development often lies in uniting perspectives, progression, and objectives among a diverse team. A lack of prioritisation further complicates projects, resulting in missed timelines, ineffective updates, and costly delays.
The Challenges of a Product Design Leader
UX project managers face a plethora of challenges when rallying multidisciplinary teams toward a common goal. Individuals may face issues sharing their progress with the rest of the team – and when they do, conflicts may arise, especially with differing priorities. However, a quick status update can prove ineffective when it comes down to highlighting the inherent intricacies of a UX project.
There is also the question of task ownership. Individual contributors may baulk at accepting ownership of a specific task, leading to communication breakdowns and tasks not being completed. A lack of an "authority document” can mean that lines of task ownership can become blurred.
In the event that teams maintain ownership of their respective roles, there is the challenge of alignment. Some contributors may, for example, focus on a web-based design, while others cater to a mobile solution. The diffused work style ultimately affects UX quality, creating silos that do little to further a business or project idea.
Project leaders may find themselves overwhelmed with misconceptions, distractions, and misalignments that ultimately compromise project progression and long-term collaboration.
With a UX roadmap, creative teams can look forward to improved collaboration and focus on business objectives, resulting in optimal project outcomes.
Understanding a UX Roadmap
Essentially, a UX roadmap functions as a single point of truth for diverse project team members. These include researchers, developers, product testers, and other valuable stakeholders. UX roadmaps are not released plans but internal alignment artefacts that drive UX planning and development.
Roadmaps serve as prototypes for user strategies over time, similar to blueprints for processes and frameworks for website development.
A quality UX roadmap will help prioritise, align, and communicate strategies in addressing user problems across different timelines. Therefore, with UX roadmaps, project managers have a clearer vantage point to resolve immediate and future challenges. As a result, teams can set more realistic expectations for improved user outcomes in product design.
Unpacking a UX Roadmap
UX roadmaps contain various essential components that determine project success. These components rally various members toward fulfilling business objectives.
The context of a UX roadmap comprises scope and time. A UX roadmap’s scope refers to the owners and purpose of the project. By defining the scope, project teams can establish the actionable steps for UX design and the roles that drive them.
Time refers to the deadlines and progression set for each segment of the project. Multiple variables abound during a project, which affect original timelines. A UX roadmap helps teams identify potential setbacks and revise their strategies based on the challenges.
The three horizon time frame is the most commonly applied approach. Through the framework, teams divide their UX projects into three categories for granular control: now (immediate concerns), next, and future work (work for six months or later).
Ultimately, a roadmap enables smoother workflow and improved communication among various parties through different project stages.
Themes are another integral aspect of successful UX roadmaps. These represent the careful steps taken (i.e., bundles of work) to put UX projects into perspective. For starters, teams need to identify the beneficiaries and needs involved in the project. These prioritised parties will benefit most from the project offerings, so teams must recognise their preferences and concerns.
Then, there is a need to relate a UX to an underlying business objective. A focused business plan will help contributors streamline their efforts to complement the rest of the team. Roadmap themes should also highlight a sense of ownership - specifying the individual roles and their responsibilities in driving the project.
Additionally, business objectives enable teams to consider potential outcomes, such as new market insights and user growth. As a whole, UX roadmap themes optimise each context for a precise, goal-oriented approach.
Making UX Roadmaps Work
Some core prerequisites improve the chances of success when using a UX roadmap. For example, teams need to leverage perspectives driven by user research and include qualitative and quantitative information that gives a precise representation of user experiences. Rather than assuming what users want through feature development, teams need to include user-based feedback in their work
Efficient product design relies on a clear understanding of user challenges, and a roadmap helps prioritise and deliver the appropriate responses.
Always a Living Document
Roadmaps should always remain a living document, addressing evolving user needs and industry changes in real-time. Project contributors should have access to update and share roadmap content according to the latest UX developments.
Outcomes Over Outputs
Quality UX roadmaps should always focus on outcomes – the positive response of beneficiaries – rather than checking against product features. By working with a UX roadmap, project teams can create more dynamic design systems in response to practical considerations.
Benefits of a UX Roadmap
In summary, UX roadmaps improve overall project management. They create a clear vantage point for contributors, aligning projects with user needs. A roadmap provides stakeholders with a systematic understanding of project goals that optimises subsequent UX.
There are three main types of UX roadmap that depend on target audiences, objectives, and context. These include:
* Product roadmaps: involves all product-related issues that align user experiences with business objectives.
* Speciality roadmaps: revolves around a single specialised aspect of UX projects, such as UX writing.
* Field roadmaps: focuses on future issues in the UX journey, driving a holistic objective that unites all UXs and stages (e.g., in enterprise UX and enterprise design).
Prioritisation Matrix - Positioning the North Star of User Experience
While roadmaps may offer a clearer insight into the UX process, teams may face difficulties establishing the priorities within a project. The prioritisation process becomes more challenging when considering complex projects with multiple timelines and roles.
In such instances, a prioritisation matrix can help teams decide the best approach to UX management with minimal delays and disruption. Essentially, a prioritisation matrix is a 2D structured visual display of UX priorities, which drives critical decision-making while avoiding inaccuracies due to subjective opinions.
A prioritisation matrix observes the feasibility of a UX project and eliminates blind spots that may occur during and after a project.
Forming a Prioritisation Matrix
A prioritisation matrix functions by weighing project options/decisions against the available time and resources in resolving user challenges. Project teams can create a prioritisation matrix based on three guiding details:
* Prioritised items
* Criteria for prioritised items (based on the business goal or project needs)
* The scale that measures a priority
These are the priorities in a UX project that determine its overall success. Examples of priorities may include ideas, user groups, and design features implemented in the product. Teams should thoroughly discuss and sort priority items as they will directly affect the application of the prioritisation matrix.
The criteria serve as the metrics behind prioritised items – providing measurability. For example, when prioritising personas, teams may consider ROI or user base values. Most importantly, teams should always derive prioritisation from business goals to create an actionable plan.
A prioritisation matrix’s scale gives an insightful representation of priorities, either represented by exact integers, percentages, or low-high measurements. The scale provides UX teams with a structured idea of the effort needed to meet a business goal or project objective.
The Design Systems Voting Process
An objective voting process is necessary for a priority matrix, where members with varying expertise vote on the displayed priorities. Teams should use different colours for each expertise to visually highlight the opinions of various experts.
While some UX groups may omit this step of the process, it can significantly impact interdisciplinary teams, where individuals need to agree on a unified goal to advance a project.
Plotting a Chart
Project managers should plot a chart to display the collected votes for a detailed discussion. For example, the graph might show an x and y-axis that compares the feasibility of an idea/process against the resources/efforts required. Another popular chart example may feature value added to users against the required effort.
The quadrants in a graph represent the priorities and urgency in response, where the top-left area usually drives immediate attention (due to their high value and minimal effort).
Interpreting the Votes
Upon collecting the votes, leaders should arrange them into a chart for clear interpretation. Once the chart is in place, teams can proceed to discuss the displayed items. The visual chart enables multi-disciplinary groups to discuss priority concerns, such as agreeing with the highlighted points and examining zero-vote items based on criteria.
Fundamental Breakdown of a Prioritisation Matrix
While there are several ways to chart a prioritisation matrix, the steps of creating a simple matrix are as follows:
1. Make a comprehensive list of UX priorities.
2. Vet through the listed priorities to avoid omissions that may impact the UX roadmap.
3. Separate priorities into groups of high and low importance.
4. Distribute priorities in both groups into high and low urgency levels.
5. Apply numbered values to each priority (e.g., 4 being the highest in urgency).
The Versatility of a Prioritisation Matrix
Teams can conveniently customise a prioritisation matrix according to their business and project needs. For example, teams may work with any number of criteria for a comprehensive comparison. However, as a rule of thumb, two criteria usually provide the most efficient results.
Leaders may also consider upgrading their prioritisation matrix from simple binary to continuous scale charts according to their project requirements.
Additionally, teams may effectively re-evaluate a prioritisation matrix in response to repercussions. For example, contributors may weigh the importance of each priority (e.g., votes that receive the most number 1 rankings) for greater clarity.
If necessary, leaders may conduct private voting practices to avoid biased results that undermine the effectiveness of a matrix.
Advantages of a Prioritisation Matrix
The diverse opinions among project members may lead to subjective decisions and silos. Through a highly visual prioritisation matrix, every member of the team has the opportunity to contribute to the success of the UX roadmap.
Gets Everybody on Board From the Start
Priority matrix practices will get every team member on board from the beginning, preventing disputes and unproductive changes that may arise from poor collaboration. The matrix also provides a reference point for the amount of effort placed into each priority, removing all assumptions.
A matrix enables interdisciplinary teams to quickly point out and discuss the priorities that require immediate attention. This will help create a unified perspective, supporting consistent collaboration and improved productivity..
Drives Shared Perspectives
The resulting artefact from a prioritisation matrix drives a democratic process where teams can look forward to more significant contributions that improve user outcomes.
Identifies Crucial Focus Areas
Clear visualisation with the matrix enables teams to jump straight to the action required in a UX roadmap. As such, contributors can come up with swift and efficient user solutions.
Creates Ordered Structure
A prioritisation matrix provides a transparent reference point that eliminates contentious opinions. Teams can unite their efforts in evaluating options consistently across the board.
Prioritisation Matrix in Product Design - The Path to UX Success
Teams that apply a prioritisation matrix can refine the efficiency of their UX roadmaps with greater accountability and collaboration. Through assessing and analysing project priorities, teams can accurately identify the most suitable scope and timelines to fulfil user needs.
While the UX journey is always fraught with challenges, a structured approach offers teams greater control regardless of the situation. A UX roadmap will constantly evolve in response to changing user needs. The document enables teams to stay focused on priorities, delivering value while assessing potential risks.
Complex values become clearer with a prioritisation matrix, facilitating smoother communication between project teams and the most valuable stakeholders.
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If you need to improve organisational confidence in your UX design to ensure it has the right budget, adoption, C-level champions and a real chance to scale, you can chat to us or email us for a conversation and assessment of your unique digital context.