To create a successful product, it’s essential to follow all the necessary steps from the very beginning. To make sure that no time will be wasted on misunderstandings, you might want to write a product requirements document. There are many examples online; however, it can be too easy to get lost in different options. In this article, we will go through all the aspects of creating a PRD so that you’ll ✓learn what should be included, ✓review what specifications exist, and ✓be perfectly able to create your own PRD template.
What is a Product Requirements Document and why is it important?
This document is an initial one, the starting point in the process of developing your new product. Basically, it describes all the features, specifications, and functionality of a product, and also declares the conditions and stages for design and development. Writing a good PRD is similar to the place where the marathon of creation begins. The better you explain the rules before the race starts, the better the chance that everything goes smoothly and correctly.
In PRD, you gather all the essential details needed for the process of development. You also mention goals and objectives, as well as expected results of each stage of work, time required for the development of MVP, and any additional technical details that might be of help when the actual work begins. Remember that this is not a list of dream descriptions, but a technical document based on research and extensive analysis with a main goal to minimize the risk of misunderstandings, and necessity of implementing changes due to those misunderstandings.
Pros, cons and alternatives
Detailed and effective Product Requirement Documents takes time to create. Sometimes, it also takes money, as technical specifications might require additional expertise from the outside.
Let’s look at the pros of PRD, first:
- Helps you get a complete picture of a future product.
- Provides an approximate budget for all the stages of development.
- Gives ideas about the required time it takes before you get it done.
- Establishes a mutual understanding between all team members.
- Eliminates (at least, partially) potential problems during development.
On the other hand, there are a couple of disadvantages:
- Spending additional time on document writing, instead of starting the development process right away.
- May require significant investment, as technical specifications must be accurate and designed with enough knowledge and expertise on the matter.
To eliminate these disadvantages, there is an alternative – agile development done in sprints (called iterations). This is based on a number of principles and allows you to start the process almost at the moment the idea appears in your head. In this case, you will have to participate in the development and control the process. Your project will be split into smaller tasks and be completed during these iterations, which usually take about two weeks.
In this case, you will:
- Save precious time and money on creating PRD.
- Be able to change the product on the go.
- Identify the potential problems at early stages.
- Have more control over the process.
Of course, there are also some cons that you might want to consider:
- Unclear timeframes.
- Unclear cost of development.
- No clear picture of what you end up receiving in the end.
Based on the information above, if you know what you want and have a clear idea of how much time and money you want to spend on it, creating a product requirements specification in advance might still be a more suitable option.
Tips on how to actually write a Product Requirements Document
First of all, let’s remember the goal of the document – to communicate the concept of the product under development and arrange all the details that are useful for the development process. Long story short, all the technical specifications included in the document ensure that the future product will be compliant with all requirements. To make your PRD really helpful for your development team, use these tips:
- All the functions mentioned should be as detailed as possible; goals should be mentioned for the best implementation.
- Even technical details should be written in simple language that is easy to understand for any business person.
- The tasks described in the document should include deadlines.
- All the requirements should be specific without the use of general phrases like “use the best possible option”.
- Keep it detailed but don’t overdo it.
In the next section of this article, you will see a sample outline for a Product Requirements Document.
What components should be included in your Product Requirements Document template?
Now we are going to go through the components of a well-developed Product Requirement Document that can be used as a template. Once you understand the idea behind each section, you will have no problem looking at it from an experienced product management specialist’s point of view while creating your own docs. Here are the essential components, which may still be somewhat flexible in sequence, depending on what business you have or other factors:
- Goals and objectives.
- Target users and their needs.
- Main components and sitemap.
- Initial and future features.
- Non-functional but also important requirements.
- Potential risks.
Goals and objectives
This section provides a general idea of the future product and explains why it should be developed in the first place. It helps to set the team on the right track from the very beginning of the project.
Here, you’ll answer general questions such as:
- Why should this product be created?
- What problems will it solve for real people?
- What features will fulfill each problem-solving task?
- Who will benefit from the product?
- What is your mission and vision
These are just samples of questions. Depending on your ideas, you can exclude some or add more. Basically, this section of a PRD is a high-level description of everything concerning the future project.
Target users and their needs
Before going into more detail about the product, you need to establish and describe your target audience. It might be hypothetical, but detailed enough so that the reader can imagine the user. The most simple and pleasant way is to start with these characteristics: age of potential clients, their genders, possible occupations, levels of education, and geographical locations.
To create a valuable product right from the start, you need to answer the who-what-when-how questions regarding your customers. The main idea here might be shaped as the ability to see the future product through the eyes of those who might use it.
Also, mention the needs that are to be met with the product. For example:
Need / problem: user needs the opportunity to pay for the item with bitcoins.
Solution: user can launch an app, tie it to the wallet, and pay directly.
Main components and sitemap
Here, you should have a detailed description of all the pages of the website or the screens of the application. Start with analyzing the needs of the audience described in the previous section, and base the components on their needs.
As a sample, if you build an eCommerce web project, you need to build a detailed sitemap.
It should include:
- A list of all pages so that the development team has the whole image right away
- The hierarchy for all the pages that will help design the navigation. This is not a must-have, but quite a good addition for a complete Product Requirement Document.
It is appropriate to include some graphs here that would show the connection between components and suggest possible user flaws.
Initial and future features
This section should describe the features that will be included into the product in different stages. No need to describe all the tiny details, just provide the team with a general understanding of the features you plan to start with, and what features you’d like to add later.
For our Product Requirements Document example, let’s imagine that you want to start with a three-page website that includes a page with five items for sale; however, in the future, you want to increase the number of goods you sell as well as add a blog and interactive color-matching assistant. You need to include your plans in the document, as those who build the website will need to establish a foundation that can keep up with the growing number of features.
This part is about all the ‘additional’ requirements that are different from those that are purely functional. Communicate these special product requirements in the best possible way.
Here are some questions that might get you on the right track:
- What should the mobile app/website be built on?
- Where should it be hosted?
- With what browsers should it work?
- How many simultaneous users should it be able to support?
This section is optional and good to have. Basically, wireframes are the layouts of pages that give the general outline of elements and features on the page. No need to include fonts, logos, colors or other design elements, just the most basic information. If you have a general idea, just include it here. It can even be a hand-drawing.
For complicated products, this section might require hours of work from designers before approving the final version. Keep this in mind before trying to draw any complicated schemes.
If there are any potential risks, mention them here. The development team might try to tackle those segments of software that are risky in order to decrease the risk, or at least prevent you from investing too much of your money and time into something that might not be claimed after all.
Creating a sample Product Requirement Document, it’s important to mention that you might want to include a section about analytics. This will provide your team with an understanding of what metrics you’re planning to use to measure the success of the project.
Creating this section, you may want to keep in mind your marketing department. What metrics are important for their work? For eCommerce projects, it would be the conversion rate. Inform the team what is needed so that it can be implemented early.
Best PRD Examples: Analysis
In this section we will show you some samples of well-written Product Requirements Documents. First of all, it is worth mentioning that you can have your PRD in any size. Meaning that most of the samples online will start from one-page-fit-it-all PRD and end up with the documents of 3-5 and up to 10 pages or more. We will take a closer look at each of those variations going from small to large.
As you can see from the example below, it is a well-designed one-page product requirements document. You may use this sample as a template to explore what elements should be, or may be, included in your one-page PRD. Also, based on this example we can see the main benefits from having a smaller PRD.
First of all, it saves you, and everyone else, the time learning about the product since all the key information is presented in a concise manner.
Secondly, short PRD gives more space for change. It is much easier to cut a piece or replace it. Plus, surprisingly, smaller size leaves more space for creativity, there is no need to follow the same standard format as you’d have to with a bigger PRD. Overall, a one-page document can fit exactly as much context as you need to explain your product in simple terms.
Here we have another example of a one-page PRD, but this time it is a much simpler looking sample. Although it looks uncomplicated, it is the very reason it is the one to choose. The accent on simplicity will only underline the actual message of the document.
This sample is basically made design-free, which makes you look straight at the listed facts. Such layout also leaves you with no choice but to be concise and consistent in your language. This PRD style can offer only necessary information, which is already fully completed and doesn’t require any additional explanation, meanwhile it hasn’t got much room for any other interpretation.
Classic PRD samples
There are also options to have your product requirements document several pages long; as we can see from our next example which is 5 pages long. Those PRDs normally include a full body text, starting with a proper introduction of your product and a break down of the PRD components mentioned above.
In detailed PRD
Finally, in case your product requires more space for explanations, you can have PRDs up to 10 pages. As this sample shows, it is much better to start your PRD with a table of contents to map your way though. Larger PRDs should offer not just a full description of all the components but also break them down into subcategories, explaining all the work done in detail. Such product requirements documents give you enough space to depict and highlight any special part of your product, so there are no questions left unanswered.
If you need more information or want to create a Product Requirements Document that will drive you to success and need some help along the way, contact us. We know everything about design, and we know how to write instructions for it.