sticky-notes-to-do-listIn my experience as an embedded designer that the road to transforming an idea into an optimized result begins with the creation of a complete user specification. The user specification helps transform the idea from a mere concept to a concrete idea with form and function. A complete user specification is the foundation upon which all subsequent design activities will be built. When a design team starts with a well-developed user specification, the results are a product that should not only meet, but also exceed, the original requirements. Avoiding these common misconceptions will allow your organization to create a complete user specification that can provide a detailed roadmap to the final product allowing smoother development and less stress.

3 Common Misconceptions when developing user specifications

  1. Only “internal” sources are needed to build a good user specification.

As the name suggests, the user specification identifies the “user needs” of the product. Too often, however, organizations rely only on internal marketing and sales groups to identify these user requirements. While these groups are most often the face of the company to its customers, they tend to focus on existing products as opposed to future ones. To fully capture the user needs of a future product, it is imperative that actual customer input be used when developing that specification. Of equal importance when getting external customer input, is to interact with users of competitors to understand their view of your products. Only after collecting the views and needs of these external customers, can the internal teams assemble a user specification that truly meets the users’ needs.

  1. History and word of mouth provide sufficient detail

Too often, organizations feel that just writing down the “high points” will suffice. They provide developers with only the highest-level user requirements and rely on “history” and “word of mouth” to fill-in the details. Unfortunately, these “fuzzy” knowledge bases can be quite unreliable and often lead to misinterpretation of user needs. To ensure developers do not waste time trying to determine “what the customer needs”, each specification needs to be complete, thorough and fully define the functions of the intended device.

  1. Time spent on a complete specification is wasted effort

Another common misconception preventing the development of a complete user specification is that few organizations devote the time or effort necessary to create good specifications. Many organizations view the time needed to develop a good specification as unproductive time that just delays the start of actual development. In fact, the opposite is true. Devoting the proper time to the development of a complete user specification will speed development by giving designers clear understanding of the functionality. This avoids the misinterpretation of the user requirements that can lead to costly program delays and design “churn” as features are reworked to meet the intended (but not articulated) requirements.

We at Occammd, LLC – Advanced Engineering of Intelligent Products and Solutions have the knowledge and expertise to help you properly develop your next user specification. We have been involved in system designs since 1999 and have worked with many companies to improve their specification development process.

Contact us and let us show you how we can improve your next design project.

Mark Kelly