If you are new to product management and have not had to write a product specification before, then you’re in the right place.
While you may have learned the basics of writing a product specification, putting it into action is something else entirely and takes some thought and a dedicated process. Here is a guide on what you need to know and how to create a product specification that is flexible and correct.
We’ll cover what product specifications are and what they are used for, along with several examples of product specifications. You’ll see what to include in your product specifications document, the process for writing product specifications, from defining a product summary to revising based on customer feedback and limited user testing, as well as getting your products started on the roadmap to production or the software development process.
We’ve also included a product specification template that you can use when creating product specification documents.
What Are Product Specifications?
To write a product specification, you need to have an understanding of what it is. A product spec is a blueprint that outlines the product you will be building, what it is going to look like, and its specific requirements and functions. It may also include the persona or user it is being made for.
This spec needs to be very clear, easily readable, and outline all the information your design team and product team members need. Include as much information as possible to make sure specifications are not too vague for your product team. A table or chart of specifications will make it clear where details can be found. However, keep in mind that this is just the product specification sheet – you can leave the production and implementation details to your team members later in the process.
3 Example Product Specifications
There are many examples of both hard copies and online ones. This is a simple example of an online spec you can adapt and use with your team.
Here’s another example with space for test results, as well as a flow chart diagram for outlining the product development process.
This third example also includes space for recording test results, as well as known issues that have risen or that may arise during the product development process.
What Are Product Specifications Used For?
A product spec is used as an outline of the requirements for the product team. It is usually written by the product manager and provides all the information they need to build the product with specific features and functionalities and offers a technical description, performance specification, and the technical standards to meet along with other details. This outline is used to communicate information about users, business directives, and any other criteria that will assist your team in designing and building a product.
What Should Be Included in a Project Specification Sheet?
Every product specification is based on technical requirements, engineering specifications, and other details that are specific to the particular product. Generally, though, the following should be included in your product specification sheet:
Summary – This is an overall look at the product. It begins with an outline of the product idea and gives a brief description to introduce the product and its overall concept. It also explains why the product is being created. The product summary explains what the final product will look like, what features it will have, and how long it is expected to take to develop it.
Business Case – Next in your spec sheet should be the business case behind the development of the product. It outlines the benefits or advantages the product gives the company in the market. It also looks at the budget and other resources required to get the project completed.
User Stories– These are short messages based on the product’s end-user perspective. They explain what type of features users want to see in the new product. It’s also a good idea to include acceptance criteria with user stories – these are the criteria that determine whether a user story has been fulfilled by the product, such as whether a desired feature has been included.
User Personas – This outlines who this product is being created for and designates the target audience. It outlines specifics about the target demographic and their challenges, which will be solved by the product. Knowing the intended target of the product means your work remains centered on the customer.
Functional Spec – This is a document that describes how you see the appearance and capabilities of the upcoming product. It should also outline how users will interact with it. It’s the reference point for the product development team as they begin their work. You may want to add a flexible technical specification document here for your team as well.
Product Specification Design
It’s also important to include some indication of the product design in the product specification sheet. This is where you need technical specs and drawings. The design can be amended as you move through product development. It doesn’t have to be perfect yet but you want a visual representation to guide your product management team through the early development process. It’s a good place to include technical details and possibly purchase specifications.
There are lots of different ways you can include design information in your product specification sheet. This could be renderings or illustrations, screenshots or photographs of a prototype, or even basic notes on size, dimensions, or the product’s look and feel.
How to Write a Product Specification Sheet
1. Define the problem.
What problem or challenge will this product help users solve? There’s no point to building products that do not address specific business needs or consumer needs. Make sure that the needs and problems that the product will address are noted in the product summary.
2. Understand customer input.
What do customers want in a new product? User stories give you a goal to achieve with the new product and an assessment of how it will help your customers. Use customer feedback on existing or related products for insight.
3. Include your whole company in the discussion.
Stakeholders need to have a say and will be helpful in the development process. This can help you get lots of helpful input and more support in completing the job. It will also help employees feel that they can contribute to the project so they feel more invested in contributing and working with the team.
4. Pick which product specifications to include.
Some requirements and specifications are critical to the product developers so the product is safe and usable. Include specs such as dimensions, safety standards, expiry details, and an overall product design specification. These specs get product creation underway more easily. You might leave other specifications, such as specific UI/UX considerations or colour schemes, to be defined later in the product development process.
5. Do user testing.
Once you have a plan in place for design and development, make a prototype. Make sure that the product is going to be right for customers. Let them test it, try it, and assess it. Check on the use or lack of useful features and things that are hard to use or irritating. Does everything work as it should?
6. Revise based on what your users determine works and what doesn’t.
Decide what is liked, disliked, complicated, or unnecessary and fix problems and revise specs as needed, based on the results of user testing. Carefully consider functionalities or places where users get stuck – how can you improve it? Should you scrap this or that functionality altogether?
If you would like more insight into the world of project management, learning about project specifications and product specs sign up for The Product Manager Newsletter. You’ll find good advice and lots of info that you can use as you get familiar with product specifications and other areas of your work.