The product development process is rarely linear. You have an idea of what you’d like to build, and things change as you tinker and develop. While it’s normal to steer your product in new directions, you want to keep yourself grounded and focused on your customers and product solution. Stray too far from your purpose and target audience, and you might just build an incredible product that nobody wants (or needs).
To avoid this outcome, a product manager drafts a product requirements document. This document outlines the core necessities of your product, aligning it with your business’s customers, values, and use cases.
Below, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about your PRD to streamline development and build products that attract adoption and drive revenue growth for your business.
A PRD, or product requirements document, is a comprehensive guide that outlines the objectives, requirements, and specifications of a product a business is developing. This record acts as a roadmap for designers and developers, helping keep them on the same page as they build something from the ground up.
The document outlines what the final product should look like, how it should function, and who its target users are. It’s a bridge between all the stakeholders involved in its creation.
A PRD should include the following details about your product:
Product development methodologies evolve and change, but the PRD remains a blueprint to bring clarity, alignment, and direction as you forge ahead and prioritize your product roadmap.
A market requirements document (MRD) and a product requirements document differ. While your startup should use these two documents in collaboration, avoid conflating their distinct roles.
The MRD focuses on market research, customer needs, and strategic direction, while the PRD zooms in on detailed product requirements, technical specifications, and internal collaboration.
While every startup might not have had a document labeled “product requirements document,” they likely had something closely resembling it. Even Twilio founder, Jeff Lawson, wrote a loose PRD on the back of a pizza box when building his startup. Your startup might not need a PRD, but it will help and won’t hurt.
Here are a few of the clear-cut benefits of writing a product requirements document:
A well-crafted PRD should be comprehensive yet flexible, capturing both the product’s big picture and fine details. It should be precise, leaving no room for ambiguity or misunderstanding—however, it should also leave room for adaptation and iterations.
Every PRD will look different.
Some development teams need extreme attention to detail to avoid scope creep, while others will operate better with more freedom and autonomy. Some include specific features and technical specifications, while others detail certain success metrics or budgetary constraints.
For example, Amazon Prime might require 2-day shipping options while keeping each purchase profitable for the company—those would be essential items to include in a PRD.
Here’s what you can include in your product requirements document. You can include the whole product requirements document template or pick and choose the elements you most need.
You don’t want your PRD to become so long that it’s no longer user-friendly. Make it an ebook, and that’s a surefire way to guarantee nobody reads or references it. Keep it short. If you can condense it down to one page, that’s ideal.
Knowing what goes into your product requirements document is an essential first step, but now you have to write it all down. This process is collaborative between product management, developers, designers, and your executive team.
Clearly articulate the specific problem or need the product aims to address, ensuring a thorough understanding among all stakeholders. When defining the problem, consider your target audience’s needs and pain points, and explain how the current market offering fall short in addressing these needs. Gain these insights from customer interviews, user testing, and competitive research.
Develop a comprehensive solution spec that answers the defined problem, considering user requirements, market research, and technical feasibility. This could include descriptions of your product’s key features, how it will function, and what sets it apart from existing solutions.
Document the product requirements, including the problem statement, user personas, scope, feature requirements, functional and non-functional requirements, design guidelines, and technical specifications.
Get input from all stakeholders to refine and iterate on the PRD, including designers and developers, to refine the document. As feedback rolls in, make the necessary adjustments. This process may involve several iterations to ensure alignment and clarity.
Give your development team the PRD to guide their engineering efforts, providing the necessary context and supporting development materials. As they delve into development, aspects of the PRD may need to be revisited and revised.
Maintain an ongoing feedback loop and open communication with the development and testing teams throughout the development process, allowing for clarifications and adjustments—addressing any questions or challenges.
By following these steps, you can create a PRD that effectively guides your product’s development, ensuring that the final product meets the needs of your target audience and solves the problem you’ve set out to address.
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