A product specification or a product spec is a vital product doc which states the most important requirements for developing a new product or a feature/functionality.
The product specification sort of acts like a blueprint for the key information related to the product. This acts as a guide to the product team when building the product. Information such as target users, a summary of the core concept, business needs and goals, and other necessary details are given in the product spec.
Product specifications are concise in nature and tell the ones working on it what is being built and why. It also answers what the product is expected to achieve and how this achievement is to be measured. A product spec also contains information about the business-related needs. Questions such as how much revenue is expected, if the audience will be expanded and the target markets are also addressed.
User personas which tell about the typical audience behavior based on audience research are also included. So are sketches to give a clearer idea of the product. Major technical specifications to be covered and obstacles to be overcome are also a part of the document.
Although brief, product specification docs should cover everything and should be easily readable to the employees who are going to access it. This eradicates the need for verbal communication and speeds up the product development process. A clear and transparent doc makes the work easier on the team. This is because all the required information is readily available at any point of time and the development is streamlined.
Now that we know what a product specification is, let’s understand what it looks like and how it’s to be written.
The product specification sheet would depend on the requirements of the particular product being developed. However, this is what you’d usually find in a product specification sheet:
The general outline of the product is included in this section. The idea is briefly explained and the overall concept of the product is made clear. Product summary also gives why the product is being created. You can find information about how the product is expected to look, its features and the expected time for development.
This, as is obvious, would cover the business-related aspects of the product. You’d find info on how the product development would benefit the company in the market. Information about the budget and as well as various resources that are needed to develop the product are mentioned in this section.
As mentioned earlier, the user personas show the behavior of the end user. In accordance, the user personas in the product specification sheet outline who the product is being created for. Their needs and challenges are highlighted clearly so that the developers can keep the end user in mind when creating the product.
These are written from the end user’s perspective and explain in brief what the user would want to see from the product. Basically, how different features are going to be used by the user. This also helps in setting acceptance criteria as the developers know that only once all the user stories are fulfilled is the product successfully done.
A visual representation of how the product is expected to look like in the end is given in this section. It need not be perfect but should be a good reference for the team. It could be done using simple drawings, rendering, illustrations, etc. Even simple notes explaining the product’s dimensions, look and feel are often sufficient.
This part shows how the product will look and what it will do. The way the users would be interacting with the product is also represented here. This is taken as a reference for the product development team and technical specification documents are often added to make things very clear.
Unless you actually take feedback from the customers, you cannot formulate good user stories. Hence, asking the customers for feedback is a must. This way, you can make modifications to existing products or build a new product based on the customer’s needs. Often just a few changes could make your product ideal for the customers and save you a lot of time and resources.
Customer feedback is important but you’d also have to take into account the views of the various stakeholders. More people would be included in the product development process and you can make use of the different points of view. Involving more people would also make them feel like they are able to contribute. This in turn makes people take up the responsibility of making the end result good.
Apart from the feedback and the team’s contribution, there may be more specifications that you’ve got to include in the product specification sheet. Dimensions of the product, safety standards, technical specifications, environmental considerations, etc. are included in these extra specifications. Make sure that you do not miss out on these things to get a holistic idea of the product.
The next step once all the requirements have been outlined is to create a prototype of the product to test that it meets the requirements. Get interested users to test out this prototype and give feedback based on their experiences. Understand the way they are using the product and take a note of what is working well and where there’s room for improvement.
Once the users have tested the product, you most likely would need to make it more suitable for them. Accordingly, the product specification would need to be modified. Understand that this is a work in progress and not a one time final thing. After the product specification has been finalized, send it over to the product development team so that they can work on developing the product.