Setting ex-spec-tations for building something new. See what I did there?

You know what was a nice smell? Paper, right after your middle school teacher handed out the daily assignment she forgot to Xerox until right before class started. It was always nice and warm and vaguely...yeasty? like fresh baked bread. Speaking of warm reading (ugg, I hate myself), I've got a fresh spec for you, hot off the press.

Spec - v0.1
Open on Notion >

I've seen specs done in as many ways as product teams I've ever worked with, and that's fine. The utility of a spec is to act as a record of agreement between stakeholders. If they need to be long and full of detail...that's fine. If they can be short and punchy...great. What they absolutely have to be is exacting enough for agreement to be meaningful.

As a designer, specs from product managers are often a source of distain. Bad specs can be too prescriptive (ex. "put a blue button on this page"). Or they can fail to articulate the goals with enough resolution to be actionable (ex. "we're building this feature because...it's on the roadmap"). Bad specs are often guilty of both. Bad specs don't leave enough room for a designer to do their job.

In this case, the spec here is an attempt to bring together everything I've learned in the last couple months and mold it into something I can communicate as a complete product. I've tried to be specific about the mechanisms of the app (ex. specifying a group of 5-10 reviewers) without being prescriptive as to implementation, but those kind of bright lines are hard to find in reality.

I've also sketched some storyboards for the core review process that the spec describes. These aren't wireframes—they're intended to tell the story at a higher level. The "UI" that's drawn is purely representational. The fidelity is absurdly low just like the hokey UI created for movies. Like in Jurassic Park, Lex has to navigate the 3D "Unix" interface to reactivate the security system.

This storyboard is simple, but communicating a user "flow" like this forces you to think beyond the screen. I'd like to see more feature specs include stuff like this. We can get so buried in numbers and charts and slide decks that we forget that what we build has to work first and foremost as a story.

Storyboard Spec
Requesting feedback

UPDATE: Bobby Ghoshal (@ghoshal) pointed out that the goals aren't stated in a way that's measurable. I've updated the spec in Notion to reflect his suggestions.

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