Example of simple project roadmap

Project roadmap design tips

In the last post, it covered the steps required to define the data and create a project roadmap.  Unfortunately accurate data is only part of the story.  You can have the best information available and an important message.  However, if the design is not good, making the data difficult to understand or, even worse, it makes the audience lose trust in the data, you have a problem.

This post is going to share some thoughts and ideas on making the project roadmap look professional and visually appealing.  Good news, you do not need to have a degree in graphic design.

Colours / Fonts

Just because Excel, Word, PowerPoint and other good software packages offer 1000’s if not millions of options, you are not duty bound to use them all to get value from the software.

Keep colours to minimum.  Ideally 2 or 3 colours that compliment each other.  Make use of transparency to expand options as required i.e. setting colour to 50% gives a different shade of the same colour.

Look to use corporate colours where applicable.

Use 1 font making use of bold, underline and italics to give more options.

Leverage this tip: the same rules apply to any template or report.

Headings

The project roadmap should have a clear overall heading that simply describes what the roadmap represents.  It should be written so that it will help inform someone not close to the work, what it represents.  This should be prominent at top of page.

Each axis should be clearly labeled to make it clear what is being plotted.

Timeline

The timeline should make it easy to understand the overall timescale with intervals clearly shown in a uniform manner i.e. using quarters, half years, yearly, etc.  It may help to use alternate shading for each period and grid lines to help show where activity has been plotted.

You can add a current date reporting line, recommended in a bold colour.  This will help show progress against time.

Activity / Milestones

You can be creative on how you show the activities and milestones on the roadmap.  For example you can use basic rectangle bars for activity.  You may decide to use chevrons, rounded bars, etc.  It is good to experiment with different shapes, colours, dimensions, borders, etc to see what works.

Milestones can be a conventional diamond shaded Red, Amber, Green (RAG) or even white / grey not started or blue complete.  More adventurous would be to use icons, still colour coded, where the image is related to what is being delivered.

You can combine both on the roadmap to build a good representation of what has or will be done.

Background Image

You may decide you want a minimalist design with a white or subtle shaded background.  However, you can choose to have a background image i.e. a world map if the roadmap depicts a global roll-out.

When using a background image, make sure that the image is subtle and shaded so that it does not detract from the items plotted on the roadmap.

Legend

Very important. If you have used colours and icons to represent different aspects of the roadmap, make sure that you add a legend (index) that clearly explains what each element means.

Summary

Considering the design factors of your project roadmap can make the difference between an average document or a document that has impact.  You have invested time to identify the correct data so make sure that you present it in the best way that you can.

Make sure that every item on the roadmap has purpose and deserves it’s piece of real estate on the roadmap.

If any item of the design detracts from the message – change it.  Remember, you may not always be in the room to orientate senior management around the roadmap.  It needs to stand on it’s own.

Test the design with others to gain feedback so that you can fine tune.  Spending time to get the roadmap right, is time well spent.