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What is a Product Spec

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Definition of a Product Spec

A product spec (or specification) is a document carrying essential information to keep teams on track when designing and developing a product. This gives designers and developers insight into the business goals, the users they’re targeting, and any other crucial details.

Ideally, a product spec helps product teams answer key questions for at-a-glance guidance, such as “what are we building?” and “who is this for?”. It includes multiple elements, including a summary of the core concept/idea. Product teams should be able to refer back to this throughout the process to avoid losing sight of the original vision.

User personas are another common component of effective product specs. These are fictional profiles of ideal users based on audience research, outlining typical behavior, needs and goals. 

Product specs also should go into detail about how the product is expected to benefit the business overall. How much revenue is it expected to generate? Will it expand the existing audience? Can it be used to enter new markets?

Sketches and mockups may be included in a product spec, too. This gives developers a clear idea of the final result as imagined by the designers. 

Finally, technical specifications are usually included in a product spec. Any technical issues which should be considered, such as major obstacles to overcome, will be covered.

Why is a product spec important?

There are several reasons why writing a product spec is important. For example:

The product spec communicates what you’re building

A product spec should provide your team with a guideline of the entire development process required to make your product a success. 

The idea is to be as clear as possible in the product spec to avoid any unnecessary questions or confusion throughout the build. That said, the product spec should also avoid being too technical because it might be read by a very broad (non-technical) audience. 

Basically, when it comes to how to write product specifications being clear but comprehensive is key. 

The product spec references who you’re designing for

User-centricity is essential for a product to succeed. If you fail to understand your user, you’ll fail to understand the opportunity — and you may just launch a product to market that no one really needs.

Do your user research and incorporate that into your product specification, too. If the team knows who they’re developing the product for, it becomes a much easier — and more exciting! — process. 

The product spec gives product teams and developers a goal

Once the product specification is written, your team and all the product stakeholders are singing from the same hymn sheet (so to speak) and everyone knows what the aim of the project is. 

Make sure any goals are S.M.A.R.T. so the entire team is clear of what the outcome is to be. 

How to write product specifications in 5 steps

1. Look at your customer feedback

The best way to improve any product is to listen to your customers. See what their specific pain points are and address them. Your team will know your product better than anyone but if it isn’t serving the customer, it’s time to rethink.

2. Discuss the product spec internally

Open up suggestions company-wide as well as within your team. Senior management will have opinions but you often find feedback from other departments, like marketing and R&D, can make you rethink a product feature.

3. Determine your product requirements

Once you’ve processed all feedback, you need to decide the specifications. Developers need to know what they are expected to produce so include details such as product dimensions, technical specifications, and a draft sketch.

4. Create a prototype and conduct user testing

Next, conduct user testing. You could host interviews at your office or ship the prototype to them for a trial period. Use a range of loyal customers, give them a list of tasks and ask for detailed feedback. This external insight is super helpful!

5. Revise and release your product

If you’ve done your homework, your product should only require tweaks following user testing. Take the feedback on board, make necessary changes and provide the updated product spec to the development team for production.

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What Is A Product Spec?

General FAQ

How do you write a product specification?
The first step in writing a product specification is defining the source of users’ problems, based on research data. A clear understanding of the target audience’s goals and ideal outcomes is a must before creating the spec. A product specification must cover the requirements and features to be included, too.
What does a product spec look like?
A product spec is a document separated into different sections. It should begin with a summary of the idea, describing what it is, what problems it solves, and how it functions. A business case explores what effect the product is expected to make on the company’s bottom line. User personas, concept designs, and technical specs usually feature too.
What is a product technical specification?
A product technical specification covers a product’s goal, function, and how the product team will bring it to fruition. This should include such key elements as which problems will be solved for the user, technologies used, and the target audience’s specific requirements.
What should a product spec include?
There are five main areas to include in a product spec: - A summary of the product idea - answer the 5 W’s - The business case - why the business needs to produce this product - User stories - feedback from customers relating to said product - A sketch or mock-up of the product - A functional specification - a more technical version of the product idea summary

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