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Habefast | Blog
5 April 2022 - Reading time: 11 minutes

How to write an effective specification

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In the world of web and software projects, it all starts with a specification. The basic concept is simple: take your idea, describe it in enough detail that someone else can build it, and you’re done. The concern is that it’s not that simple.
Many people ask the question: how do I write a specification? If you ask someone this question, you will get a lot of different answers, everyone has their own opinion. The truth is that it really depends on the industry you are in. In fact, a lot of people have no idea how to write a specification and, as a result, they don’t know where to start. Except that the SOW is the foundation of any project. Before a developer can implement your new website, intranet, custom software or update your existing site, they need to know exactly what you want. If the specification is poorly written, or not written at all, it is almost certain that the result will not meet your expectations.

When you write a specification, you are the end user’s advocate. You need to make sure that all possibilities are considered and that you have included all the requirements for your project. Your goal is to write a comprehensive specification that is both detailed enough to serve as a development template and broad enough to include all desired functionality.

Here are the tips of our web agency Habefast to write an effective specification.

What is a specification?

A specification describes how a product is built, how it works and what it is supposed to do. It defines the design and functionality of a product and encompasses all the technical constraints that designers, manufacturers and developers involved in creating a product must meet. Specifications are used in quality control. They are therefore important both to ensure that a product meets industry standards and to ensure that it meets the needs of consumers.

There are three main types of specifications: functional specifications, design specifications (also called form or aesthetic) and technical specifications:

  • Functional specifications describe how something is built or functions. These specifications are usually written during the design phase of a project and include all the user requirements for a project. They can range from describing something as simple as an electrical outlet to providing instructions for the construction of an entire building.

  • Design specifications describe how something should look. These specifications can also be called “form” or “aesthetic” specifications because they describe the appearance of a product rather than its function. These specifications are usually written during the manufacturing process, when it is necessary to ensure the appearance of the product.

  • Technical specifications establish the specific features, processes, materials and other characteristics of a product or service. They also include detailed information about the materials, components, performance and quality assurance criteria used in the manufacturing process.

Why write a specification?

Writing specifications is a useful process for any complex project, whether it’s creating software, building a new appliance or constructing a house. Writing a specification is important because it provides clarity for everyone involved in a project. With a good specification, you can make sure your team is on the same page about the project requirements and goals from the start, so there are no surprises at the end of the project.

It helps you think about your requirements and goals from the beginning of the project. A detailed specification gives you a plan to follow as you begin to design and develop your product. It also provides a benchmark against which you can evaluate and test your final product. This process can help minimize frustration and cost overruns.

As you prepare to write your specifications, keep in mind that writing them is not the end goal – the end goal is to have clear requirements for what you hope to create.

What are the elements to consider for a good specification?

First, the title of the specification should be short, but descriptive. In general, it should name the product or service specified and possibly the type of approach taken to create it (e.g., “Website creation” or “Website redesign”). It should also be clear and concise so that the type of project in question can be directly identified. The use of jargon or acronyms can be judicious for internal documents, but generally not for an external document to facilitate understanding.

You should specify the title of your product, then describe its definition. You might focus on its problem-solving potential, benefits and uses. You can also provide some visuals to make it easier for the reader to understand what your product is all about.

Another thing to consider is your target audience. Based on this information, you will need to tailor your content with a tone that matches your readers’ expectations. Next, you need to address their needs and wants by showing how your product can help them solve their problems and satisfy their needs.

Next, you need to make sure your specification is complete. This means that it includes all the information needed for the product to be built correctly by the designer or developer. A good way to make sure you have everything included is to have someone else read it and see if they understand what you are trying to build. If they don’t understand, or if they ask questions that indicate you weren’t clear, go back and revise your specification to make it more complete.

Once your SOW is complete, you need to make sure it is accurate. You should proofread it carefully to make sure it does not contain any errors or factual mistakes. It is also important that the numbers and other facts are correct. For example, if the “maximum” amount of an item allowed in the product design is actually the minimum amount allowed, readers may think they can use less than what is actually needed.

Mistakes to avoid when writing a specification

Writing a specification can be one of the most difficult aspects of any project, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are four common mistakes you should definitely avoid when writing a specification:

  1. Not being specific enough

    This is one of the most common mistakes made when writing a specification. It’s important to include as much information as possible in your specifications so that there is no confusion about what you are asking for.

  2. Omit critical information

    If you leave something important out of your specifications, the project may not get done at all or may take longer than expected because the developer needs more time to do additional work. You can avoid this by carefully considering everything that needs to be done before you start working on a project.

  3. Using overly technical language

    If you don’t understand something, chances are most other people won’t either. Also, avoid jargon (unless you are writing for other experts). If it’s a word used only in your professional field, avoid it unless it’s literally your target audience.

  4. Do not be realistic and professional

    Avoid using the words “fast”, “quick” and “easy” (or any synonyms) and do not make promises about how quickly a product will be delivered.

Some tips for a good specification

Here are some tips we can give you for making an effective specification:

  • Be clear, concise and specific about the work to be done. The specification should answer all the questions a reader might have about the design.

  • Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Have the right tone and style for your reader.

  • Identify what is expected of the client and the supplier.

  • Define the criteria for success.

By following our advice, you will obtain a clear and concise document, easy to read, that covers all the essential points. There are no set rules on how to write a specification. Every company is different and may want, or even require, additional information to be included as part of the process. In general, we recommend that you follow the guidelines above. Specifying your product is about defining your needs and how you want to meet them. Having the big picture will make it easier to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs.