Top 10 Mistakes When Writing Product Requirements: Part 1

An ideal product specification (spec) requires careful deliberation and can determine your product’s success. A spec is the heart of your project where all necessary information for your team accumulates. It’s easy to think you can address a problem later, but the better prepared you are initially, the smoother the process from inception to manufacturing will be. Here are the top five of ten mistakes people make when writing their specifications so that you know what to avoid.

#1: Not Having a Specification

The biggest mistake you can make when developing a product is not having a product specification. Having an organized document with all the product’s regulations, interfaces, questions, and adjustments will save you potential headaches. If you avoid all of the other mistakes and create a reliable spec, everyone stays on the same page and you can stay on track with your goals. Once you successfully check off all the specifications you will know you’ve done everything you can to help this product succeed.

#2: Not Having a Non-Team Reviewer

When you hire someone to read your spec, you invite a critical perspective. Your team is so familiar with the project that they would have a hard time finding any missing information. A non-team reviewer catches problems and asks relevant questions, allowing you to see where the spec needs adjustments. A useful spec is written in a way that anyone who reads it can understand it. What may seem obvious to you and your team may not make sense to an outsider. Hiring a reviewer allows you to solve problems and misunderstandings before they arise.

#3: Adding Inappropriate Detail

The detail is a double-edged sword: too little or too much detail in your spec will hinder the project. Remember that your spec is a living document that will evolve throughout the development process. If you do your best to cover the necessary bases so your team can begin developing the product, then you don’t have to sweat every tiny detail at the start. Provide enough detail in the spec that you can launch into the project and continue to update the document as you go so that by the end the document is completed and current.

#4: Lacking Test Methods for Every Specification

Without adequate test methods, it’s impossible to know if you’ve accomplished your product’s goals. Two particular issues arise when reviewing test methods. First, the test specification can’t be measured due to vague, subjective language. Second, the client lists an objective test method but doesn’t know how they will execute that test. You can research how other people have tested similar products and adjust the specification as needed. To track your goals, always include two columns on your spec: the specification and its test method.

#5: Postponing User Interface Decisions

You risk high costs when you delay dealing with your product’s user interface. The term user interface refers to everything that a user interacts with.  An unfriendly user interface will not only cost you money to redesign the product, but your business could suffer bad reviews and a damaged reputation. A study by Zendesk reported that roughly 50% of customers would switch to a new brand after one bad experience. A mock-up of your product, even an incomplete one, will help you understand how the product works in practice.

Key Takeaways:

  • The biggest mistake you can make when developing a product is lacking product specifications
  • Having a non-team reviewer read your spec is critical when ensuring that you didn’t miss any details

Interested in finding out the rest of the product requirement mistakes? Check out this YouTube video! 

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