Lab Zero Speclets

Shortcut: View the template.

What is a ‘speclet’?

A speclet is a concise, lightweight 1-page document that captures where the team is today as well as desired outcomes, scope and target user groups for a project.

Who uses a speclet?

The playbook and the speclet is for product managers, designers, and development teams who design and build web products. Speclets are typically owned by a product manager, and are collaborative in nature to help align teams.

At Lab Zero, we often collaborate directly with our client-partners on speclets to answer questions and capture important information about a project. Google Documents are a great way to flag questions, gaps in understanding or misalignments that the team needs to sort out.

Why use a speclet?

Speclets help the product manager, designers and development team clarify our understanding of where we are today and to align on the nature of the project, scope, target users and its success conditions. This ensures everyone on the team is aligned regarding the opportunity and how efforts will be measured.

This document acts as a mirror to reflect back what is actually known and desired. It should help highlight the next most important thing for the team to learn or validate. It becomes a foundational alignment tool to summarize the project.

Why is it called a ‘speclet’?

The name ‘speclet’ is inspired by ‘creative spec sheets’ and uses a diminutive suffix, ‘let’, after ‘spec.’ Ideally, speclets are limited to one page and hence are a concise spec sheet for your product summary.

Guiding principles

1) Honesty

Only write things in this document that you can prove and know to be true. The activity of drafting this document is necessarily iterative. Your first draft will be incomplete. The first draft of your speclet is almost always full of incomplete sentences, holes, and question marks—this highlights gaps for future learning and helps you generate a list of questions to answer as you’re beginning your effort.

2) Brevity

Speclets are one page. Think of this as your elevator pitch, not your wiki, charter, or backlog. Ruthlessly edit the information down to the must-have information everyone must know for the project to stay on track. This is a single artifact which will join other artifacts in your process of discovery and delivery. If your project or idea seems too large to capture in this format, consider writing one speclet as a high-level summary and breaking down each component individually into separate child speclets.

3) Opportunities → Goals → Measurements

Do not propose solutions. Instead, focusing on needs and goals will ensure this document remains relevant throughout the product development process. Write with the expectation that your current solution hypotheses will evolve through discovery and experimentation activities.

4) Clarity

Establish a measurable baseline which you can formally review at the beginning and end of your project. You should be able to use this as a clear assessment of the effort at a high level. We recommend using OKRs in the ‘Desired Outcomes’ section on the speclet.

Making clear statements early on helps ensure that the team addresses potential pitfalls like misaligned goals and expectations before work is delivered. Expose these potentially contentious issues or candidates for feature creep before the work begins and you’ll thank yourself later(a great home for these is the Out of Scope section, so that they’re visible to all involved).

How do you get started?

Write out an introduction that covers what you see today and why the business thinks an investment would be valuable. Then, list in outline form the priority goals (business outcomes) with measurements, anything you consider to be out of scope, and an early draft of relevant personas. It is expected that the speclet will be iterated upon frequently when early in a project.

Drafting a speclet can be as simple as writing down what you observe happening today and what you perceive as the key project goals as the team understands them.

Ready to write your own speclet?

To jump start your next speclet, view the template.