CASE STUDY ‧ Roadmap

Creating my own product from scratch

Project Background

When my co-founders Brittany Fuller and Dominic St.Pierre came to me with the initial idea for what would become Roadmap, I was immediately on board. At the time, I was living in the UK and working full time at Redgate. I had worked on launching a product before, but never my own from scratch.

But I knew this space intimately. As a product designer, I've always been the person responsible for soliciting and capturing all the feedback and translating it back to the team to inform our roadmap. Users and management all expect regular status updates on their feedback, and it is a ton of work to stay on top of!

I co-founded Roadmap to achieve two things:

  1. Close feedback loops through automation
  2. Make roadmaps less of a burden and more insightful

Chicken scratch during discovery

I wanted to encourage users to provide feedback on their own, automate the communications, integrate with the tools product teams are already using, and provide users with updates as progress is made on their feedback.

I wanted to build a culture of empathy for users into the entire product lifecycle, not just as an afterthought before launch.

"Allison has the rare ability to recognize business opportunity, execute visual experiences across brand assets and code, and inspire a customer-focused culture."

– Brittany Fuller, Co-Founder & CEO Roadmap

Early Research

We wanted to make sure we understood the problems with the way people are currently capturing feedback and sharing progress with users. Spread across three different timezones, the 3 of us talked to potential customers, advisors, and decided what problems we wanted to solve with our MVP.

Pain points in the current process
Designing an MVP

We wanted to go-to-market as quickly as possible to get feedback right away. Being self-funded with limited resources, it was important to prove the viability of our idea as soon as possible. We isolated and launched the core functionality of the Roadmap on Product Hunt, receiving positive feedback.

As we continued iterating on our product, we worked hard to land our first customers. The ones that stuck were receptive and excited about the product. They were using it in unexpected ways, teaching us and influencing the direction of the product.

Early Sketches

Pen to paper (or in my case, pen to iPad pro) is the best tool for me to hash out any ideas or workflows.

Workflows that informed the MVP
Iterating and Improving

Our product started as a simple public roadmap and evolved into a feedback management tool. This is how it worked:

Our users would embed a public roadmap in their app/website, where they could capture feedback on stories.

That feedback would go to the feedback inbox to be triaged by the team. If it was good feedback it goes to the backlog.

The team could combine and prioritize feedback in the backlog using custom fields and push to PM tools.

Once feedback was in progress or done, their users would be automatically notified, closing the feedback loop.

Design Exploration

One of the biggest design decisions was how we wanted to present the Roadmap. We explored using Gannt charts, Kanban style boards, and simple lists. The feedback we received favored the Kanban style card list view, a la Trello. The cards worked well to contain lots of different details about the story without cluttering it up, like labels, custom fields, followers, and likes.

Another design challenge was how to present the Roadmap in its managed state in addition to a public view, without splitting these into two completely different experiences. I wanted the user to be able to preview and edit their Roadmap in one space.

The Public Roadmap
Story card design

The light gray card with information only the team can see appears to be behind the white card, which is as the end user would see it on the public roadmap.

Story Creation

We wanted this experience to be as easy as typing in your favorite word processor. It needed to be flexible to accomodate for potentially a dozen custom fields and lots of feedback and followers.

Custom Fields

Custom fields give users the power to decide how they want to prioritize feedback. We designed an easy way to create and add custom fields to stories.

After launch & Growing Pains

Marketing was our biggest struggle. We had a great product and needed to tell the world about it. Our biggest channel had been when we launched on Product Hunt (twice!) But since we were launching a new product from a new brand from scratch, we didn't have a following or a receptive audience to launch to.

Users were signing up, but landing our first 10 paid customers organically was really, really hard. We depended heavily on connections and refferals to grow.

Our sales cycle was also incredibly long. Because the nature of the problem we're trying to solve touched so many teams (customer support, design, dev, product marketing) we were having a tough time with adoption.

The 3 co-founders ultimately had differences with how to scale the company (to raise capital or not to?) and we parted ways. It doesn't however, overshadow what we were able to build and achieve together.

Team Achievements

Conceptualized, designed, built, and launched a product to market from scratch.

Created a chrome extension and a Slack, Intercom, Github, and Trello Integrations.

Acquired users from companies like Github, Pinterest, Spotify, and Amazon.

We made money! It was generating 5 figures in MRR, paying for our expenses to run it.

We had hundreds of users! People trusted their feedback & roadmap with us. That's pretty cool.

Attracted attention from investment firms and companies like Slack, who were ready to invest.

"Allison brings a lot of passion to her work and her passion infects the marketing, product, and engineering teams. She inspires everyone to care more about the problems we're solving for customers."

– Brittany Fuller, Co-Founder & CEO Roadmap