Effective Product Requirements Document (PRD) Writing

Essentials Of Effective Software Product Requirements Document Writing 

Any project starts with an idea but it may never be realized without correct requirements. During product requirements document writing, it’s crucial to focus on delivering true business values to end-users. In this article, you will learn how to create an effective PRD, what information it should contain, and get a simple template. 

Getting The Basics: What Is A Product Requirements Document (PRD)?

Creating a new software product starts with understanding the idea that stands behind it. It’s also crucial to calculate the time-to-market and project scope. However,  the primary steps include requirements gathering. A product requirement document, often referred to as PRD, defines the requirements and provides the information about the product’s capabilities. 

Typically, a PRD is created by a project manager from the end-users perspective. It should reflect a client’s vision and expectations. PRD writing is important as the documented requirements give a lot of benefits:

  • Minimized chances for ambiguity between a client and a development team. If the requirements are captured appropriately, both sides have a clear and similar understanding of what the product will be.
  • The requirements are gathered and communicated once for every member of the team as there’s no need to clarify them separately for every single person. 
  • All the project information is documented and stored in one place and is easy to access and use. 

Product requirements document writing helps development teams keep all the requirements up-to-date, consistent, agreed between a vendor and a client. This approach allows avoiding confusion; it saves costs, time, and efforts.

The scope and content of PRD depend on project complexity. For example, mobile app development requires prototyping as they provide the best vision of how the app should interact with end-users. CRM development will likely require complete project information, including prototypes, user requirements document, data migration flow, etc. Thus, it is recommended to start with understanding the project complexity and make a list of all the requirements. 

Usually, a PRD has the information on project goal and target end-users, how the software will look like, how it will interact with end-users. Ultimately, the document shows how product success will be assessed. 

Learn more about the product management process in our latest article

10-Step Guidance On How To Write A Product Requirements Document

The goal of PRD writing is to clearly communicate the software product features and functionalities, define its main purposes and expected behavior. The development team uses this document to develop and test the software and further check if the initial requirements align with released functionality. So, the PRD should contain the most comprehensive project information to ensure seamless development and product success. 

Below we share a 10-step process of PRD, including basic recommendations, tips and tricks, and possible pitfalls. 

Step 1: Prepare for PRD writing

Preparation is a critical step toward effective PRD writing. Before creating a document, you should gather information about competitors, customers, and resources, including team skills, experience, and technology expertise. You should involve every single person having relation to the future product — the company’s C-level executives, marketing specialists, salespeople, business analysts. During brainstorming sessions, every stakeholder articulates their ideas, and it will be easier to create a shared vision of the future product. 

Step 2: Start with a goal

Defining the product’s purposes is crucial for unambiguous understanding between all the product team members. The goal should be defined as a clear value proposition, including prioritized objectives. The latter can sound like “user-friendly application”, “market price under 100 USD”, “compatible with previous product version”. 

Step 3: Defining target users

Once your objectives are defined, you can proceed to create user profiles. These are usually described by a product manager who spares a lot of time discovering the target users. The end-users can be segmented, for example, if you have to develop some dealership system, you will likely have sellers and buyers as end-users. Thus, multiple user profiles are created to describe the needs and functionalities for each user category. 

Step 4: Defining decision criteria

The development process is accompanied by continuous decision-making. Hence, you should have to make a list of criteria to simplify this process. These product characteristics will help you differentiate from competitors. For example, it may sound like this “The product is reliable and secure, is easy to download and use, can be accessed at any time”. 

Step 5: Prototyping 

Validating the product concept is called prototyping. In fact, it is the time when you need to test your idea before bringing it to life. You should come through three types of testing to validate the product’s idea: feasibility, usability, and concept testing. The first is conducted by software developers and architects who should confirm the possibility of creating the product. Second, usability testing is performed by designers. They create prototypes and test the usability on real users to get feedback and identify the existing gaps. Ultimately, with the help of concept testing, you will make sure that your product is interesting for consumers and they would like to buy it. 

Step 6: Double-check 

Once you are prepared, double-check your ideas and question your assumptions. Make sure that every requirement and objective is clear and will be taken by every team member unambiguously. 

Step 7: PRD Writing

The content of the product requirement document is more important than its format (word document, pdf file, PowerPoint presentation, etc.). The document should be easily accessible, readable, and have capabilities for making amendments. 

Typically a PRD consists of the following sectors:

Product goal. The description of the product’s purposes should cover the next things: the challenges it should solve, target users, interaction scenarios with target users. 

Product features. Requirements make up the body of the PRD. Each feature should be described at the design and use cases level. It is also important to align each of the functionalities with a respective product objective to ensure the full coverage of requirements. For these purposes, engineers build a requirements traceability matrix (RTM). 

Release criteria are related to the product’s reliability, performance, usability, etc. For example, reliability criteria selection requires answering questions like “What is the acceptable failure rate?”.

The schedule will show the approximate project timeframes.

Step 8: Prioritizing

Prioritizing is all about having a well-defined classification system for requirements priority. For example, your requirements may be prioritized according to “must-have”, “high want”, “nice to have”,  or “high”, “mid”, “low”. Your PRD should have this classification documented for the right usage and understanding. 

Step 9: Testing

PRD documentation must be tested to approve its viability. It means, that all the stakeholders should review it and check for the data completeness and consistency. For example, test engineers will check if your document has all the necessary information to start writing test strategy and plan. 

Step 10: Editing

Across the development life cycle, you will face a lot of challenges like missing requirements, gaps, or ambiguous descriptions. PRD is a live document that can be edited as often as needed. As soon as you have any changes to the requirements, you must document that in the PRD. 

You might be interested in reading our Ultimate Guide on User Stories Writing

Some Useful Tips On PRD Writing

  1. Each requirement should have a separate description. You can also group the requirements by functionality if needed.
  2. Be consistent. Your document must be well-structured and follow the logical consequence.
  3. All the requirements must be stated clearly. Every person working with this document must understand the meaning of each term, so avoid using complicated notions or transcribe those in clear language.
  4. Avoid ambiguity and using such words as “approximately”, “likely”, “many more”, “etc.” and so on.
  5. You should focus on what should be done instead of how.
  6. All requirements must be stored in one place and all team members must know where they can find these requirements.
  7. If several people are working on the product requirements document, define a person who’s responsible for the document governance. 
  8. Use visual materials (schemes, diagrams, pictures) where it is possible to replace the respective text. Such an approach simplifies the reader’s perception and understanding.

Visual Examples: Product Requirements Document Template 

As mentioned above, you can use any PRD format you like. For example, below is a one-page product requirements document (agile), created in Confluence

Image Source: Atlassian

Here is another example of PRD, the Spotify product requirements document, created by Charlotte Soestini. It also has goals and features that are prioritized like “priority one”, “priority two”, and “priority three”. Along with features, you can see the respective metrics. 

Hardware product requirements document covers the same points as a software PRD but is not limited to. It may look like this:

Image source: Slideshare

Our recommendation on the best way to implement the Quality Assurance (QA) process for startups. 

Agile Approach: Using Jira For Product Requirements 

The PRD form will depend on your approach to software development. The Waterfall model requires consequent, stage-by-stage development, whereas Agile allows for breaking the project into smaller iterations each of which can be considered a small project. In the latter case, requirements are written on a high level first.

Using a web-based system for product requirements is more convenient than using a lengthy word document. You always have access and once there are new changes, you can add them to the backlog and prioritize. The agile approach to PRD writing saves a lot of time and effort for the development teams.

Jira’s product management solution Confluence allows developers and project managers to quickly create PRD. Due to ready-made templates, it’s easy to fill in all the available product information. In Confluence, you can build a one-page PRD consisting of the following parts:

  • High-level direction containing data on target release, respective epic in Jira, document status, document owner, the names of involved designers, developers, and QAs. 
  • Goals and objectives describing the challenges and expected outcomes once the feature is released.
  • Described assumptions.
  • User stories and their descriptions with priorities and notes.
  • User interaction and mockups.
  • Things to be discussed.
  • Things out of scope. 

Agile requirements document is a good way to keep all the necessary product information in one place, be agile with a standard template, link the details, create a backlog, make reports instantly. Although there are a lot of benefits of using Jira for product requirements, the most pleasant thing is that it enables developers, architects, project managers, and test engineers to collaborate effectively and meet project goals on time. 

How We Can Help You With Requirement Based Testing Services

As we mentioned, PRDs are used not only by project managers and developers but also by test engineers. With the help of this documentation, they get the information for test planning.

Requirements-based testing (RBT) is aimed to verify that the requirements are appropriately collected, consistent, similarly understandable by all the stakeholders. Secondly, this type of testing helps create a minimal set of test cases to validate the alignment between the requirements, design, and code. 

At Apphawks, we offer RBT services with the following scope: test completion criteria, test cases creation, test execution, and test results verification and reporting. 

Testing based on the product specification document is performed according to the following stages: 

  1. Selecting test completion criteria 
  2. Test cases design
  3. Test cases development
  4. Test execution
  5. Test results verification
  6. Test coverage verification
  7. Defects identifications and management
  8. Test Library management

RBT is vital before product development allows for avoiding a significant number of errors and defects, which also saves time and effort. Test engineers can get familiar with the project objectives, create the appropriate test strategy and test cases. It also increases the collaboration inside the team, which results in higher productivity and high-quality outcomes. 

We deliver all types of testing, including RBT for web and mobile software products, enterprise-level solutions, and APIs. Reach our team out to get your product requirements tested.

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Grzegorz Kłos
Grzegorz Kłos - Apphawks Co-founder
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