The process of developing a new product or feature is always exciting. Often, it’s so exciting that it’s too easy to fall off the track — the further you are in the development cycle, the more ideas you come up with. Such enthusiasm is very dangerous as it may turn your product into a mess.
That’s why you should put comprehensive research, planning and consistency at the heart of your product development. A product requirements document (PRD) will help your product team stay on track and make consistent project progress.
The document helps streamline the entire software development process and ensure the final product meets the end user's needs. But what exactly should you include in your PRD? How does it look? This is what we’re going to cover in this article.
Read on to discover must-have components of a PRD, learn the best practices for creating one and get your free PRD template.
What is a product requirements document?
A product requirements document is a detailed summary of the features, functions and requirements of a product. It communicates the product vision to the software development team.
A PRD outlines the product’s purpose, goals and objectives, and provides the timeline for the development and launch of the product. It also includes a detailed description of the user interface, user experience and system architecture.
Product teams need to update the PRD as the product evolves to keep it relevant and use it as a reference point for the software development process.
Why you need a PRD
A product requirements document is an essential tool for software teams to ensure the successful development and launch of the product. Here’s how exactly a good PRD improves the product development process.
It improves collaboration between teams
The PRD outlines the details and requirements of the product, ensuring that everyone involved in the product development process is on the same page and understands the objectives of the project. This way, cross-functional teams can easily coordinate their efforts, increasing the chances of a successful product launch.
It outlines areas of ownership
One of the biggest pains in every project is the lack of clear responsibilities. It leads to miscommunication, conflicts and an extended project timeline.
The project requirements document solves this problem by specifying who does what. It covers the roles and responsibilities of each team member and ensures that everyone is aware of their tasks in the project and can take ownership of their work.
It ensures the product meets the needs of the customer
During the project lifecycle, every stakeholder will want to offer their ideas and make the product even better. However, continuous additions may eventually ruin your product logic and distract you from real customer needs.
Having your product plan documented helps to maintain a consistent product strategy and keep your initial customer research on top of mind throughout the entire development process.
It reduces development time
By clearly outlining the requirements and timeline, a PRD helps to streamline the product development process, thus making it more efficient.
When all the stakeholders are on the same page and understand the objectives of the project, you can expect fewer issues and roadblocks on your way. Additionally, the PRD can be used to track the progress of the project, ensuring that the product is delivered on time.
9 Components of a good product requirements document
- Product overview.
- Background and strategic fit.
- Customer research.
- Functional requirements.
- Success metrics.
- Design elements.
- Release criteria
This is a brief description of the product, including the product name, stakeholders, status and expected release date.
There’s no established, one-size-fits-all structure for the product overview section. You can structure it in a variety of ways. Often, product managers include project goals, target audience and product vision right here, but you may as well do it further down the document.
Additionally, the product overview may cover a high-level overview of the features, functions and design elements of the product, as well as the timeline for development and launch. This helps to provide an overall vision for the project.
Background & strategic fit
Here you should communicate the reason why you want to build the product.
This section outlines the goals and objectives of the product and how the app fits into the organization’s overall strategy and mission. You may also touch upon the niche you’re entering and how you expect to achieve the product-market fit. This helps to ensure that the product is designed to meet both the customer's needs and the requirements of the business.
When you get down to writing a product requirements document, you’ve already conducted customer research (we hope so). Now, you need to make sure the information you’ve found out is easily accessible by every person involved in the project.
This is where you specify who your users are and what they want based on the results of the previous customer analysis. You may link to customer interviews and market research results to give collaborators a better understanding of your target audience.
This is a list of the product features that you need to develop to meet users’ needs. The features are usually supported by user stories and grouped by priority.
Wait, what are user stories? User stories are customers’ expectations of product functionality, performance and quality. Based on user stories, you can come up with the features your product must have.
Depending on the stage of the software development, functional requirements can be high-level or detailed. The further into the development cycle you are, the more specific the requirements will be.
You will later use functional requirements to determine the scope of your project and create a product roadmap.
As you reach your product milestones, you should be able to measure their impact on your overall product success. Define metrics that will indicate how well your team members have completed specific tasks and help you set the direction for further product development.
In this section, you’ll include a visual representation of the user interface, user experience and system architecture of the product in the form of low-fidelity prototypes or wireframes.
There’s no need for picture-perfect prototypes at this stage. Your wireframes should give your stakeholders a clear idea of the key user flows within the product.
You can start with a low-fidelity prototype to create a basic screen map and create a task for your designers. Later, they’ll build mockups and high-fidelity prototypes based on your specifications.
These are criteria that your product should meet before its release for beta testing.
The criteria can include items such as product features, user experience, usability, performance, security and stability.
This is a rough estimate of what should be delivered and when. Here you need to highlight the key milestones and dependencies on the way to delivering the project.
At this point, you don’t have to be very specific with dates and deadlines. It’s enough to define how long certain development phases should take based on the information you already know.
With a rough timeline, you can start creating tasks for your product team. When they review the document and share their feedback, you can create a more realistic product roadmap.
Tasks. The final section outlines the tasks that need to be completed to eventually release the product. This helps to keep stakeholders accountable and ensure that the product is developed on time.
Free product requirements document template by Scribe
There’s no need to build a PRD from scratch every time you start a new project. Use this template as a starting point and adjust it based on your specific circumstances.
To access the template and collaborate on your PRD with your team, sign up for Scribe today.
Use Scribe and Scribe Pages to create documentation, share it and collaborate on it with stakeholders.
- Product name:
- Target audience:
Background and strategic fit
[What problem is your product/feature solving and how does it align with your organization’s mission and goals?]
- Link to customer analysis.
- Link to market research.
- User story 1:
- Requirement 1:
- User story 2:
- Requirement 2:
- User story 3:
- Requirement 3:
[Define measurable product- or feature-specific objectives you should achieve at each development phase.]
[Add mockups and images to illustrate future product design and user flows.]
- User Interface
- Screen 1:
- Screen 2:
- Screen 3:
- Screen 4:
- Screen 5:
- User Experience
- Experience 1:
- Experience 2:
- Experience 3:
- Experience 4:
- Experience 5:
[Specify minimal requirements for the following product aspects:]
- Milestone 1:
- Milestone 2:
- Milestone 3:
- Task 1:
- Task 2:
- Task 3:
7 Best practices for writing a product requirements document
Follow these tips to write a product requirements document that adds value to your product team.
1. Understand the product vision
Before creating a PRD, it is important to define your organization’s product vision and discuss it with everyone involved.
Whether you’re building software from scratch or developing new product features, having a long-term mission will help you prioritize features and tasks and align them with your bigger purpose.
2. Do the research
What do your end-users expect from the product? How does the market look at the moment? What are the constraints your product team will inevitably face?
There are a lot of questions you should answer before you can write a product requirements document. Start with customer analysis, market research and constraint analysis to define product features and set realistic expectations for the project.
3. Involve all stakeholders
PRDs are usually written by the product manager or product owner, but it is important to involve all stakeholders in the process of creating a PRD. To create realistic product requirements, you’ll need input from developers, designers, analysts and others.
As you work on the document, share the page with your team and let them contribute to it. Use collaborative documentation software like Scribe to collect stakeholders’ feedback and ask others to provide their perspectives and suggestions.
4. Split your goals into achievable milestones
A quality product isn’t built fast. You’ll start with a skeleton and continue to improve it with better functionality, faster speed, fewer bugs and a more intuitive UI. That’s why you need to define very specific and achievable objectives and success metrics on your way to release.
With these milestones, it’ll be easy to track the project’s progress and spot issues that may arise in different development phases.
5. Get straight to the point
Avoid verbiage. The document should be short and actionable. If you feel you can omit some sections, do it.
6. Review and update regularly
The product requirements may change over time and it’s important to reflect any changes in your PRD.
As you achieve new milestones, you may need to add new elements to your product requirements document. For example, as you get to know your end-users better, you’ll want to add new user stories and product requirements.
When you update the document, don’t forget to inform your team of the changes made. Miscommunication may become the biggest roadblock on your way to product success.
7. Track progress
Use the PRD to track the project’s progress. Check with it regularly to see whether you’re still on track or if you need to make adjustments to the initial plan.
Always write a product requirements document first
A PRD is a document your product team will stick to throughout the development process. It should make things easier for all stakeholders, not overcomplicate them.
Keep your documentation brief but informative so that everyone involved can use it as a reference point whenever they need it. Our template will help you get started, but you should always adjust your PRD based on your exact project specifications.
With Scribe, you can create engaging, collaborative PRDs that your team wants to follow. Try it today!