Technical Writing Aid

Specification Sheets

Definition
Specification (spec) sheets are blueprints that contain the exact details about the product or service. Spec sheets state what the product or service is, how it functions, what its benefits and costs are, and where to obtain it. Spec sheets are essential to any technical writing project. They are not literally one sheet, since they often contain multiple pages. Spec sheets have many contributors, including project managers, engineers, marketing managers, and business analysts. Technical writers are usually tasked with upgrading current spec sheets or writing new ones based on existing information.

Spec sheets are more than just an outline of the project. They contain very specific details. Many different types of spec sheets cover every aspect of the project.

Scope Statement
The scope statement is the first document written about a project. It outlines all the major aspects of the project:

  • Working title
  • Major and minor objectives
  • Team members
  • Audience analysis
  • Problem statement outlining its purpose, requirements, and intended solution
  • Measurable goals
  • Construction
  • Timeline, including milestone dates and deadlines
  • Cost estimate
  • Project deliverables, indicating what the final project should contain and do

Marketing Specs
Marketing specifications are also called the Marketing Requirements Document (MRD) or marketing specs. The Sales or Marketing department authors the MRD. The MRD is primarily concerned with the marketability of the product. The MRD details the design and function of the product, and illustrates how this product will be marketed to the target audience. The MRD contains the demographics of the target audience and ideas about how the product will benefit the end users. The MRD compare the company's product with the competition's product, including sales statistics and analysis.

Functional Specs
Functional specs are also called the Functional Specifications Document (FSD) or "the specs." The FSD is critical to the design of the product. The Engineering team develops the FSD and details every technical feature of the product, including system components, hardware, and functions. The FSD is extremely detailed and is usually the longest and most complicated of all the spec sheets. The FSD describes the placement of nuts and bolts, the size of screws, the exact measurements of buttons, and system operations.

Design Specs
Design specs are closely related to functional specs. While the FSD describes how a product is built, the design specs reveal how the product looks. Design specs detail every aspect of a product, including its shape, color, and placement of different pieces. The design specs may include the product's maintenance and service requirements.

Testing Specs
Testing specs outline the testing procedures that must be performed while the product is constructed, and the requirements the product must meet to be deemed usable or finished. Testing specs are important to ensure the safety of consumer products before they are released to public users. Testing specs help identify system bugs and weak parts that require strengthening. Technical writers sometimes write testing procedures or even the testing specs. In some industries, products are issued with Release Notes, which are directly related to testing specs.

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Last Updated: 07/29/2014

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