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How to write a Product Requirements Document - A guide & template

7 min
July 14, 2020
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A simple, actionable, step-by-step guide to write an effective product requirements document. Free templates and examples to help you get started and save time.

What is a good product requirements document?

A good product requirements document identifies the goals of any new product, service, or feature; it acutely describes the product your team will build.

A lean, mean, product requirements document should clearly outline product goals, target users and what usage is expected.

It is the foundation that any agile product team needs to ensure all stakeholders involved are aligned and the roadmap for the product team is clear. The PRD will be the most referenced resource throughout your product build.

Product requirements documents do not need to be pages and pages long. Let’s be frank, people skim read, they pick out keywords and get the gist of things. To create a painless product requirements document, it’s essential that you keep things as brief as possible, concise, and easy on the eye- don’t be afraid to use visuals for support.
For instance at Slite, we use sketches to define features and interactions.

Even if you manage to create an outstanding product requirements document, it doesn’t guarantee that your product build will be a success, but it will certainly give it the best possible starting blocks.

What’s the difference between a PRD and an MRD?

People often get confused between what is a PRD, and what an MRD is. They are different but tend to come hand-in-hand. A Market Requirements Document should be created before the Product Requirements Document.

In short, a MRD is a piece of research that identifies the market needs and opportunities with a product from your company. The PRD identifies the product that can be built to fulfil the opportunity.

How can a PRD help a product development team?

Product development teams are by far the most largely affected team by a product requirements document. They are the ones that will refer to the document most often and will need to know the document like the back of their hand to ensure they’re working collaboratively and efficiently.

The PRD will play a smaller part in the broader product strategy, vision, and product roadmap. It is one of the core resources, outside of talent, that enables great product management.

However, it doesn’t stop with the development team. Marketing, Sales, Business Dev, Support, and more teams will need to refer to the template to understand what’s to come fully and the timeline. If all teams are on board with the doc, they’ll plan better within their areas so they can support the new product as best as possible when it’s ready.

How should a Product Manager use a PRD?

As product manager (PM) you should be the main contributor toward any technical documentation like a PRD, but that doesn’t mean you need to do it alone. It’s up to you — as a PM — to find the best resources in your team to help you create different parts of the PRD:

  • Use a designer for wireframes and mockups
  • Hire a marketer for personas and user stories

The Product Manager is responsible for managing the entire product requirements definition process.  

If this process is managed well, then the product managers should use this document as a resource for themselves throughout the process and as a resource for other stakeholders to continually reference.

What should be included in a PRD?

A good PRD starting template will be different depending on your business and team. However, most Product Requirements Documents should include:

  • Goals & Objectives
  • Key Stakeholders
  • User Personas & Stories
  • Release details
  • Design & Wireframes
  • Risks
  • Future Roadmap & interactions

Again, this is just a broad overview of how a PRD can appear. You may find it necessary to include all of the above in your document, or you may only need to take those things that you deem relevant to your product development process.

1. Goals & Objectives

This part is the “why” for building this product in the first place. It provides the context around the product's lifecycle, and how it aligns with the broader mission and vision of your company / product.

Aim to clarify the problems this product is being designed to address. This will ensure your development team creates a product that solves its purpose and does so in a way that is enjoyable for the end-user.

2. Key Stakeholders

A simple but often overlooked part of the PRD is identifying the key stakeholders in the product roadmap process. This should include — but is not limited to — the Product Manager, internal or external Designers, Product Developers, the Document Owner and any direct reports or leadership positions that are involved.

Everyone's hoping on your project needs to know whom to turn to and for what. Clear ownership is crucial.

3. User Personas & Stories

These personas are so essential in a product’s development process and result. Each persona that you create should act as an input on the product’s experience and should have a particular purpose or challenge to help your product reach its end-goal. They help to provide the product's use cases.

Many new product projects tend to go wrong here; they revolve around personas built too similar to one another, merely changing gender or age. Knuckle down on your user personas. Who are they? How old are they? What gender do they identify with? What’s their occupation? Where are they from? What's their name? And most importantly, what specific need does your product solve?

Ensure that all of these factors are different but accurate to the data you have available. Use Google Analytics, social media, and other audience data to help you build these out.

Naming personas will help a product development team be able to design for someone, not something. Build enough of a persona for the team to be relatable and understand, by doing so they’ll create an end-product that fits someone’s- and therefore the market’s- identified needs.

Support these personas with user stories. For example, “As Cindy, someone who does XYZ, I need this product to XYZ.” By using these customer needs as support when designing a new product, your design team will create something that remains true to purpose and market fit.

These stories should primarily focus on a particular feature of the product. They should answer a pain-point, identified in the MRD, and the value the feature will provide.

4. Release Notes

These are so important, not only to help a product team ensure the product roadmap stays on track, but also for other teams involved. It will help people manage their workload so that they’re able to support the product as and when they need to.

Product release notes should include milestone names, features, fixes and upcoming improvements.

5. Design & Wireframes

Visual designs and wireframes are a must for any successful product requirements document. They help Engineers to understand the design vision and answer the pain points of user personas.

By introducing wireframes at this stage, you’re able to identify problems and find solutions that would not have been apparent without a visual aid. Don’t think of design at this stage as graphic design. Your wireframe should function as a blueprint or basic map for where your core features will fit within a page and what those pages need to be in the first place.

Wireframes don’t need to be something beautiful, but they need to give your engineers and other stakeholders a clear vision of how the product will be used and how a user will flow through the product.

6. Risks

The gift of hindsight is such a powerful thing. We don’t know if a product will succeed or fail, nor every hurdle we may encounter throughout the development process. What we can do is try to identify as many risks we may encounter along the way.

A risk can be anything from a shakey timeline to new code or talent, a particular integration, or an external resource needed. By identifying risks early in the process, the product team can conquer any of the more significant challenges at hand as early as possible and prepare a plan B for any situation.

7. Future roadmap & iterations

A product is never really a finished piece of work. It should be in a constant state of flux, learning from its use, adapting, and growing to new technology or consumer needs. The first iteration of your product should be exactly that, a first draft.

As a product owner or manager, ask yourself what functional requirements are essential for the MVP, and what can wait for the second or third iteration. Perhaps even consider what’s best held off until a second or third iteration, and could be championed with some user-data under the belt.

Try to plan out your product’s future roadmap for the design and engineering team members to understand what foundations need to be laid now to make these versions possible. Consider the purpose of all your future work, the timeframe you expect it to be delivered under, and its priority alongside other features.

Example of a Product Requirements Document Template

How to write a product requirements document can be a daunting task, and it’s hard to get a grip on where to begin. It’s a good idea to start with a Product Requirements Document template to help get your process underway.

Below we’ve provided you with a PRD template you can use and adapt to your own needs.

Easily Handle a PRD and Product Processes with Slite

Just because you’ve managed to create an efficient Product Requirements Document, doesn’t necessarily mean your team will use it as a reference point, or even know where to find it.

Slite is here to help you handle new product processes by keeping your team connected with the awesome resources you create:

  • Share your PRD and other software documentation in real-time, with those in your team who need it.
  • Centralize your team’s knowledge, no more jumping from person to person to get information.
  • Get instant access to a wealth of templates that can help your product processes excel.

Written by

Laure Albouy is Slite's first marketing hire and in charge of Product Marketing. Her role? Making sure our users get the most out of Slite -- including guides, product announcements, market research and more. Laure lives in Paris and is a pasta afficionada.