5 Steps to Build a Product Development Roadmap For Your App

By Joshua Gross, 20 August, 2022

If you were going on a trip from NYC to California, would you simply head out the door and start walking southwest without giving it any thought?

Or would you carefully plan out all the details– including who you'll be traveling with, what mode of transportation you'll use, and how long you expect it will take you to get there? Would you compare the costs of different ways of traveling and weigh those against other important factors like safety and the duration of your trip?

If you're like most people, the second scenario probably sounds more like how you would approach getting from point A to point B. Building a web app isn't that different from going on a journey across the country– it's important to have a picture of where you're trying to go, how, and why to ensure that you stay on track and reach your goals.

To help meet this end, you can create a product development roadmap that outlines the phases you'll go through as your web app transforms from an idea into reality.

What Is a Product Development Roadmap?

Taking a product from its initial concept to the market is a journey with many different phases and steps. Just like you would use a map to help you plan a cross-country road trip with some specific stops along the way, you can build a product development roadmap to outline the vision, direction, and progress of your product development over time.

When you create a roadmap for your product, you're building a high-level visual summary that helps to communicate the why and the what behind your project.

Ideally, this tool will communicate the product's strategic direction while integrating the company's overall strategy.

The more clearly your vision and strategy are articulated in your roadmap, the better off you are. Not only does it help make sure that everyone involved is on the same page, but it's also a priceless tool for helping sell your idea to investors, management, or whoever else needs convincing.

Why Bother Building a Product Roadmap?

Around the world, people have amazing ideas that will never come to fruition every day. A product roadmap is a concrete look at the necessary steps for turning an ephemeral yet brilliant idea into a reality.

During the brainstorming phase of a project, ideas are flying around willy-nilly. When you start building your product roadmap, it lets you take a look at a number of different competing priorities and boil them down into the most essential desired outcomes.

Beyond that, product development roadmaps can help to motivate and inspire your team and investors. It can help to create a sense of shared ownership over the project itself as well as its success or failure.

In general, people work better when they have a sense of the larger plan. When they see that their individual work is contributing to meeting the team's goal, they can connect their daily tasks with the bigger picture.

In many instances, the product development roadmap is the picture to which everyone in an organization is exposed. At the same time, other information such as financials and marketing plans are largely confined within their respective departments. For many employees, the roadmap is the only information they have about the direction and goals of the organization. This means that it's easier for everyone to get on board and share a common understanding of the vision and objectives of the product and overall organization.

Product development roadmaps can serve different purposes for different people in your organization.

For organizational leadership, the roadmap can help to translate what the developers are up to in plain English rather than overly technical language. On top of that, it can help provide much-needed status updates as the project progresses.

Roadmaps can also help product owners and managers effectively communicate priorities with other teams in the organization.

Of course, we don't want to forget about the developers themselves. For them, product development roadmaps can help illustrate the big picture so that they can make autonomous decisions quickly and confidently. Roadmaps also make it more possible for them to understand the most important tasks and focus on those and avoid falling prey to scope creep.

5 Steps to Build a Roadmap For Product Development

Before we look at some of the frameworks you can use to build your roadmap, let's explore five essential steps you'll want to take to ensure that your roadmap helps you navigate the product development path.

1. Identify Your Goals

Your product development roadmap is more than a to-do list. Setting a strategic goal for the roadmap before you begin creating it is essential because you want every item on the roadmap to serve a strategic purpose. Once you have an agreed-upon goal, you can scrutinize every new item as to whether it helps you reach this shared purpose.

2. Delegate Tasks

Each item on your roadmap needs to have a clear owner. Otherwise, your efforts to organize the madness into some sort of order will fall flat. For every step along the way, someone needs to claim responsibility and agree to a specific timeframe for completing the task.

3. One Eye on the Road, One Eye on the Map

Once you've created your roadmap, you'll want to revisit it continually. It should be something that you and your team are checking back in on constantly. You can use it as a tool to make sure that everyone is still on course and on the same page.

It can also be incredibly valuable if conflict ever arises on your team. If two developers are butting heads about how things should move forward, you can all revisit the roadmap and refresh your memory of the agreed-upon path.

4. Treat the Roadmap As a Living Document

There are so many moving parts in product development– that's just the way it is. While it would be amazing to be able to create a plan and follow it through without ever having to make any adjustments, it's not particularly useful to assume that this will be the case.

You'll want to be ready to shift priorities or make adjustments to your resources if the circumstance requires it. As you continue to monitor your roadmap, keep an eye out for anything that needs to be updated to fit the present situation. As time forges forward and new developments occur that impact your project, you'll want to be ready and able to make any necessary changes to suit shifting priorities, plans, or resources.

5. Use a Template or an App to Build Your Roadmap

When it comes to creating a product roadmap, you don't have to start from scratch. Now that you understand the essential steps to creating your product development roadmap, you can use an existing template or app to build it.

Some of the biggest names in product roadmap software are:

  • ProductPlan (Used by Coca-Cola, HubSpot, Adobe, Ralph Lauren, and more)
  • Roadmunk (Used by Amazon, Netflix, Slack, Microsoft, Adidas, and more)
  • Aha! (Used by LinkedIn, Siemens, LexisNexis, AAA, Dell, Experian, and more)
  • Airfocus (Used by Shopify, eBay, The Washington Post, and more)

Frameworks For Structuring the Product Development Process

Companies can use many different existing frameworks to structure their product development process and inform the layout of their roadmap.

The design thinking framework is one popular example, which includes five standard stages:

  • Empathize with your users
  • Define the problem
  • Start generating ideas
  • Build a prototype
  • Test your solution

Another widely used structure is known as the fuzzy front end (FFE) approach. By offering flexibility while also identifying broad development stages, this framework can help you build a roadmap that allows you freedom in how you prioritize each step. The moveable elements in the FFE approach are:

  • Brainstorming new product ideas and identifying design criteria
  • Idea analysis and market research
  • Concept genesis
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Product development

Phases to Include in Your Product Development Roadmap

Regardless of what framework you choose to organize your product development process, your roadmap will likely consist of some variation of the following steps.

Idea Generation

When creating a web app, you'll want to have an idea that helps solve a vital problem that your target audience is struggling with. By honing in on a specific issue you want to alleviate for the market, you can create a digital product that is unlike any other– even if there are already competitors out there.

Are you wondering how long it takes to build a web app from start to finish? While there's a huge amount of variation depending on the project at hand, this guide will give you a sense of what to expect when it comes to your product development timeline.

Market Research

Once you've come up with the idea you're going to build your web app around, it can be hard not to jump into the production phase of development. After all, time is of the essence, and you're excited to get your app to market as fast as possible.

Before you start making prototypes, though, you need to validate your idea through market research.

This step is an essential part of making sure that your product is valuable to your target demographic. If you skip the validation phase of product development, you can end up wasting a lot of money, time, and energy heading in the wrong direction.

Planning and Prototyping

Once you've proven that your idea is solid, you can start planning out the features and functionalities of your web app. From there, you can build a prototype that lets you observe what the finished product will look like once it's completed.

For many companies, creating a minimum viable product (MVP) is a standard practice because it lets you test the essential features of your app with early customers. This way, you can receive priceless feedback before your product is fully developed to ensure that you have the most successful launch possible.


If you don't already have partners secured for your web app development or a team of developers you're working with, this is also an essential phase that you'll want to build into your roadmap.

You'll need to ensure that your team covers all of the necessary bases to create your web app, including front-end and back-end developers, marketers, UI/UX designers, and any other required resources.

If you don't have a team you're already working with, hiring a web app development company can be a reasonable solution. Rather than having to find individual independent contractors to bring to your project, you can sign on with an experienced group of experts that are ready and willing to make your idea a reality.


While it can be a good idea to have a general sense of how much developing your web app will cost early on in the process, the more details you've worked out in the previous categories, the better you'll be able to budget the cost of creating your finished product.

Testing, Beta Release, and Launch

In this step, you'll need to take a close look at your prototype. What features were a success, and which didn't pan out as you planned?

Taking your time here is important, even though it can be frustrating not to move forward on your project. The more seriously you take the testing phase, the more chance you have that your finished web app will be a hit when you finally launch.

Once you have thoroughly tested your product, you're all set for the beta release. This is the final testing round before your web app is unleashed upon the world. A large group of users will get to use your app under real conditions to help you identify any last-minute tweaks you should make before launch.

Once you have gathered all of the data from users and incorporated this information into your web app, you can begin the process of releasing your final product.

Is It Time to Turn Your Web App Idea Into a Reality?

Having a strategic plan when you're building a web app is crucial, and a product development roadmap can help to define this plan. Not only does it help you stay on task, on time, and on budget, but it can also ensure that your entire team is sharing in the vision of the final product.

If you're looking for the right team to work with to create your web app, give us a shout and tell us about your project. Our team of seasoned experts would love to hear about it!