Product requirements documentation is frequently viewed as a "necessary evil" by teams. They know it must be made, but don't consider it worthwhile.
And that's a serious mistake.
Half-measures in product documentation punish your users and prevent you from taking advantage of numerous chances to increase their brand loyalty. That's why the cost of product documentation is an investment rather than a lost expense.
Even Fred Stern, the Director of Product Development at COGZ Systems, claims:
“A PRD acts as a battle plan for creating a product. It is critical to the whole organization because it provides a means to communicate the product's goals, features and purpose. It also spells out what areas of the company need to be involved in the development. Sales and marketing, for instance, must confirm that the SaaS PRD is closely aligned with customer requirements.”
That’s why in this article, we’ll tell a to z of product documentation along with four ready-to-use product documentation templates. Read on.
What is a product requirements document (PRD)?
A PRD is a manual that outlines the specifications for a specific product, including its function, features and behavior.
Typically, the product manager creates this document to explain what they are doing, who it is for and how it benefits the end user. It also acts as a manual for the technical and business teams who work on the product's development, launch and promotion.
Components of product requirements documents include:
- Purpose: Who is it for and why are you building it?
- Features: What you will create.
- Release Objectives: Release goals.
- Timeline — A general window for the release.
What are the different types of product documentation?
There are many different types of product documentation and each type of document has a specific function for businesses and the product. Here are the seven types of product documentation that you can consider:
A knowledge base is a central database where details about a product and its resources are kept. It provides details on the attributes of the product, as well as specific applications.
Companies use internal knowledge bases for their own staff members. These act as a centralized database for all corporate data, including the company's history, vision, mission, policies and procedures.
It also includes information on the firm structure, onboarding manuals, marketing strategies and market research.
On the other side, there are external knowledge bases with customer-related data. These include textual content and other product-related media aimed at assisting customers.
Software development kit (SDK)
Software development kits provide developers with code examples, libraries, documentation, procedures and guidance. The purpose is to assist developers in integrating the software into their applications.
Different sorts of SDKs exist because they are language- and platform-specific. This indicates that SDK documentation is extremely specialized.
The structure, code, process document and other information linked to the software are all contained in SDKs.
Guides are another sort of product documentation. Depending on the product, these may be how-to manuals or comprehensive guides.
To demonstrate how the product would function in various scenarios, each document in a guide usually contains a number of examples. The guides also offer several useful and practical suggestions about how to use the products.
Case studies are a type of research that examines how a product has been successfully used by a specific company or individual to achieve a specific goal. They provide valuable insights into how the product can be used effectively in different industries and can serve as a useful reference for potential customers.
By showcasing a product through case studies, you can demonstrate its real-world impact and provide practical examples of how it can be used to achieve specific outcomes.
In addition, case studies can serve as a source of positive customer feedback, as they provide a window into the experiences and successes of other businesses or individuals who have used the product.
Documentation for your products may also contain any marketing documentation and copy you produce to attract customers and leads.
For instance, your product documentation will include a landing page you develop that details your product's price, features and applications.
All of the features of the product are listed in the feature documentation along with their functions. The online feature documentation has hyperlinks to each feature's page or website.
The purpose of feature documents is to give customers access to a comprehensive list of features. It aids people in comprehending each specific feature, its applications and how it might benefit them.
Additionally, it enables customers to learn about the complete scope of a product.
Internal documentation is exclusively product-based information for staff members and employees, much like internal knowledge bases.
A central location for all product-related information is typically internal documentation. Employees can always search the documentation for the information they require.
It's a great way to stay organized and aids in the continued improvement of the product.
Additionally, it aids new team members and employees to get all the required information. As a result, it also serves as an excellent onboarding asset.
Product documentation templates
The four templates mentioned in this section have a general structure, but you can customize them to fit your needs by duplicating them.
Each template includes instructions on how to duplicate and use it - just click on the relevant sections and you'll be all set.
Let's get started.
PRD presentation template
A PRD (Product Requirements Document) presentation template is a structured outline that guides the creation of a presentation about a product. It includes sections such as the vision, description, timing, status, metrics etc.
A PRD presentation template helps ensure that all relevant information is included and presented clearly and organized. It is used to outline the key features, functionality and goals of a product.
Feature requirements template
Products are made up of a variety of features. Additionally, a large portion of the product development team's time will be devoted to delivering feature-level work as you continue to build and improve your offering.
A product manager's job requires them to write in-depth feature requirements. Giving the engineering team just enough information to prevent surprises later on, is ideal, but not to the point where they feel confined. Beyond the core development team, there are additional benefits.
For cross-functional teams who will support the introduction of new functionality, having feature requirements documented in a clear template is helpful.
Lean PRD template
The purpose of lean product development is to eliminate waste that is frequently brought on by top-heavy procedures.
Lean techniques place emphasis on organizing around a core team who have a deep understanding of what customers and company needs are rather than splitting the numerous organizations involved in creating a new user experience.
Check out this free lean PRD template made with Scribe.
Release requirements template
A release is more than just the code the team creates and distributes. Delivering a new customer experience is an opportunity, from new functionality to how cross-functional teams support the go-to-market launch and beyond.
Because so many people are involved in making a product successful, it is crucial to take into account all of the factors that will affect your release (updating as progress happens to reflect the latest). Check out our release requirements template here.
How to build your own product documentation
“The key to creating a successful PRD is to be clear and concise. The PRD is like a battle plan and will be subject to change once work begins. Try to be as brief as possible. Don't get lost in the weeds by providing unnecessary details. Focus on the particular features required to meet your specific goals. In a SaaS environment, it is particularly important to involve major customers in the design phase.” — Fred Stern, the Director of Product Development at COGZ
Define your needs
As we’ve already mentioned, PRDs come in a variety of types, so it’s crucial that you identify your needs and goals beforehand so that you opt for the right type of PRD.
It’s because doing so will ensure you’re going in the right direction.
Keep your audience in mind
Your target market should be considered when creating your product documentation.
There are two primary factors to think about when examining your audience as a whole:
- How knowledgeable are they about your products?
- Their anticipation for your informational content.
To make sure your product documentation doesn't overwhelm your customers:
- Use language that the ordinary user can comprehend and stay away from excessive jargon and sophisticated expressions.
- With each document, you produce, concentrate on a distinct subject or problem. Split a single document into many pieces of content if you're unsure.
- Get to the point without adding extraneous details or material that can confuse the reader.
Make it accessible
Making your product documentation accessible helps users find and use the information they need. A well-structured database improves visibility and browsability, increasing user engagement and making it easier for users to find and explore related content.
Product documentation databases can be organized in various ways, depending on user needs and preferences. For example, Net2Phone organizes its knowledge base by product, customer type and service use case, while Formant separates its documentation by user expertise.
In addition to organizing the database, it's also important to include interlinking and suggestions for further reading to improve visibility and keep users engaged. Proper organization and structure can also make it easier to maintain accurate and up-to-date documentation and avoid issues such as data loss and redundant documentation.
Make it visually appealing
Making your PRDs visually appealing through images, videos, screenshots, etc., helps you:
- Clarify or reinforce any specific instructions.
- Display specific techniques or actions.
- Transmit implicit knowledge that is frequently difficult to express in words.
But incorporating videos, images and screenshots in documentation is not easy.
That’s why we’ve come up with an all-in-one solution– Scribe that allows you to create, share and edit PRDs along with incorporating videos, images, links and screenshots, that too within seconds. Yes, it’s that easy!
Not sure about it? We’ve got you covered! Here’s a Scribe that Leni made in just 30 seconds.
Here’s what our users say about us:
Make ongoing improvements
If your products and target audience change, you'll need to update and/or develop new documentation. However, as a matter of course, you should also make regular updates to this content.
In general, these upgrades should be based on information about user engagement, such as:
- What are the documents that your users access the most frequently?
- Their interaction with each page they visit.
- Their overall experience viewing product documentation on-site.
- Giving ratings and receiving other comments.
Think about the service and support tickets your team has handled and the effects this has on your attempts to document your product. By doing so, you can produce additional documentation to offer your users in the future proactive support.
Create your PRD today!
Although managing product documentation may not seem glamorous or interesting, it can hugely impact how your customers perceive your company.
And if you actually view your product documentation efforts as an investment, you'll contribute a ton of value to your customers' experiences, which will benefit your business for a very long time.
Are you prepared to start approaching your product documentation procedures with more seriousness without facing the hassle involved?
If yes, grab the templates mentioned above and click here to save your hours for absolutely free.