Technology

How to Write A Product Requirements Document

Are you looking to build your first product? Know how to write a product requirements document (PRD) from scratch.

Introduction

Building a great product is no easy feat! It takes years of brainstorming, research, and planning before you create your first product.

A Product Requirements Document (PRD) is the guiding star for product managers!

But it’s okay if you don't know how to write one — yet. In this article, we have covered everything you need to know to create a PRD.  

What is a PRD?

A PRD document shouldn't be too long yet capture all the necessary information.

A PRD or Product Requirements Document defines the product you are about to build: It outlines the product's purpose, features, functionalities, and behavior.

An ideal PRD document should say the following:

  • Why you are building the product.
  • What you want to accomplish from it.
  • What features are included in the product with a description, goal and use case.
  • The UX design of all the features.
  • The details about the user systems and environments.
  • End user details,expectations, dependencies, limitations and implementation.
PRD in a nutshell

What does an ideal Product Requirements Document look like?

A PRD document has five key elements. These aim to define the purpose of the product, break the purpose into features, set the goals for the release criteria, set the timeline, and review of the stakeholders. Let’s dive into each of these five key elements with examples.

1. Purpose

If you are creating a product, everyone in the development team should be aligned with the goal. Because when everyone is aligned with the purpose, you will be better poised to drive the features. In this section, you should include what problems the product will solve, who will use it, and how it aligns with your organization’s strategic standpoint.  

2. Features

The next step is to talk about the features that will drive the purpose of the product. Include the product's features, and why you need to have those features in the context of the problem it will solve. The best way of doing it is to create themes to determine the feature requirements. For example, some themes can be API, Performance, Mobile, etc. Your development efforts will be to create features to achieve the themes created. 

3. Release criteria

The release criteria should cover the purpose of the product release. It should include supportability or how your company can support the product. Highlight the minimum functionality that should be available at the time of release, determine criteria for establishing some level of reliability during release, the benchmark performance the product must attain at the time of release, and finally, the product's usability.  

4. Timeline

This section should include your target release period and the different project milestones and outline the release dependencies that are known to you, of course! While you may stay flexible with the timeline, you should avoid any chances of scope creep on the number of features the product needs to have at the time of release. 

5. Stakeholder review

Creating a PRD document is not enough! You need to get it reviewed by your stakeholders. Create your PRD in a centralized system so that every stakeholder can view the current PRD document and avoid the confusion of having several versions of the PRD document. 

Why do you need a PRD?

 There are four reasons why you need a PRD. These can be divided into:

Conviction: First thing's first! Understand what problem you are trying to solve in the first place. Knowing the problem exists and there is a need to solve it will give you enough clarity to introspect about why you are building the product. Writing down your PRD helps you find that clarity.  

Quantification: Once you identify a problem, you must understand its magnitude. Is it a minor problem that can be easily ignored, or is it a really big problem that must be solved? Quantifying the problem can help you understand its impact and the approach you should take to solve the problem. 

Collaboration: A PRD will work best when you include everyone and take inputs from relevant internal and external stakeholders. Without these inputs, you won't be able to come up with a solution that can effectively remove the problem you are trying to solve. 

 Source of truth: Whenever you build something, you start with the building, then scaling, and finally reiterating the process. This holds for building products too. PRD acts as a single point of truth for teams if they want to reflect on why a particular feature was added or the product’s scope. 

Who needs a PRD?

While the product manager writes the PRD., any designer and developer involved in the project need to refer to it to understand the product's purpose and the features it needs. Its current status. 

Product requirement documents template

Sample PRD template: Perforce

PRD template framework

Problem Statement

  • Current status.
  • Limitation of current features.
  • Key challenges and impact.

Objective

  • Voice of customer.
  • Solution.
  • Success criteria.

Product scope

  • In and out of the scope.

Flowcharting

  • User journey.
  • Data flow diagram for business teams.

Functional requirement

  • Define functionality and features for development and QA team.
  • Scenario handling.

Wireframing

PRD Wireframing
  • Visualize ideas
Visualizing ideas
  • GTM
  • Version and release plan

Metric tracking

  • Building dashboards
  • Data is key
  • Event creation 

Challenges of creating a PRD

A PRD document may sideline the problem directly to the intended solution. You need to focus on the problem to create the best possible solution. 

There’s always a shortcoming in pinning down the product details. To overcome it, teams need to collaborate and not be in silos. 

How each person reads and perceives the entire purpose of the PRD document can be a big challenge. From the writer to the developer to the tester — if each interprets their version, there will be the ultimate disaster. So use simple common language and collaborate to remove any possibilities of confusion. 

 Doing too little, too late

If you're doing usability testing for the first time doing too little and doing too late are some of the common mistakes you might be making. To overcome it, consider doing usability testing during the development stage and not during the implementation stage.

Also, consider multiple iterations involving multiple stakeholders where they can closely observe the process. 

Bias toward the requirement

When writing your PDA, you should focus more on what the product will do and not how it will do.

This approach can lead you to create more than one solution for the same problem. This can also frustrate the development team as engineers don't like to know how to do something. Rather they would prefer to innovate solutions. 

Too little detail

While you want the developers to innovate the solution, you still need to give them enough details and specify the product. If the details are not enough, developers are likely to make assumptions that can affect the project in the long run.

Too much detail

A text-heavy PRD document can be just as bad as too little text. If it's too long, the engineers will likely lose the patience to read the whole document. 

Marketing-driven PRD

It’s likely that PRD documents may get influenced by the marketing and sales team because they know best what their customers want. At the same time, it has some benefits (creating a product that customers want) and drawbacks too.

For example, someone from the sales team may promise a ‘special feature to a customer who wants to include it in the product. Specials can create several problems for the organization. The additional features can create complexity, like feature overload, that can confuse the customer. The added task can create a burden on the team as they end up creating several versions of the product. 

Best practices for making a PRD

Be mindful of choosing your tool.

There are many ways to create a PRD document. You can use a simple Word document or spreadsheet because that’s easily available. But these are not the optimal way of creating a PRD document. Since creating a PRD document is a collaborative action, you must choose a tool that facilitates collaboration.

For example, you can use Scribe to create documents by capturing your screen and combining the screenshots with automatic texts.

Here's a Scribe on how to set up a Zoom meeting (made in 39 seconds).

How to Set Up a Zoom Meeting: Made with Scribe.

Simplicity is key

Remember, PRDs are meant to give a high-level product overview, and you shouldn't be updating your PRD document daily.

A PRD is not meant to capture all your project updates, so resist the urge to do so. The ultimate goal of the PRD document should be what’s been done and not how it’s been done. 

Optimize collaboration

While a PRD document needs a collaborative approach, it can become a double-edged sword if you are unaware of who should collaborate. So, work on optimizing your collaborative effort.

Don't overwhelm your employees with too many meeting requests. Rather, collect their thoughts throughout the product development process and update them in the PRD document. 

Use common language

As you collaborate on creating your PRD document, understand that not everybody has a technology major and so keep your PRD document as jargon-free as possible. Keep it simple to avoid any confusion. 

Avoid redundancies & contradictions.

Contradictions and redundancies can significantly slow down your process. So, proofread your PRD document before you share it with the larger team. 

Creating a PRD document can be hard and time-consuming. In an Agile environment, your process needs to be fast and error-proof, with scope for everyone to participate and collaborate.

That’s where Scribe helps. Scribe lets you create documents by capturing your screen and combining the screenshots with automatic texts. 

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