By the end of this article, you will learn how to write a product requirement document and its importance in turning ideas into fully functional web/mobile apps. For a quick start, download our free PRD template.
Entrepreneurs are interesting people. They think of problems that other people face and then try to find innovative solutions to address them. Technical team members (designers and developers) are interesting individuals too. They can create magical apps from scribbles and doodles on paper and a few lines of code but with a caveat—they can only do so if they are given the right instructions in a format that they understand.
Technical teams (designers, developers and testers) need product requirement documents to begin product design, development and plan test scenarios. To ensure that these teams work as efficiently as possible, you must know how to write product requirements documents for your app idea. Additionally, you must understand how to write an app idea proposal to help investors and technical teams understand you better.
There are many reasons for this need. As an entrepreneur, you may have a thought or an app development idea in your head that makes sense. However, the way you express it to a technical team may transform it into something else, and you may end up with a turnip instead of a pumpkin. If this sounds confusing, it was supposed to be that way. Here’s a visual representation of what I meant:
Writing brings clarity to your thoughts
If you have a fantastic idea, it is best to write the idea down or document it carefully so that you can recollect all that you thought of when you explain it to an audience. Knowing how to write a business model or how to write a business idea effectively can go a long way in keeping everyone in your team on the same page. This also streamlines your approach towards creating your first product or your MVP (minimum viable product).
The best way to solidify your app idea or your MVP idea is to create a product requirements document. Before you begin, you must know how to write and what to include in this document.
What is a product requirement document?
A product requirements document or PRD defines the value and the purpose of the product that needs to be built. These documents are usually written by project managers to communicate:
- What must be built
- How it functions and behaves
- Who is it for
- How it benefits the end-user
Your product requirements document can be visual (in the form of wireframes), descriptive (in the form of a user story) or granular, in the shape of a functional specification document.
Why is a product requirement document needed?
A PRD intends to ensure that all stakeholders (executives, product teams, and investors) are on the same page. Your app idea’s product requirements document will help engineering, sales, design, support and marketing teams to collaborate and deliver a fantastic customer experience. Your PRD can also help you figure out how to present business plans to your potential investors.
What is included in a product requirement document?
A lot. Your product requirements document is the key to effective product development. Here is a list of items that you must include in your PRD:
Introduce yourself, your company (if you have formed one) and your team (if you already have one). A little introduction will help your development partners or your team get a better idea of who they will be dealing with.
How do I document my product idea?
Describe your idea properly in this section. Ideally, describe your idea in a single sentence that illustrates what your idea is. An example of an objective i“I want to create a gift recommendation engine to help men foster better relationships with their partners through periodic and thoughtful romantic gestures.”
You could also go the MITx way and answer the following questions in your objective:
- What is the problem?
- Who is experiencing it?
- How will you solve it?
- Why is your solution better?
Additionally, your objective must also contain your product vision, goals, initiatives, and personas.
Also known as Release, this part of your PRD will give your developers an idea of when you expect to launch your idea in the market.
Unless your idea is truly groundbreaking, you might want to analyze the competition and let your technical teams know two key things:
- Apps that you like
- Apps that you do not like
Bonus Tip: Include the features that you like or dislike so that your team knows what you need. Other apps often inspire app ideas for startups, and your team can utilize this information to build your app faster.
List and prioritize features
Write down broad strokes of all the features that you believe your app must-have. Only add features that help your user. For example. for a messaging or social networking app, adding basic features such as creating a profile, real-time communication (chat/messaging) and finding friends on the platform is essential. These form the must-have group. Additional features such as creating groups/pages or platform monetization can come later.
Once you have listed all the features that your app needs, prioritize them according to need. You can use the MoSCoW or the RICE prioritization method to do this. Usually, features are prioritized as “Must,” “Should,” “Could”, and “Won’t” in MoSCoW and “nice to have”, “should have”, “must-have”, “cannot have” in RiCE. This step is crucial for MVP development for startups as you must include the core features your app needs to appeal to your audience.
User flow and design
This section of your PRD must include the flow of the app, how each screen will transition to the other. The best way to do this is to enhance user flow text by sketching your user interface or creating wireframes.
Technical requirements for apps must be as detailed as possible. Choosing the right set of technologies, services and tools is crucial and can make or break your product. Technology stacks are groups of tools or services that have proven to work together seamlessly, helping you create fast, high-quality products with ease. These tools and services include programming languages, frameworks, databases, front-end tools, back-end tools, and applications connected via APIs.
Popular tech stacks include:
- MEAN (MongoDB, Express.js, Angular.js and NodeJS): This stack is great for websites and interactive applications. All of the components of this stack use JSON for messaging and module library access.
- MERN (MongoDB, Express.js, React and NodeJS): Popular for its full-stack development option, React is well known for its flexibility and performance while used in interactive UIs.
- LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP): This is the industry standard for web development and only uses open source technologies.
- MEVN (MongoDB, Express.js, Vue.js and NodeJS): Superb performance for web apps and a gentle learning curve make it a popular option for developers.
Ensure that you discuss your tech stack preference with your dev team and keep their recommendations in mind while finalizing a stack. In addition to the software tech stack, you might also want to include any specific requirements for hardware. For example, if you are trying to make a pet cam or a moving baby monitor driven by Android, you may have requirements such as a gyroscope sensor coupled with a camera and an arm that moves with the subject.
If you have a specific user base in mind, such as iPhone-only or Android-only, mention that here. If you wish to narrow it down further, you can add devices to this too. An example could be:
“A content app that requires iOS 12 or higher, running on an iPad Pro with Pencil 2.”
Analytics and metrics
This section of your PRD is optional, but it will help you validate your idea against your product hypothesis. As an example, if your product hypothesis is: “I believe that my gift recommendation engine will help people make relationships more engaging,” you can include data collection through surveys as a requirement in your PRD to test whether your hypothesis was true.
Future product roadmap
Add the future plans for your product here. Your development team might find items that are easier to implement and help you create a better version of your app at the outset.
This section can include information that does not fit elsewhere. You can also include your budget here if you are planning to outsource the development of your idea.
An idea can change your life and the world around you. The best way to start building your product is by writing a thorough PRD. Describing your idea well will help you to better convey your thoughts and vision to your team.
Your product requirements document or PRD is a great way to pen down all important information and provide it in a clear, concise, and meaningful format to your technical teams. Knowing how to write a startup idea effectively can make the difference between success and failure for you.