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A functional specification is the set of documentation that describes the requested behavior of an engineering system. The documentation typically describes what is needed by the system user as well as requested properties of inputs and outputs.



Bridging the Gap with Requirements Definition

Developing a new product or service is tricky. When everything goes well, the product can redefine a market or even create an entirely new one, to the benefit of its manufacturer and its consumers. When the product doesn't click with its audience, though, the costs—development, employee, manufacturing—can be staggering. How do you ensure that your new product doesn't flop? One effective method is to conduct a requirements definition phase before developing a new product.

Olshavsky, Ryan. Cooper Interaction Design (2002). Articles>Usability>Specifications


Business Requirements Documents vs. Functional Software Requirements

To determine what goes into the BRD and what goes into an SRS, the best place to start is by thinking in terms of who uses the BRD vs. the SRS and what decisions do they need to make from it. If you think of a typical process model, executives must be presented with information following each phase to determine if the project should continue. Based on the information gathered in each phase, the team presents a summary to the executive who decides whether to proceed.

Chen, Anthony. Seilevel (2010). Articles>Business Communication>Requirements>Functional Specifications


Common Mistakes: Functional Specification for Web Development

What are pitfalls that companies should avoid when specifying Web applications for internal or external development?

Buerki, Nicolas. E-Consultancy (2004). Articles>Writing>Specifications>Functional Specifications


Functional Spec Tutorial: What and Why

Functional specifications (functional specs), in the end, are the blueprint for how you want a particular web project or application to look and work. It details what the finished product will do, how a user will interact with it, and what it will look like. By creating a blueprint of the product first, time and productivity are saved during the development stage because the programmers can program instead of also working out the logic of the user-experience. It will also enable you to manage the expectations of your clients or management, as they will know exactly what to expect.

Mojofat. Articles>Writing>Specifications>Technical Writing


Functional Specification Standard   (Word)

In general terms, the functional specification states what the proposed system is to do, whereas design is how the system is to be constructed to meet the functional specification. However in writing it, some consideration of design issues must take place, to ensure a realistic system is specified.

Software Reality. Articles>Writing>Specifications>Functional Specifications


Functional Specifications Subvert the Hierarchy of Nature

When you use a spec, you give your trust and authority to a piece of paper rather than the people on your team. You codify laws. You strip your 'judges' of the ability to act on intuitive feelings. There’s no fluidity. There’s no ability to respond, change, and evolve.

Fried, Jason. Signal vs. Noise. Articles>Collaboration>Specifications


Getting Real, Step 1: No Functional Spec

Don't write a functional specifications document. Why? Well, there's nothing functional about a functional specifications document.

Fried, Jason. Signal vs. Noise (2005). Articles>Writing>Specifications>Functional Specifications


Goal Oriented Requirements

Your requirements document needs to focus on the user’s goals. They should not be marketing’s list of features 'we’ve got to have' because the competition has these features. They should not be a list of things the programmers think ought to be included 'because we can add those things for very little cost.' Feature bloat does not benefit the user.

Ferlazzo, Ellen Lawson. Sprezzatura Systems (2002). Articles>User Centered Design>Specifications>Software


How to Read (W3C Specs)

Although they appear maddeningly incomprehensible at first, W3C specifications are actually great sources of information, once you understand their secrets. Learn how to read the specs.

Eisenberg, J. David. List Apart, A (2001). Design>Web Design>Standards>Specifications


Identifying Web Site Requirements   (PDF)

The authors emphasize the importance of conducting thorough research on business goals, branding goals, user needs, and technical resources before Web designers undertake a redesign. The article also offers suggestions about how to define, develop, and communicate a client's brand.

Summers, Kathryn and Michael Summers. Intercom (2001). Articles>Usability>Specifications


Inspecting Requirements

Errors in requirements specifications translate into poor designs, code that does the wrong thing, and unhappy customers. Requirements documentation should be inspected early and often. Anything you can do to prevent requirements errors from propagating downstream will save you time and money. Karl Wiegers shows you how.

Wiegers, Karl E. StickyMinds (2004). Articles>Documentation>Engineering>Specifications


Introduction to Requirements: The Critical Details That Make or Break a Project   (members only)

Every project has requirements. It doesn't matter if it's building hardware solutions, developing software solutions, installing networks, protecting data, or training users. For the project to be a success, knowing what the requirements are is an absolute must. Requirements exist for virtually any components of a project or task. For example, a project may require specific methods, expertise levels of personnel, or the format of deliverables. This whitepaper will discuss the various kinds of information technology requirements, their importance, the different requirement types, the concept of requirements engineering, and the process for gathering requirements.

Frederick, Richard. Global Knowledge (2007). Articles>Project Management>Business Communication>Specifications


On Writing

Whatever your role in a project, insist on getting the spec right before the code is written. The spec'ing process may take several iterations, so plan accordingly.

Shetty, Ashish. Blogspot. Articles>Writing>Specifications


Painless Functional Specifications - Part 1: Why Bother?

Why won't people write specs? People claim that it's because they're saving time by skipping the spec-writing phase. They act as if spec-writing was a luxury reserved for NASA space shuttle engineers, or people who work for giant, established insurance companies. Balderdash.

Spolsky, Joel. Joel on Software (2000). Articles>Writing>Specifications>Software


Painless Functional Specifications - Part 2: What's a Spec?

When you design a product, inside and out, the most important thing is to nail down the user experience. What are the screens, how do they work, what do they do. Later, you worry about how to get from here to there. There's no use arguing about what programming language to use before you've decided what your product is going to do. In this series, I'm only talking about functional specifications.

Spolsky, Joel. Joel on Software (2000). Articles>Writing>Specifications>Functional Specifications


Requirements Gathering and Analysis: Functional Requirements

Functional requirements detail the behavior of the intended system. This is from the workflow to the end-user interface. You want to ensure that each functional requirement that you capture is just that.

Polastre, Shevonne. Chicwriter (2010). Articles>Documentation>Requirements>Functional Specifications


Requirements Gathering and Analysis: Non-Functional Requirements

Non-functional requirements are the requirements that stakeholders and users haven’t thought of, but you have to because without them, the system will fail. If you don’t collect non-functional requirements, then you will not be creating a system that behaves in the way the users need it to.

Polastre, Shevonne. Chicwriter (2010). Articles>Documentation>Requirements>Functional Specifications


Requirements vs. Solutions

Your requirements will assist you in delivering a software solution that meets your users' needs. You can find all sorts of templates and formal processes for requirements of various kinds, and while they are useful, the biggest problem I've found is that most people confuse defining the need with proposing a solution. As soon as a requirements document contains any part of 'how we're solving this', you've crossed the line into presupposing that you already know what the problem is and can stop listening.

Ferlazzo, Ellen Lawson. Sprezzatura Systems (2002). Careers>Consulting>Specifications


Seeing the World Through Different Specs: Or, How I Came to Love Writing Software Specifications   (PDF)

Much has been said and written about Object-Oriented Programming in the past few years, some of it even worthwhile. While not the panacea on which we've all waited, OOP is, however, changing not only our concept of software design and development, but is subtly re-shaping the way in which we see and know the world. For technical communicators, this epistemological change will radically affect not only the way we craft software specifications, but will permanently re-shape our worldview.

Weathington, Thomas L., Jr. STC Proceedings (1998). Articles>Writing>Specifications>Technical Writing


So What IS User Requirements Gathering?

Requirements gathering is all about aiming at the right target. It doesn't matter how accurate you are, if you aim at the wrong target, you miss.

Frontend Infocentre (2009). Articles>Usability>Research>Functional Specifications


Stage Directions Meet Functional Specifications: They Have a Lot in Common

When it comes to modern theater, stage directions—the descriptive text that appears within brackets in a script—are an important piece of the puzzle. They speak for the playwright when he is not there. They provide details about how the playwright has imagined the environment and atmosphere. They describe critical physical aspects of the characters and settings. Stage directions can also be critical in dictating the intended tempo and rhythm of the piece. Whether they establish a production’s overall tone or elucidate particular actions of characters, stage directions help tell the complete story that is in the playwright’s mind. Stage directions accomplish all of this, using a simple convention that structurally separates them from the actual story.

Lepore, Traci. UXmatters (2009). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>Functional Specifications


The Art of the Functional Spec

'The Art of the Functional Spec' is a forum for those of us responsible for writing functional specs. We'll discuss the basics of functional spec writing, offer tips, provide examples and respond to your feedback and questions.

Functional Spec (2009). Resources>Writing>Technical Writing>Specifications


UsabilityNet: International Standards

Standards related to usability can be categorised as primarily concerned with: the use of the product (effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a particular context of use); the user interface and interaction; the process used to develop the product; the capability of an organisation to apply user centred design

UsabilityNet. Resources>Usability>International>Specifications


User Interface Pattern Documentation Review

User interface (UI) patterns have the potential to make software development more efficient. The prospect of such efficiency gains has led to interest in user interface (UI) patterns by individuals and organizations looking for ways to increase quality while at the same time reducing the costs associated with software development.

Stapleton, Patrick. Boxes and Arrows (2009). Articles>User Interface>Documentation>Functional Specifications



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