What is a product requirements document? (How to make one)
Preparing a document that outlines a product's purpose and features is a standard element of any product development process. There are several steps to take if you want to create documents of this type, which are commonly known as product requirements documents or PRDs. Understanding the key components of these documents can help you more effectively communicate the product's capabilities to your team, stakeholders and clients. In this article, we discuss product requirements documents, list their key components and explain how to create a PRD.
What is a product requirements document?
A product requirements document defines a specific product's purpose, features, functionalities and behaviours. It outlines everything you want to include in a product release before presenting it to the key stakeholders or clients. Usually, you write a PRD from a user's perspective, which allows you to clearly explain what the product can do and how it solves an issue the user might be facing.
Key components of a PRD
Depending on the industry and the specific project you're describing, there are various elements that you may include in your requirements document. Here are some standard components that you can find in most PRDs:
Objectives and goals: One of the first things you may want to include in your PRD is an objectives and goals section. This section explains why your team is building a specific product and what you're trying to accomplish with it.
Product features: This section focuses on explaining the details of your product's features and characteristics. For example, if you're building a washing machine, you can discuss the different wash programmes it has or mention that it comes with a child lock.
Release criteria: These are objective measurements that explain the critical attributes of your product. Listing key criteria lets you make sure the product you're releasing can satisfy users and meet their expectations.
Timeline: This element is an estimate of how long it takes to develop your product and prepare it for release. Typically, an effective PRD timeline includes all development, user testing and QA stages.
User stories: A user story is an informal explanation of what the product can do, which you write from the user's perspective. This is an important element of user experience (UX) design, which allows the product team to better understand consumer needs and requirements.
System and environment requirements: If you're developing a piece of software or a system, it's helpful to include information about system requirements in your document. This way, the user knows if the product can run on their device.
Assumptions and constraints: Lastly, it's helpful to discuss assumptions and constraints, which helps stakeholders understand how the product team plans on developing and launching the product. Typically, assumptions are things you expect users to already have when they purchase the product, and constraints can be any technical or budgetary factors in place.
How to create a PRD
Many PRDs are one-page documents that allow you to communicate the most important information about a product to stakeholders, developers or any member of your organisation involved in the project. Here are some steps you can take to create an effective and easy-to-understand requirements document:
1. Identify the purpose of the product
The first step to creating an effective PRD is to define the purpose of the product you're developing or building. In this step, focus on discussing what problems it can solve and who's likely to use the product. Through learning more about your target audience, you can determine what's important to them and why they might decide to purchase the product you're working on.
As you complete this step, make sure to present the draft to key stakeholders and the entire product team. This way, you can get their approval on certain decisions. It also helps you make sure the entire team's vision for the project aligns with the purpose of the product.
2. Determine product features
Using the information you've gathered about your product's purpose, you can now determine its key features. There are four main types of product features to consider for this section of your PRD:
Style: When describing the style features, focus on all the artistic elements of your product, such as its shape, colour, line and texture. This is especially important when you're creating several versions of the same product that just look different to each other.
Function: Functions are things that your product can accomplish when a user takes certain actions. For example, many coffee machines can heat up or froth milk in addition to brewing coffee.
Experience: This element of a product's features describes all intangible elements that make users feel a certain way when using that product. For example, this can refer to what users feel when touching the product or wearing it.
Quality: This last type of product feature combines the tangible and intangible elements to determine a product's quality. For example, some higher-quality goods can make users feel more luxurious, which tells you that it may make sense to price them higher than your regular products.
3. Choose the release criteria
Through carefully analysing the release criteria you want to set for a product, you can achieve the primary purpose of the product launch. Although your release criteria might be different, depending on the type of product you're creating, there are five key areas to consider during this step:
Functionality: It's important that you define the minimum functionality you want the product to have. This includes listing all features of the product that make it eligible for release.
Usability: To determine a product's usability, determine if it's easy and safe to use. You may also design tests that could help you assess the level of usability.
Reliability: Another product goal is reliability, such as if the product's system can recover from a sudden loss of electrical power.
Performance: This element allows you to determine the standard for a particular product. For example, this can refer to the loading time of a device.
Supportability: Lastly, it's necessary to determine a product's supportability, which tells you if the product meets the standards of a particular system or organisation. This is especially important for electronic devices, digital services and software releases.
4. Set a timeline
Creating a PRD is all about planning a product release, which includes setting milestones and scheduling them. This way, you can determine your goal release date and build a functional, realistic timeline for the project. The timeline you include in this document can be just an estimate, which you present to the client and your team. It's important that you make it flexible, for example, by creating a timeline based on constraints and not actual dates. You can use this timeline as inspiration to create a final version after stakeholders share their approval.
5. Present the PRD to stakeholders
After putting together all the elements of your requirements document, you can present it to key stakeholders before the product team begins working on the product. You can use their feedback and ideas to improve the document or set better product release goals. Before your presentation, make sure to share copies of the PRD with the product team members to ensure everyone knows what you've included in the document.
Tips for creating a PRD
Knowing how to prepare requirements documentation for product releases can be a beneficial addition to your CV, as it demonstrates your general knowledge of project and product management. Here are some additional tips that might help you create better PRDs:
Make it accessible: When you're ready to present the PRD, ensure that everyone has access to the most recent version of the document. Storing the file in the company's cloud can also help you go back to previous versions of the document to analyse any changes you've made to it.
Use a template: If you're writing your first requirements document, make sure to save it as a template once you're happy with the outline you've created. This way, you can use the same template multiple times to make your job easier in the future.
Prioritise information: The main goal for creating a good PRD is to explain everything in detail while being concise. To accomplish that, learn to prioritise and organise information, which can add clarity to your document.