How to Use the Product Canvas to Define Your Product Roadmap

The product canvas displays keys pieces of information necessary to build a new product and organizes product discovery, backlog management, and release planning. This exercise helps product owners validate solutions, align with teams and get your idea ready for development. Use this step-by-step guide to create your product canvas, easily.

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Xtensio’s FREE Product Canvas Template

Your starting point to create and share a successful product canvas, without any design experience.

Your guide to creating an interactive product canvas to help organize and launch your next product

The product canvas is a planning tool designed to help build products that have great user experience by focussing on feature development that answers your target users’ needs. The product canvas was introduced by Roman Pichler in 2012 and combines agile methodologies with lean UX principles to help validate product vision and product solutions by complementing user stories with personas, storyboards, scenarios, design sketches and other UX artifacts. The product canvas supports Lean UX by combining user-centered design and agile techniques and it is designed to work with Scrum, Lean Startup, and Business Model Generation.​

Product canvases bring together key pieces of information necessary to create new products:

  • The needs of your target users and customers with user stories and personas, storyboards and different user scenarios.
  • The competitive market landscape and your product’s unique value proposition.
  • Captivate customers with visually-engaging, interactive content that is easy to understand.
  • The product’s functionality and design.
  • Cost structures, marketing and sales funnels.
  • And the user interaction with the product.

This tool is intended to help your product and engineering teams state your ideas and assumptions, test them, and integrate insights into your product roadmap.

1. Outline your product name and vision.

First, identify the core goal of creating this new product. Your product vision should be focused on the long-term concept of your product. A vision is concise, compelling, and communicates the core purpose of the product. Why are you creating this product? What does your ideal vision of success loo like for this product? Choose a product name that speaks to its purpose.

Product Canvas | Xtensio
Product Canvas | Xtensio

2. Define key metrics of success.

In this section, you’ll define key metrics that will direct your product development. How will you define the success of this product? How does your plan map to overall business goals? Focus on metrics first to ensure the product and engineering teams both understand what they are working towards – product’s success is only possible with everyone working towards the same goal.

3. Identify your target audience and customer need.

Once your product vision has been defined, define the WHO and WHY: your target audience and what they value. Whose problem are you trying to solve?

Create several personas representing specific segments of your audience to understand where your product fits into the market. This will prepare you to outline your product’s unique value proposition and customer need.

Quick Tip: Use Xtensio’s User Persona Creator and Persona Comparison tools to identify your target audience.

Product Canvas | Xtensio
Product Canvas | Xtensio

4. Define your unique value proposition.

Once you understand who your target audience is, you’ll define your unique value proposition. This should speak directly to your ideal persona(s).

What is it that your product does? How is it unique in relation to the competition? Your value proposition should clearly explain what your product is and how it is different from the competitors’ product. Use the tag module to highlight a few key selling points related to your unique value.

5. Understand your customer’s need.

What is the unique problem your audience has? Dig into your target customer persona to understand their problem and need. What features or product functions are necessary to meet this need? How does your unique value speak to this need?

Product Canvas | Xtensio
Product Canvas | Xtensio

6. Determine what channels to reach your audience

Now that you know who your audience is and what your unique value proposition is, you’ll determine how to reach your customers. What are the means you use to acquire, retain, and grow customers? How will you interact with consumers, inform them of your product and features?

Consider the most effective mediums to reach your desired audience: traditional ads, email campaigns, online & social media, referral, guerilla marketing and PR efforts.

7. Identify your revenue streams.

How will your product produce revenue? Determine how your product will be funded and how the product will generate income. Then present a pricing model to highlight all possible sources of revenue: ad sales, subscription fees, or asset sales.

Quick Tip: Try the SaaS pricing strategy exercise template to help uncover your product’s pricing model.

Product Canvas | Xtensio
Product Canvas | Xtensio

8. Define your product’s cost structure.

Keeping your revenue streams in mind, determine what it will cost to develop and maintain your product. Use a table to outline both fixed and variable costs associated with discovering, delivering, marketing, selling and servicing your product. What activities and assets are the most expensive? And which are the riskiest?

9. Highlight your key resources.

Last but certainly not least, you’ll identify the key resources you’ll need to develop your product. What resources does your value proposition require? Think of both internal resources (capital, patents, HR, etc) and external resources (background resources and marketing materials).

Quick Tip: The competitive analysis template would be a good exercise to determine resources that other competitors in your market are utilizing to meet their growth goals, and in turn, help you plan for better monetization.

Product Canvas | Xtensio

Share your product canvas as a link, monitor & evaluate

Add team members from each department to collaborate on the product canvas with you. When you’ve finished creating your product canvas with Xtensio’s editor, you can send the live link to your folio to share it as a responsive webpage (and add password protection), export a PDF and post it on your bulletin board and continuously optimize with new learnings. The product canvas template is adaptable just like other Xtensio tools, it can and should be repurposed, revisited, and revised regularly.

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