How to Write Great Product Specs
Here’s a quick guide to writing an effective brief to kick off your product spec.
Now that you’ve got the tools to hand, it’s time to flesh out your ideas into product specs that your entire team can get along with.
Your starting point is a one-liner idea.
In order to get stakeholder buy-in and the official ‘Go’, you’ll need to go into a little more detail.
Introduce your plans
Start off with a quick one or two sentence paragraph outlining what the product spec will cover and why you’re doing it.
Use headers and horizontal rules to create sections
Break your specs into distinct sections, using headers to highlight the different levels, and horizontal rules to break up major sections.
At a glance, anyone looking at your brief should get the gist of what you cover in each section of the spec.
Use bullets to make your spec easy to skim
Where you’ve got a list of options or requirements, putting these into bullet points or a numbered list can do wonders for actually getting your specs read.
We all skim when we read, and you can be sure that some of your specs are being skimmed if you don’t make it easy to digest.
Emphasis can be good
If something needs to stand out, feel free to add some bold or italic styling. Heck, you can even add some color. Whatever you do, make sure you’re emphasizing the right bits, you’re using it sparingly, and you don’t use all capitals (unless you’re @FAKEGRIMLOCK)… No one likes getting shouted at!
Give it some personality
Don’t be afraid to add some spice in your specs! Half the fun of writing a product spec is getting to make up fake data and copy to illustrate your point. If it’s easier, personify the user you’re looking to help with your product spec and give them a fun name or profession.
A little tech is okay
If you know exactly what needs to be looked at in the codebase, feel free to include a snippet or two of code to illustrate your point.
However, at this stage, don’t dictate the exact solution unless it’s blatantly obvious and the only solution. As you work through your specs with your team, you might find a better way!
Keep it brief
Write as much as you need, and never any more! It’s entirely too easy to get really into the details early on in this spec’ing process.
Link relevant ideas together
Add links to relevant pages where needed. This is easy with the new text editor, whether it’s a link or an email you wanted to include.
In ProdPad, you can link to another idea simply by typing # then the Idea ID, and it’ll create the link for you. For example, if your spec needs to refer to IDEA 142, just type “#142” and the link will appear when you save. Note: This also works in comments throughout ProdPad, so get linking!
The new text editor in ProdPad is miles ahead of where our last one was, and should make your life much easier as you write out your specs. It’s mobile friendly, super robust, and ready to use today.
Got some inspiration for your own product specs? Start a free trial now!
We’re always pushing new updates to make ProdPad better and better. If there’s something you’d really like to see, don’t hesitate to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the ProdPadder
- Janna Bastow is co-founder of ProdPad, software that helps product managers plan and deliver better products. Janna also organizes ProductTank events around the world, including Mind The Product, a global community of product managers. She likes to inspire great product conversations by asking: “What problem are you trying to solve?”