March 6, 2020Prd
PRD: A Complete Guide With Templates Included
Great ideas are not in short demand.
Everybody’s got their sights on being the next unicorn, and everybody has a few app ideas in the back of their head.
But if you want to push through…
And actually create a product that sells…
You need to build something for your audience.
A PRD (Product Requirements Document) is not just about outlining the main features of your product.
It does that, yeah.
But most importantly, everything is from the end user’s point of view.
If you do it right, it can augment your development process.
So let’s delve into it.
What Is A PRD?
A PRD is a document that covers all the requirements for a specific product. It’s all about helping people understand what your product should do.
But you shouldn’t outline things that are too specific.
For example, you should say that “Our product will feature a collaboration tool that is built in-house and lets people work together on documentation, has a shared media library and built-in integrations with Hubspot”.
But you shouldn’t necessarily mention what programming language will be used to build that part.
Neither should you go in-depth about User Interface or branding.
A PRD should outline your vision from a user’s point of view.
But it should leave enough wiggle room.
You want your UX designed by interface experts, and your architecture built by engineers.
So you shouldn’t do anything to constrain their work.
They’re the experts, so let them use their expertise to come up with optimal implementation solutions.
Now, this gets tricky if you’re one of the experts.
It’s common for a startup environment.
So you’ll need to resist the urge to get into specifics.
- Non-experts will read the PRD too. Investors, marketers and other stakeholders might need to check up on the document to align their efforts.
- You’d be constraining yourself. Maybe you are the CTO of your company, but that doesn’t mean you’ll always have the right answer. Deciding on a specific language or framework should be a team decision.
- Adaptability is important for agile development. A lack of specificity means you can adapt each feature as you progress.
If this doesn’t paint a good picture, read our piece on What Is A PRD.
So you know what a PRD is.
You get the basic gist of what it helps with.
But why should you create a PRD?
The Benefits of a Product Requirements Document
Like any documentation, PRDs help your team get clarity.
It also incentivizes critical thinking, it helps with analyzing your product and all the good stuff.
But a PRD has a specific forte: understanding your target audience.
Again, your product requirements document should be from a user’s point of view.
The features, interface, and functionality you’re describing in a PRD… all of them should be what your target audience wants to see.
Not what you think would look cool.
Or what you would want to use.
Pulling this off means you have a hub of data about what your users want to experience.
Which can fuel any upcoming design, development, and marketing decision.
Even if you don’t get it right from the get-go, it’s still food for thought.
If you realize you’re not sure what your target audience wants in terms of collaborative features, for example, you can spend more time building a good buyer persona.
But it’s more than understanding your users.
Your entire team can better align their efforts with a PRD.
On top, the entire development process is clearer. Whether you’re an adept of agile development, or still do waterfall, you have a pretty good sense of where your product needs to get to.
Lastly, a product requirements document gives all important stakeholders a common vision of your product.
It’s all roses really.
As long as you manage to create a real overview of what your product should do.
Software Development Methodologies and PRDs
We’ll be honest with you.
Creating a PRD is no longer an industry standard.
Back in the days of waterfall development, the predictability of a PRD was important.
You were going from general to specific, so you needed a way to manage expectations and measure performance.
With agile development, you would be excused to think a PRD is not necessary.
After all, you’re doing adaptive planning, what’s the point of a general overview in the early stages?
Well, it can actually help even more.
People associate PRDs with waterfall development, but that’s not a fair correlation.
When you boil it down, the product requirements document outlines just that: requirements.
It states what a product should or shouldn’t feature.
So you can find other ways to manage product requirements and development expectations.
But you shouldn’t try to reinvent the wheel just for the sake of abstract innovation.
A PRD can help in an agile environment because it helps you keep track of the big picture.
It’s easy to get caught up in the process when you’re constantly adding and testing features.
So a PRD can streamline your development process.
Not buying it yet?
Well, that could be because you don’t have a clear image of what a PRD is.
So let’s talk about how your PRD can look like.
Different Types of PRDs
When people think about a product requirements document, they usually imagine a long-winded, technical document.
And that’s definitely possible.
There are PRDs that end up with big word counts.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There are one-page PRDs that get the job done just as well.
So which should you go for?
If you want a long PRD, you should have the product complexity to warrant that.
A complex PRD that covers every possible feature you’re going to have, with extreme detail, should only describe complex products.
For example, if you’re building a simple app, a one-page PRD might do it.
If you’re building an accounting SaaS platform, chances are you’re going to need more room for explanations.
For that kind of software, you need to describe complex algorithms, a backend structure, and considerably more use cases.
Remember, a PRD covers not only technical specs and desired features. It should also be an overview of the user experience.
If you want a short PRD, make sure you don’t sacrifice clarity.
A one-pager will be enough for a simple app, or software that enables other processes, like a plugin or a browser extension.
And in those cases, definitely go for a one-pager.
It’s just easier to pass the information around that way.
But if you feel like you’re struggling to be concise, don’t go out of your way just to have a shorter PRD.
Similarly, you should consider the predictability of your project.
If you’re developing something predictable, generally using waterfall development, you want a document that goes in-depth about your product requirements.
If you’re developing in an agile environment, you don’t have as much predictability.
And you shouldn’t set too much in stone from the get-go.
So do consider your processes before sitting down to write a PRD.
Lastly, think about the format.
You should have a way to convey visual directions since you need to outline user interface requirements too.
This can, of course, be a description like:
“...Blue and red interface to inspire professionalism and dynamism, minimalist design, few animations, 3 use cases for the following users...”
But even in that case, a few images with examples from other products can make a world of a difference.
So you’d be better off with a visual document.
On the other end of the spectrum, you can turn a PRD into somewhat of an infographic.
With the PRD format, just do what comes easy.
If you’re not one for design and you’re bootstrapping on a tight schedule, a written document you knock out in a day might work better.
If you’re visually inclined and have time to spare for an in-depth, complex PRD, you can spice it up.
Regardless of that choice, one thing’s clear.
A PRD can help a lot.
And now you know what it should generally look like.
Let’s start writing.
How To Create A PRD
The first thing you need before you sit at the keyboard is the right mindset.
We said it already, but we’ll say it again. A PRD is about your end-user.
Everything you write about your product requirements should be geared towards what they need.
I know it sounds intuitive.
And I know it seems like a trivial aspect.
But having the right mindset is important all throughout creating a PRD.
From conceptualizing the right requirements to retouching the UX mockups. So don’t rush it.
Once you got that settled, you should always remember the key defining characteristics of a good PRD:
- Comprehensive. A good PRD will provide a complete overview of what your product should look like. That means covering objectives, KPIs, functionality, use cases and user interface.
- Simple. PRDs help everyone get onboard your product. A good PRD is readable and understandable by most people with slight technical knowledge. However, that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice technical direction. If you’re describing complex algorithms you’d like to have in place, don’t stray away from technical terms.
- Adaptable. In the world of agile development, your product should be able to change rapidly. If something changes on the market, if you run into problems, or if you just think of a better direction, PRDs shouldn’t interfere with changes in the development process. Of course, you need more adaptability if you’re developing through agile, not waterfall, but adaptability is important in all cases.
Now, remember this.
If your PRD is comprehensive, simple, adaptable and geared for your end-user, nothing else matters all that much.
It can be an ebook, an infographic, a table or a spreadsheet.
Formatting is considerably less important than just creating something that meets these criteria.
So don’t sweat it.
Find a means that lets you write a PRD with those defining characteristics in mind.
If you still don’t have what you need, we can suggest a structure.
You can take it and adapt it to your company.
So a good PRD will feature details on the following.
The scope section should outline the main problem your product solves.
Great ideas are a dime a dozen.
So if you’re not actually helping other people, your product won’t succeed.
That’s why this part is so important. And you should treat it accordingly.
But it’s more than just scribbling a problem and how you’re the solution. To make full use of a PRD, you should also explain how solving this problem is in line with your company’s vision.
Imagine this part as an overview of the PRD itself.
Make sure you explain what the product will generally do in clear terms, but also take this opportunity to establish who you’re helping.
Build a clear persona of your end-user.
Now’s time for the trickier stuff.
An MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is “a version of a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and provide feedback for future product development”.
It’s a beta version of your ultimate product.
And it’s a cornerstone of good development. You need a strong MVP to validate your product ideas.
That’s why a good PRD will feature a strong overview of what your MVP will look like.
In the document itself, just outline the basic features and design of your minimum viable product.
So for example, if the final result will be a website analyzer for non-techies that cleans the source code automatically, an MVP could just be a crawler that highlights bugs and unclean code.
3. Features and Functionalities
Once you have an overview of your MVP, describe your product in detail.
Let’s focus on this website analyzer example.
The features and functionalities section should outline each dashboard and option your end-user can have.
Don’t be shy about the details.
You should include as much information as possible for the development team to properly implement your vision.
If you’re developing using an agile methodology, you could leave some room for other features to be added along the way.
And you should always state if a feature is not mandatory.
That way, if there’s a compatibility issue, developers can just scrap the optional features.
4. User Experience
When you read User Experience, don’t just think about design.
But user experience goes a bit further.
You should also outline the ideal user flow when using your product.
So developers can better adapt the features and interface to fit the story you’re preparing for your end-user.
This is where visual support can help a lot.
You can use a tool to design mockups, like balsamiq, you can whip out Illustrator, or you can even paste screenshots and photos of similar products.
Whatever you do, make sure there’s some visual support, with explanations.
It’ll save you a lot of time.
We live in an age when knowledge is power. Make good use of it.
One way to do that is to define clear KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) from the get-go.
You don’t want to be stuck 6 months into the development process not knowing if you’re going to achieve what you set out.
So define a way to measure performance, both for the development team, and the product after launch.
And that’s a wrap.
At least when it comes to fundamental parts of a PRD.
But there is one more thing to remember…
The best PRDs are adaptive.
I know it sounds counterintuitive.
The purpose of a PRD is to set features in stone, and I’m telling you to write it expecting it to change.
Well for starters, I never said nailing a PRD is easy.
But that’s why you need to follow a structure.
Start with the general stuff - your end-user, the problem you’re solving.
Then get increasingly more specific, detailing functionalities and the features of an MVP.
That general stuff… that’s set in stone.
But get ready to adapt to your more specific requirements.
If you want to find out more, make sure you read our article on How To Create A PRD.
You feel free to adapt, change and edit these templates.
You can even gloss over them for a bit of inspiration and then go create your own PRD template.
As the title suggests, this is a plain ol’ text document. It’s not just a table of contents, you’ll find explanations and templates for all sorts of stuff, like tables and comparative analysis.
And you feel free to adapt it.
If you have a general overview over your product and a bit of research on your target audience, you can sit down and knock this one out in a few hours.
The Product Journey
If you want to give your product requirements document a bit more flavour, you can go for this pdf template.
It’s got the same underlying structure as the Bootstrapper’s PRD, but it’s got more flair.
We’d recommend this one if you have the time to adapt it to your product.
But most importantly, if you want to show it to some investors and you need a strong visual identity to it.
Open Canvas PRD
If you need something nicer than the Boostrapper’s PRD, but still easy to edit, you can go for this Canva Template.
It’s not awe-inspiring design.
But it’s easier to fill in than a fully-fleshed pdf template.
If you want more info on these templates, make sure you read about our PRD Templates.
To Wrap It Up
A product requirements document should help your team develop better products.
If it doesn’t meet that goal, you can scrap it.
But if you understand what a PRD is, how it evolved along the time, how to create one and…
If you use our templates.
Well, then you have a secret weapon to enhance product development.
Did this guide help? Let us know down below!