Consider this scenario.
You and your friends decide to cook a meal all of you are craving. Say only you know the recipe and ingredients. You assume that it’ll be easier to convey the steps during the cooking process. After deciding this, you begin the cooking only to find out some ingredients are missing.
What happens now? There is hunger, quarrel may be, and chaos for sure. You have only 2 options.
Option 1: You buy ingredients, cook with less motivation and more starvation. With less energy, you cannot delegate tasks effectively among your friends.
Option 2: You cook something else with available ingredients. Your cravings are unfulfilled.
(Exclude, food delivery :P)
You can’t just plan things inside your head, tell instructions at the last minute, and expect a good meal at the end. Now, think, what if you had communicated the recipe earlier? Your friends would have told you some things are out of stock. There’s no last-minute rush.
Happy cooking together
Devouring the craved food
The lesson here is obvious: Planning is crucial.
But there’s something even more crucial— communicating the plan. It stays valid for all kinds of processes, especially product development. Unlike cooking a meal, it involves huge risks.
Product specification is what you need for this purpose. Let’s see in detail about it here. We have also discussed some tips for creating the specs.
What is Product Specification?
A product is shaped by all the members of the product team. And so, the team must have a clear understanding of the product. Product specs can provide them with the details they need.
It is a blueprint of your product. A product specification explains why you are building it, how it should look, and what its functions are. It gives the team a clear picture of what needs to be done.
Team members can contribute effectively when they have clarity. And to provide them with clarity, a product spec must include,
- Product Summary- The description of the main idea of the product.
- Business case- The benefits brought by the product to the business.
- User stories- User’s perspective of the problem and desired features from the product.
- User personas-The detailed description of your different target audiences.
- Product design- Physical designs of your product through rough technical sketches.
- Functional specifications-The appearance and capabilities of the product and its way of interaction with the users.
Tips for writing great product specifications
#1- Keep it short and simple
As much as details give clarity, they can create confusion too.
Know what to include and what not to. Unnecessary details make the document complicated. It not only makes the specifications long but also makes it boring.
This document is for efficient communication. Everyone in the team should be able to understand the specifications. Avoid using difficult and uncommon words. Also, structure it in a way that is easy for them to read. You can use bullets and do highlighting. Format the spec so that it is effortless to grasp the idea.
It is quite easy to slip deep into details when you are describing your product. But remember, being concise is what makes your document effective.
#2- Include everyone from the team
‘Greatest things in business are never done by one man’ — Steve Jobs.
You require your team’s contribution. This contribution here doesn’t mean just the tasks. But also being part of a discussion and adding value to it matters. And, you must be giving the team a chance to do that.
Bring everyone in your product team together when you plan on your product specifications. It is easier this way because it reduces some of your responsibilities. One such is to think from their point of view.
Every team has its own issues and hindrances. The people who do the work are aware of the practical difficulties. Only they have the attention to the littlest details of their tasks. Involving them in creating product specifications is the step towards making it realistic. You can avoid future clashes or expectation gaps by doing this.
Also, including everyone in the discussion can shed light on different perspectives and existing problems.
Bringing in stakeholders can give you a glimpse of their expectations as well. Mindful creations are done by involving every team member.
#3- Make it realistic
There is a gap between your dreams, imagination, and your actions. And, it is called reality.
This reality comes with limitations.
Success is getting to the nearest point of your wildest dreams in the real world. Certain things are not practicable. This fact that holds true, for all activities. And, product development is not an exception.
You can have a thousand things on your mind. But only a few hundred make sense in physical reality. Design, as well as technical feasibility, is all that matters.
It is why you should make your product-spec realistic. The features you add here should be executable both design-wise and development-wise. When you set goals for development teams, make sure to give a reasonable and possible timeline. Pushing your team for unrealistic goals can backfire on your efforts.
Your product specification can look spectacular. But the question you need to ask is, is it practical?
#4- Relate to the big picture
We all seek purpose, don’t we? Be it for our life or our work.
We are keen to know the reasons behind the things, even for the statement above.
Having a purpose makes everything rational. Especially in work, if people don’t know this, they will have a disconnect. It makes their effort look vague and, in turn, makes them demotivated.
To make your product specification effective, you must relate everything to the big picture. This way, you can avoid miscommunication, thereby reducing any flaws in the development stage.
The team will know why they need to do things a certain way. When you link the details here to the actual context, they will get more clarity. Also, they get to know how their efforts will contribute to the product. At times, it makes them stop, evaluate the things they do and see if it really makes sense. It improves the efficiency of their work.
A little inspiration never hurts. So does the adding of the big picture context to the product spec document!
#5- Get feedback
You must not just create aiming effectiveness. You need to check if this is effective in reality. And, you got to do it before you put the specification into action.
Feedback is the best way to do that.
You can get feedback from your team members to understand their issues. When your team scrutinizes the product spec, there is one advantage. They will be able to trace the problems that weren’t obvious before. Different perspectives can help analyze your product spec.
Then, there are users/customers. Their feedback is crucial in evaluating your ideas. They help you realign the priority of needs, find out what is unnecessary, and so on.
Improve your spec based on their feedback. You must take into account all the feedback and process it. If you find it truly helpful for enhancing your product specification, it is time to consider rewriting.
You can also ask for feedback from your stakeholders. This way, you can see you have met their expectations. If not, you can schedule a discussion with them to bridge this gap.
It is better to assess everything before it goes into development. And product specification is your chance, here.
“Feedback is the breakfast of champions” — Kenneth Blanchard
Examples of good product specification
Here is an example product specification template from ProdPad.
Let us look into a few examples of product specs for actual products.
- Mural app
Have a glance at the entire document here: Mural
- Wing app- Credit card Billing Error Handling
Check out the entire document here: Wing App
Every idea looks best inside your mind. Only when you put it down on paper, you realize its original potential. Also, converting your idea into a product is complex. It is too intricate to get processed in your head.
You cannot certainly communicate it well too. It is not just you who is going to build the product. You have different members contributing at different levels. Having everyone on the same page is very crucial. It is a deciding factor of your product efficacy. When multiple hands shape your product, their thoughts are to be aligned.
When it comes to conveying too many words, details, and information, speech is not the apt option. Text is. A written document is. Ensure that you make it right.
This product specification document decides the processes that follow up. It is the base reference for your development team. Their work is based entirely on it. Imagine the amount of chaos the process will have if this document is not clear. Contemplate the time it will cost you to resolve these issues.
Make clarity the priority of your product specification document.
You must have seen ways to make it effective. You must have probably taken a note of it. The question is, when are you going to apply it?