Product Specs

What Is a Product Specification?

A Product Specification, commonly referred to as a product spec, is an important product document that outlines key requirements for building a new feature, functionality, or product. Like a blueprint, a product spec contains key information (e.g., target users, business needs, goals, and other essential details) to help guide the product team in building a successful product.

An effective product spec is concise, brief, and not overly technical. It should answer these key questions:

  1. What are we building, and why?
  2. What should this new product achieve?
  3. How do we measure success?

The Anatomy of a Product Spec

A typical product specification includes the following elements:

product spec template

Why Is a Product Spec Important?

A product spec is a critical early step for product development as it requires critical thinking in the initial stages of fleshing out a new idea. It effectively communicates what’s you’re building and for whom, and what the outcome should be. Additionally, it provides essential context for those who will be developing the product. It also serves as a guideline for product teams to follow throughout the development process. And a really good product spec provides clarity, which streamlines development, keeps teams on track, and helps avoid costly miscommunication.

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According to the HubSpot Service Blog:

“Product specifications act as the outline and structure that your team will use as their roadmap to bring your ideas to life. Not only does creating the product specifications ease your development process, but it ensures that your team stays on track with the goal for the product.”

Read the Beginner’s Guide to Product Specifications.

5 Steps to Writing a Good Product Spec

Follow these five key steps when creating your product spec:

Step 1: Review Customer Feedback

Whether it’s in the form of customer complaints, questions, suggestions, or feature requests, understanding your customers’ pain is essential in identifying the problem your product aims to solve.

Step 2: Initiate Internal Discussions

Create opportunities for colleagues on the product team and across the organization to chime in and feel connected to the development process. It invites a fresh, broad perspective.

Step 3: Determine Product Requirements

Figure out the requirements necessary to build the product and achieve the desired outcome.

Step 4: Conduct User Testing

Create a prototype that your closest customers can test. It will help you understand which features are essential and which ones are rarely (or never) used, and also what triggers frustration or confusion.

Step 5: Revise and Release

Apply the valuable insights discovered during user testing to revise your product spec. When you feel confident about the adjustments, send your product specifications to the development team to begin building the product.

Related terms: Product BriefAlpha TestAcceptance CriteriaUser StoryBacklog Grooming 

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