Roadmapping to minimize risk

Ethan Steininger
3 min readFeb 16, 2018

By now I’m sure you’re familiar with Lean Development and how to apply that same iterative process to anything, including your own life. But something I’ve always struggled with is leveraging these lean methodologies to produce tangible, data-driven results.

Lean development preaches early feedback, accelerated learning, and MVP production, but how do they all fit together? This is where a user roadmap comes into play.

What is a user roadmap?

A roadmap is a sequence of event that has two axis: time and context. Time is where the user is in the product’s experience and context is what they’re doing that brought them there. Time can be synonymous with the product’s solution and context is the problem that the user is experiencing.

Roadmapping is the life-force behind lean product development because it forces you to empathize with your users in order to build a product that addresses their needs (assuming you understand their needs) via this time & context format. Roadmaps themselves are valuable because they are low budget and don’t take long to build, yet they let you know if you’re on the right path as early as possible (i.e. accelerated learning).

Roadmap template used for

Why roadmap?

Roadmaps allow you to validate (or disprove) your belief that this approach solves your users’ problems. It truly facilitates accelerated learning because if your hypothetical solution doesn’t address the root problem, then it’s best you determine that before writing any code. Nobody likes sunk cost.

Roadmapping takes you from basic idea to development-ready in just 3 weeks. I wrote more about how to formulate an idea and uncover problems in another medium article:

Alright, so how do I roadmap?

  1. Begin with a brainstorm of what the solution is going to look like. Maybe you sketched it on a napkin. You just want to explore where this idea/solution will take you
  2. Identify each core moment in your proposed solutions’ experience. In the above template, each square can include Post-Its to indicate an action the user takes on the platform. Summarize each action in 2–3 words and organize them in sequence. These are 10,000 ft views so don’t commit to much time here, key is quick learning.
  3. Try to do the same thing in step #2 but for the different contexts: actions, thoughts, feelings, touchpoints, opportunities. There are plenty more these are just examples. Consider what might be most critical to the person you’re designing for.
  4. Organize each of these in the sequence of events that a user will interact with the proposed solution. Continue enhancing the roadmap by adjusting each context or time.

What are the next steps?

Awesome you made a user roadmap for a completely hypothetical solution. It’s time to test that this solution is addressing that deep pain your customer is experiencing.

There are plenty of ways to do this. Prototypes is the most common. This would require an entirely new article however.

Roadmapping and prototyping is’s bread and butter. If you have an idea you want to test, a test you want to prototype or a prototype you want to scale, reach out and we’ll do our best to understand your goals and see if it’s a fit!