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What is a Product Brief & Tips to Write a Good One

Tips on how to write briefs that drive progress and impact for your teams.
After 10+ years of writing and reviewing product briefs at Google, YouTube and Coda, I've observed a few patterns. As a hat tip to a , here's some simple advice as you embark on writing or editing that next product brief.
What is a product brief?
A product brief is a key component of a product creation process. It serves as a plan that identifies the product's goals, product specifications, and all other important product information. As such, the brief represents a product roadmap to which everyone involved in the product development process refers when working on a new product.
For successful product development, it is necessary for product managers and product teams to have a brief that will state the most important product specifications and KPIs everyone will strive for.
Good product briefs set a clear context for the reader.
By contrast, bad product briefs leave the reader wondering about product workflow and how we got here.
Example starter language:
We began this project by...

Prior to this project, there have been related efforts...
Good product briefs start by articulating the problem and why it's important to solve it.
By contrast, bad product briefs start with a single solution and take that solution into detail.
Example starter language:
In order to understand the problem more clearly, we plan to...

We believe the key customer problem to address is...
Good product briefs have a plan on how the team members will learn.
By contrast, bad product briefs assume the first answer will be 'right' for the potential customer.
Example starter language:
In order to learn from customers quickly, we plan to...

We'll review learnings as a team at these intervals...
Good product briefs touch on social & emotional aspects of the product design.
By contrast, bad product briefs only describe functional aspects of the product.
Example starter language:
Our users should feel...

When this feature is adopted by a team, we expect...
Good product briefs bring the tough questions to the surface early.
By contrast, bad product briefs leave a lot of open questions as they avoid the tough tradeoffs or hide hard questions.
Example starter language:
A difficult question we anticipate needing to answer is...

We foresee a real tradeoff between...
Good briefs build momentum toward the next phase of a project.
By contrast, bad product briefs leave people wondering what will happen next.
Example starter language:
We'll plan to gain early momentum by starting...

The list of our next steps can be found...
Coda’s product brief solutions
Here are a couple of nifty things you can do with Coda to take your product brief game to the next level. These features help you and your team improve two-way communication during the product development process.
Want to know who's read your product brief?
Below is a simple product brief template in Coda where readers can hit the button to indicate they have finished reading. This is really handy when you send a pre-read and want to know how many people have actually read it.
To use it, hit the '/' key then type 'read' and choose the Done reading . See it in action below.
Done reading?
reading reaction, you have not reacted
LS

Want to gather sentiment on your product brief (and not just inline comments)?
Below is a simple product brief template in Coda where readers can add how they feel about the product brief. This is handy to step back from individual comments and gather any overall thoughts and sentiment about the brief, as well as product specs. In tools like Google Docs, you often see different persona adding meta-comments on the title of the brief, this gives a better, structured outlet for those meta-comments.
To use it, hit the '/' key, then type 'team' and choose the Team Sentiment Tracker . See it in action below.
Add Your Sentiment
Check to show everyone's sentiment (
1
submitted with average sentiment of
5
)
Sentiment Tracker
0
Search
Sentiment
Reflection
Submitted by
1
Excited about this brief, let's make it happen!
LS
Lane Shackleton
There are no rows in this table
Product brief FAQs
How do you write a product brief?
To write an effective product brief, you can use a product brief template that already has the most important sections outlined:
1. Product name
2. Product background and objectives
3. Success metrics
4. Definition of the problem being solved with the new product
5. Explanation of the solution
6. List of risks and assumptions
7. Possible integrations and additional features
8. Project roles
9. Product development activities, due dates and milestones
What are product levels and types?
Every product is considered to have 4 levels, each having an equal benefit for your business case as it helps you understand how you can address the needs of your target market:
1. Core
2. Tangible
3. Augmented
4. Promised
What is the difference between product and project brief?
A high-quality product brief defines product development objectives and affects the quality of the final result. The project brief is a broader term that encompasses everything from a summary for stakeholders, project description, project goals, expectations, timeframe, milestones, etc. Many templates contain a product brief.

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