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How to Write a Product Specification Document: Examples

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  • 0:05 Product Specification…
  • 0:48 Research & Product Purpose
  • 1:53 User Profile, Goals & Tasks
  • 3:07 Product Principles &…
  • 4:44 Identifying &…
  • 7:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Temitayo Odugbesan

Temitayo has 11+ years Industrial Experience in Information Technology and has a master's degree in Computer Science.

In this lesson, we'll look at the purpose of a product specification document (PSD) and learn how to effectively write one. We'll also discuss how a PSD affects the process of product conceptualization and development.

Product Specification Documents

A product specification document (PSD) helps to capture all the expected specifications and requirements for a product that's being conceptualized. This enables both the design team and potential product users to understand more about the product before it's actually built and readied for distribution or end-use.

The PSD is often confused with a product requirement document (PRD). However, while their contents are similar, the PRD has a more technical inclination.

For example, where a PSD would list the requirements for a user login page and the standard security requirements, a PRD version would describe those standard security requirements in-depth.

Research & Product Purpose

Let's look at an example of how to effectively write a product specification document.

William works as a product manager for a payment service provider. He's saddled with creating a PSD for a product in the early conception stage. With the product in mind, William first researches potential and existing users and competitors of the product, as well as the capability of the in-house technology team to develop and maintain this product using a product build approach. In other words, he checks to see if the product's development needs to be outsourced. He also reads positive and negative reviews of similar products currently on the market and examines the potential composition of the product team.

Next, William needs to define what the product is meant to do or the problem it will solve and how it will help customers or users achieve their desired goal in using the product. This step is very important since it's only through a clear understanding of the product's purpose that management and other team members will support the idea. He needs management approval for this product to be created and development to continue.

User Profile, Goals & Tasks

Once the product's purpose is clarified, William moves on to defining how the product will utilize user profiles, and help users achieve their goals and complete desired tasks. Every user of a product has particular needs or goals that they're looking to meet through the use of the product. For our payment service provider example, there are some users who feel having to create an account profile on eCommerce platforms is not necessary. They want to log on as a guest and conclude their transactions semi-anonymously. Others want to have an account profile but require less burden involved in the process. All of these users' needs have to be accommodated in a product if it is to succeed.

On the other hand, the product itself might have a goal that can be achieved by requesting users to have an account profile; for example, taking care of issues resulting from transactions. The product manager needs to examine both needs and see if this can be achieved without compromising the end product's quality.

William needs to ensure that goal-related tasks are well designed around the expected user's profile. For example, he needs to ask, 'What task can a logged on or a guest user perform on the product, and how will it affect the overall product's aim and objective?'

Product Principles & Prototyping

William needs a well-defined product principle to help drive his passion for the success of the product and its quick adoption for use by target users.

The product principles are sets of strategies, values, and goals that represent the overall direction a product is heading in line with the expected user's profile. Product principles are a value and vision that must also be bought and driven by the product team.

An example of this is when a user who wants to make a transaction on an eCommerce site without creating a user account or profile, still expects that transaction to be safely carried out. This user expects his or her transaction to be simple, straightforward, and secured.

Going with these expectations, a suitable product principle would be 'Safe and Simple to Use', among other catchy phrases aimed at assuring the users of its readiness to support their expectations.

At this stage, based on the initial product information that he's been able to come up with and working together with other members of the product team, William creates a prototype, or preliminary model of the product, and subjects it to various types of testing, including the following:

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