Building Pastel

Startup design hack: Resetting the product roadmap

A long list of requested and validated features can be stressful to work with. Here is what helps.
Aloke Pillai

When you have a small product design team, a long list of requested and validated features can be stressful to work with. They promise the happiness of your customers and the future growth of your company.

As the only designer at Pastel, it is a constant challenge I battle with. How do you stay on top of all the things that people want while understanding which ones to work on first?

Here is something that’s been working for us.

We reset the list every month.

What if someone falls through the cracks? Won’t people be mad?

If it is an important feature, it will be truly hard to miss. Much like how Inbox Zero helps ease a lot of people, a true reset helps you ask what is truly important and not what are we behind on. I’ve seen customer requests go from a ‘burning need’ to a ‘nice to have’ because they found a workaround or changed their behaviour altogether.

Shiny things approaching

Let’s be honest. Most of the harm done to a roadmap is self-inflicted. When we come up with great ideas, they enter the rollercoaster of joy and sorrow. Doing a roadmap reset protects us against our well-intentioned enthusiasm and gets us to focus on what is needed the most.

Big vs. small features

Prioritization is easy when the list is a few features long. It becomes an impossible game of Jenga when it goes over 100’s of features. What if all the Jenga pieces were different sizes!

That’s usually what a roadmap looks like. Big long term tasks like designing integrations to other tools are always lingering co-mingle with small UX tweaks that delight the user.

Breaking up big tasks into smaller actionable ones helps us tackle this problem. If something is unknown, it is common for our team to spend a day in exploration until the task is more defined. That exploration is seen as research time as a small task.

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