How to create a product requirements document + template
How do you coordinate with multiple teams when designing a product? Better yet, how do you keep everyone on the same page throughout the process? Project drivers need to create a single source of truth outlining key requirements for their teams. To do that, they use a product requirements document (PRD).
A PRD outlines the required features and purpose of a product. Writing an effective PRD keeps teams aligned on their overall goals and ensures that users get a product they love. To help you knock your PRDs out of the park, we’ll explain why they're essential, outline the steps to writing one, and share a template to help you get started.
A PRD outlines the requirements for a product release. This document guides teams in designing, building, and testing their product. The PRD functions as an overview that covers a product’s:
- Features and functionality
- User personas
- Main value propositions
- Release criteria
- Potential risks
PRDs map these details to align teams and stakeholders on a project’s next steps, scope, and risks, guiding development from the early stages to release. A PRD typically paints a broad picture, focusing on what is being made rather than how it'll be made.
Market requirements documents (MRDs), sometimes called customer requirements documents, note market opportunities to meet customer needs, while PRDs explain how a product will meet those needs. Even though PRDs can touch on marketing, managers typically reserve that for MRDs.
These documents play different external and internal roles. MRDs review external factors to ensure there’s a market for your product. They tend to focus on customers' needs and how to guide them to your product. Additionally, MRDs tend to play a role later in production than PRDs.
Simplify your development process using this free PRD template to get started
A functional specifications document describes what a product does and how users interact with it. This form gives designers and engineers a point of reference for their goals. In some cases, managers include functional specifications in their PRD.
The agile methodology is an approach to development focused on fast-paced production over pre-planning. Agile teams work in short dev cycles called sprints. This approach ensures that teams can continuously develop new products and updates. That said, agile teams still need to track requirements before a sprint.
Agile PRDs take the shape of nonlinear task boards, giving developers more flexibility in how they achieve goals. They also use agile-specific elements to organize development:
- Themes: An agile theme is a strategic initiative or company-wide objective. Themes reflect the core purpose and business context for your product.
- Epics: Agile developers group collections or user stories into epics. Epics show how products and new features work together to meet wider goals.
- User stories: User stories note product requirements from an end user’s perspective. User stories typically follow the format: As a [type of user], I want to [perform a task] so that I can [achieve a goal].
- Tasks: Agile breaks user stories into tasks, or units of work carried out by individual developers. Developers are assigned tasks and build the features mentioned in user stories.
Because of their flexibility, agile PRDs go through more changes during development. Product owners also rely more on stakeholder involvement and team suggestions when writing requirements. In turn, owners have to inform teams and stakeholders when changes occur to ensure alignment.
Writing a PRD gives your teams and stakeholders a single source of truth on the product you’re developing, so when developers have questions about core features, they have the tools to answer them. Here are a few other benefits of PRDs:
- Prevent scope issues: By outlining features, timelines, and a budget early, PRDs set clear project boundaries. Keeping these boundaries in mind helps teams avoid scope creep.
- Shape UX: Your PRD should explain a product’s intended functionality and design. With enough detail, you can describe the ideal user experience and help teams create that experience during development.
- Document accurately: A PRD includes the steps, developer approaches, and responsibilities required during development. This clearly documents how the project will run and provides an accessible point of reference.
- Encourage collaboration: PRDs involve members of different teams working toward a common goal. This breaks down silos and can get better products to market faster.
Here are six steps to writing a PRD.
Start your PRD with basic information about your product and why you’re creating it. Begin with the product’s purpose and your design guidelines. Alternatively, you can explain what your product does and how it functions. By aligning teams around early, you can map the steps needed to finish production.
Write out basic information about your product and its design by asking questions like:
- What’s the elevator pitch for the product you’re designing?
- Which teams, stakeholders, and other managers will help you build this product?
- What is your budget and release date?
- Based on how the product looks and feels, how will users interact with it?
- Can you build a wireframe, mockup, or demo to illustrate the end product?
- What obstacles or risks could get this product off track?
Next, list the features a product needs to meet its purpose. Creating a feature hierarchy will also direct your teams to the highest-value functions first. Remember to explain why you prioritized certain features to guide developers.
PRDs emphasize the features drawing customers to a product. So, you need to research their users and what they find valuable. From there, design a product built around this intended functionality. For example, note when features come into play automatically or as a part of a manual process.
You can define features by asking:
- What problems will a new feature solve?
- How will this feature help meet your goals?
- What capabilities do you need to add for this feature?
- Which teams will work on this feature?
- How soon can you deliver a feature, and how much will it cost?
- Which customers stand to gain the most from this feature?
- How will this feature contribute to our goals and initiatives?
While user personas are often fictionalized characters, they represent your actual customers and can help you better articulate who they are and what they care about.
When writing a user persona, include traits like:
- Demographic information like their age and gender
- How the user would react to new product or features
- Their needs, challenges, and source of motivation
- Their roles and how they fulfill their responsibilities
- Where they fit into your wider user base
Explain how your product release ties into your overall strategy. Product releases signal a chance to break into new markets or stand out against current competitors. They can also attract attention before unveiling a new product lineup or service offering. Whatever your strategic management goals are, you should emphasize them in a PRD.
You can contextualize strategic goals by asking:
- What value does this product release bring, and what goals will it achieve?
- How will this product release get you closer to those goals?
- What do your teams need to know to ensure this product meets those goals?
- Have any customer or market trends shaped this product?
- Will this product help meet your goals post-release with add-ons or updates?
Create release criteria before full development begins, setting a standard for the features and performance requirements a product must reach. Your release criteria outlines the capabilities your product needs before it can launch.
To write effective release criteria, you should:
- Consider the development timeline and budget
- Provide metrics gauging the product’s performance/success
- Note the project scope and what you chose to exclude
- Predict the amount of ongoing maintenance and support you will need
- List the teams needed to meet release criteria
- Describe the expected impact of your release
With your first draft put together, you can review and revise your work with input from your teams and stakeholders. If they have questions you can’t answer, take the time to research them. Going through revisions ensures your PRD covers as much ground as possible.
Your PRD can also adapt when required features change during development. So, as you move into new phases of production, update your PRD in response to new challenges and opportunities.
To help explain further, we’ve written a sample PRD. For this example, assume you’re a product manager at a company offering productivity software.
Your platform uses automation to fill gaps and optimize workflows at clients’ companies. Now, you want to develop a mobile app for your software. This PRD example shows how that looks on the page.
Project: Mobile app development
Target release: 1.0
Document owner: Ed Carlisle
Project manager: Ed Carlisle
Designer: Alexis Cho
Developer: Morgan Rivers
- Purpose: Develop a mobile app for our software to improve the user experience.
- Background: A survey among current customers shows that 73% of users prefer to use our tool on the go. Managers don’t always have access to their laptops, so they can only use the tool in the office.
- Strategic context: We’re prioritizing UX and platform accessibility to gain an edge over the competition. Our main competitors tend to produce mobile apps with reduced functionality, so releasing an app with the desktop version’s full list of features will set us apart.
- Full platform functionality accessible from a mobile device
- A reworked interface that suits the mobile experience
- Real-time syncing so updates made on the desktop immediately show up on the mobile app
- Kelly Smith, an engineering manager who coordinates teams working from different job sites
- Dylan Thomson, A senior developer juggling multiple projects who wants to quickly check for schedule updates
- Design an eye-catching, user-friendly interface with mobile users in mind
- Port all existing functions to the app
- Ensure the app processes data quickly and doesn’t lag behind the desktop software
Ready to start writing your own product requirements document? Check out Figma’s PRD template and get started today.
When working on your next PRD, avoid these common pitfalls:
- Length: You should self-edit to keep their PRDs from running too long. Overly long documents are harder to follow, making the project plan less flexible. In most cases, a one-page PRD is ideal.
- Coordination: Since PRDs contain so much information, they require input from multiple teams. Setting up brainstorms with stakeholders and teams while giving them the time to bounce ideas takes careful planning.
- Solution favoritism: Because PRDs outline what a product does, it’s easy to favor a single way products solve users’ problems. Avoid favoring one solution over another until teams can test those solutions.
- Feature overload: Adding too many features obscures a product's main value, confuses users, and increases development costs. A more focused feature list helps customers see the value in your product and helps you deliver on time.
- Requirement traceability: PRDs outline how you track a product’s issues, test cases, bugs, and problem resolution for each requirement. Implement a method for traceability and communicate it early.
Your product requirements document aligns teams early and focuses attention on your main priorities. As a result, it can improve strategic planning and shape priorities throughout the entire development process. With a well-written PRD, you can meet users’ needs without going out of scope.
To brainstorm requirements and collaborate on implementation, try FigJam’s online whiteboard. With FigJam, your teams can collaborate in a shared space to exchange feedback, track progress, and design new solutions.