Writing Effective Software Requirements. Part 2 – examples

Theory is just theory. I need more practical examples

Read the part 1. (link)

In this section, we’ll provide practical examples of software specifications for a hypothetical e-commerce website. These examples will demonstrate how requirements can be structured using a more traditional approach. Each requirement will include clear descriptions, user stories, acceptance criteria, constraints, dependencies, performance considerations, and additional notes to ensure comprehensive specifications.

Here’s an example of a software specification for a hypothetical e-commerce website. This time we will use the more traditional approach of writing specifications.


Project Title: Online Marketplace


  1. Introduction

The Online Marketplace is a web-based platform that enables users to buy and sell products online. The platform aims to provide a seamless shopping experience for customers and a convenient selling platform for vendors.


  1. Scope

The Online Marketplace will include the following key features:

  • User registration and authentication
  • Product browsing and search functionality
  • Product listing and selling capabilities for vendors
  • Shopping cart and checkout process
  • Order management and tracking
  • User reviews and ratings for products and vendors
  • Admin dashboard for site management


  1. User Roles

The system will support the following user roles:

  • Customer: Can browse products, place orders, and provide feedback.
  • Vendor: Can list products for sale, manage inventory, and process orders.
  • Administrator: Can manage users, products, orders, and site settings.


  1. Functional Requirements


4.1 User Registration and Authentication

  • Users can create new accounts with unique usernames and passwords.
  • Users can log in to the system using their credentials.
  • User registration and login must include validation and error handling.


4.2 Product Browsing and Search

  • Users can browse products by category or search for specific products using keywords.
  • Product listings should include details such as title, description, price, and availability.
  • Search functionality should provide relevant results based on user queries.


4.3 Product Listing and Selling

  • Vendors can create new product listings, including details such as title, description, price, and images.
  • Vendors can manage their inventory, update product availability, and delete listings.
  • Each product listing should have a unique identifier and be associated with the respective vendor.


4.4 Shopping Cart and Checkout

  • Customers can add products to their shopping cart.
  • Customers can review and modify the contents of their cart.
  • Customers can proceed to checkout, provide shipping information, and choose payment options.
  • The system should calculate the order total, including taxes and shipping fees.


4.5 Order Management and Tracking

  • Customers can view their order history, including order details and status.
  • Vendors can manage orders, update order status, and track shipments.
  • Admins can view and manage all orders, including order processing and fulfillment.


4.6 User Reviews and Ratings

  • Customers can leave reviews and ratings for products and vendors.
  • Reviews should include a rating score, text feedback, and a timestamp.
  • Average ratings should be displayed for each product and vendor.


4.7 Admin Dashboard

  • Admins have access to a dashboard for managing users, products, orders, and site settings.
  • Admins can add, edit, and delete user accounts.
  • Admins can manage product categories, perform content moderation, and configure site preferences.


  1. Non-functional Requirements
  • The system should be responsive, providing a seamless user experience on various devices and screen sizes.
  • The platform should be secure, with appropriate measures to protect user data and prevent unauthorized access.
  • The website should be scalable to accommodate increasing traffic and growing numbers of users and products.
  • The system should be performant, with fast page load times and efficient database queries.
  • The user interface should be intuitive, user-friendly, and accessible to users with disabilities.
  • The system should be compatible with major web browsers and comply with web standards.


  1. Assumptions and Constraints
  • The system will be developed using a modern web framework (e.g., React.js) and a scalable database management system (e.g., PostgreSQL).
  • Integration with third-party payment gateways and shipping APIs will be required.
  • The project will be developed using an Agile methodology with iterative development and regular feedback cycles.
  • The system will be deployed on a cloud-based hosting platform (e.g., AWS or Azure).


This example provides an overview of the project, defines the scope, outlines the key features and user roles, and lists functional and non-functional requirements. It also includes assumptions and constraints that should be taken into account during the development process.

Remember to tailor the requirement to the specific needs and context of your project.

In the end, it all comes down to costs. How does this all loop back into my budget?

In order to understand the budgetary impact of developing a new feature, or new module of a project, you will need cost estimates.

Cost estimates are typically assessed by engineering teams, based on effort estimates.

Effort estimates are a separate topic – and not a trivial one – and we will cover it in a separate post on this blog.

The bottom-line is that in order for an engineering team to be able to estimate effort (and cost), more granular requirements must be provided.

Here’s an example of how good requirements should be structured – even using traditional methods –  to help developers estimate the effort required for development:

Requirement: User Registration and Authentication 

  1. Description

The system should provide user registration and authentication functionality to allow users to create accounts and log in to the platform. This requirement aims to ensure secure access to user-specific features and personalization.

  1. User Stories

As a new user, I want to be able to create a new account by providing my email address and choosing a password. As a registered user, I want to be able to log in to the platform using my email address and password.

  1. Acceptance Criteria

When a new user provides a unique email address and a valid password, a new account should be created, and the user should receive a confirmation email.

When a registered user enters their correct email address and password combination, they should be successfully logged in and redirected to their personalized dashboard.

  1. Constraints

Passwords must meet specific complexity requirements (e.g., minimum length, character types) for enhanced security. User email addresses must be unique within the system to avoid duplicate accounts.

  1. Dependencies

The user registration and authentication functionality should integrate with the database system to store user account information securely.

The confirmation email functionality should be implemented to send verification emails to new users.

  1. Performance Considerations

The registration and login processes should have minimal response time to provide a smooth user experience.

The system should handle concurrent user registrations and logins without performance degradation.

  1. Additional Notes

The user interface design for the registration and login forms should follow the existing platform’s visual style and branding guidelines. Passwords should be securely stored in the database using appropriate encryption techniques.

So how do I get from requirements to effort estimates?

For the User Registration and Authentication feature described above, here is a high-level effort estimate, just for demonstration purposes.

Note: estimating effort for software development is subjective and can vary depending on various factors such as team expertise, project complexity, technology stack, and development practices.

However, based on the descriptions provided earlier, here’s a rough estimation for the effort required to develop the features:

User Registration and Authentication:

  • Development and integration of user registration and login forms: 20-30 hours
  • Implementing password complexity validation: 4-6 hours
  • Sending confirmation emails for new user registration: 6-8 hours

One last example

Let’s take another example of a common feature required in projects.

Requirement: Product Search Functionality

  1. Description

The system should include a robust product search functionality to allow users to find specific products based on their search queries. This requirement aims to enhance the user experience by providing efficient and accurate search results.

  1. User Stories

As a user, I want to be able to search for products by entering relevant keywords.

As a user, I want the search results to be displayed in a clear and organized manner.

As a user, I want the search functionality to provide suggestions or auto-complete options to help me refine my search.

  1. Acceptance Criteria

When a user enters a keyword in the search bar and submits the search query, the system should return relevant products based on the entered keyword.

The search results should display the product name, price, and a brief description for each matching product.

The search results should be sorted based on relevancy, with the most relevant products appearing first.

As the user types in the search bar, the system should provide suggestions or auto-complete options based on existing product names or categories.

  1. Constraints

The search functionality should be case-insensitive to provide a seamless user experience.

The system should handle common search operators, such as “AND,” “OR,” and “NOT,” to support advanced search queries.

The search functionality should be optimized to handle a large number of products efficiently.

  1. Dependencies

The product search functionality should integrate with the database system to retrieve and filter product data based on user queries.

The system should utilize appropriate indexing techniques to optimize search performance.

  1. Performance Considerations

The search functionality should have low response time, even when dealing with a significant number of products and concurrent search queries.

The system should provide accurate and relevant search results to enhance the user experience.

  1. Additional Notes

The search results page should have pagination or infinite scrolling to accommodate a large number of matching products.

The search functionality should support filtering options, such as sorting by price, rating, or availability, to further refine search results.

So, how long will this take?

For the Product Search Functionality:

  • Implementing search functionality and filtering options: 25-35 hours
  • Integrating search functionality with the database: 10-15 hours
  • Implementing auto-complete suggestions: 8-12 hours
  • Sorting search results by relevancy: 4-6 hours


Note: These estimations are provided as a general guideline and may vary based on project-specific requirements, technology stack, and other considerations. It’s crucial to involve the development team in the estimation process for a more accurate assessment of effort and to consider potential dependencies, testing, and integration efforts that may be required.

No matter the method used – as long as there is a method! – by structuring the requirements with clear descriptions, user stories, acceptance criteria, constraints, dependencies, performance considerations, and any additional notes, developers can have a solid understanding of the required functionality. This information assists them in estimating the effort and resources necessary for developing the functionality effectively.

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