Daydreaming of Your Next Big Feature? Don’t Skip This Important Step

What is a PRD?

As you may know, a PRD, (aka a Product Requirements Document or spec) is a written overview of what you’re about to build and why you need to build it. They’re written up when we have new products or big features that need to be built right.

Writing a clear PRD is a critical skill that every PM should develop. They’re the essence of product thinking distilled down into a few pages of text and graphics. Get good at writing PRDs and you’ll get good at product thinking.

Clear PRD == clear thinking

When you’re building something new, it’s really tempting to just wing it. You think, “Oh, I have this idea in my head. It’s great. I’m just going to tell the engineers about it and they’re going to be able to build it”.

** Don’t do that. **

Just take your time and explain to everyone what you’re about to build with a PRD. Put it in writing.

Think through things, maybe come up with some wireframes, some mock-ups, some deadlines, some dependencies, maybe some user stories and write it out so that your engineers have something to work with.

PRDs bridge the gap between product and engineering

A lot of times as PMs we like to think about the big “why” and big picture stuff. Meanwhile, engineers like to think more about the “how” and how will this get built.

PRDs bridge the gap between those two things.

But how do you write one?

How to Write a Good PRD/Spec

Step one: Gather your data

After you’ve prioritized and decided this is the next thing you want to focus on, it’s time to start thinking about specs.

The first thing you’re going to want to do is to think through why you want to build the thing you want to build.

  • Who does this matter to?
  • Why does the market need it?
  • What kind of analytics do we have to support it?
  • How does our designer think that this would work?
  • What do the customers think?
  • Does engineering think this is feasible?
  • What do prospective customers think?
  • What stakeholders will this effect?

Really start to think through all of this big picture stuff. Brainstorm. Talk to a lot of people. Write it all down. It doesn’t have to have any structure right now. That’s for the next step.

Grab a PRD template

Once you have a good grasp on the big picture, you’re going to find and fill out a template. There are dozens, if not hundreds of these online, just grab one that looks good to you and start filling it out.

How detailed do you get? Well, it depends on your culture. If you’re a startup, maybe some rough wire frames and a few sentences can work. If you’re a big enterprise, maybe a full list of user stories, detailed deadlines, pixel perfect mockups. Maybe that might be more of more of your jam. So it really depends on the company that you’re at.

Get buy-in and start working

After you’ve thought through why and filled out your template, the next thing you’re going to do is circulate your PRD, but put a deadline on getting feedback for it. This deadline prevents people from butting in in the middle of the build cycle, or even worse after you’ve built something.

Put it out there, make sure you get, buy in, get some feedback, but cut it off after a certain period of time and start building.

That’s it! All it takes to write a great PRD is to get clear about your new product or feature and write it all out. The more you practice writing them, the better they’ll get.

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And in the meantime, happy PRD writing.

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