8 Best Practices for a Successful SaaS Changelog
From the moment it’s created, a SaaS software starts a journey of improvements. To upgrade and to inform customers about those latest updates are something that’s at the core of any healthy and growing SaaS project. That’s why changelogs (a chronologically ordered list of changes) are becoming mandatory for SaaS companies! By including them in their websites, and following the change log best practices, companies communicate the growth and changes to their SaaS products.
They are not only an opportunity to show how your project team is working tirelessly for your customers, but most importantly, a way of engaging and retaining a user base, bring in new clients, and reduce churn.
The old way to keep audiences informed about product changes was to write a few blog post or send newsletters. These got little attention from users and customers. A forgotten old blog post and low email open rates can bury that important information forever ☠️. Changelogs can be an effective solution to these problems!
Changelogs are a straightforward way to publish release notes, announce a new version of your product, notify bug fixes, promote your latest features, warn customers about security issues and share relevant information.
Do you want to know what SaaS successful changelogs have in common? Keep on reading for best practices and examples. For each one of these examples, will offer you a practical solution with a real changelog tool.
Here are 8 release notes and changelog best practices for SaaS:
- Make sure where changelog is easy to find
- Make sure your changelog is not a static page
- Add visual elements: images, videos, GIFs
- Always include a clear CTA
- Write updates in a tone that resonates with the users
- Personalize your updates as much as possible
- Use push notifications to bring users back with your changelog
- Give users the gist and a place to read more
1. Make sure where changelog is easy to find.
The issue: New features? Where?
So you have a changelog. Congrats! But where can we read it? Any good communication channel between SaaS and user base has to be accessible to the intended audience.
This seems elementary, but think about it 🤔. Where are the changelogs normally for SaaS products? They can sometimes be hard to locate, like they’re put out of the way.
You’ll find them in the area of the site for developers or in the help section. It’s rare to find changelogs in a place where “normal” users will find it. Your changelog is useless like this.
Your changelog should be somewhere prevalent, easily accessible, and in context for users (not just developers) who are using your product or exploring it as an option.
It should also be clearly accessible from your site or software for signed in users who are already using your product. In summary put your changelog where people can find it! 🔍
The solution: A contextual changelog tool.
There are several release notes companies and changelog tools in the market these days. Some of them provide you with an embeddable widget that you can place “contextually”. That is, inside your app or site, exactly where it should be!
With Beamer, that’s very easy to make happen. Beamer lets you create a changelog that sits within your website and product as a discreet, collapsible sidebar.
Users can open it on your site or app by clicking a “What’s New” tab in your navigation or an icon within your product interface. It looks like a built-in widget native to your site.
This changelog format allows you to give your release notes and latest features a home at the heart of your SaaS software product, always available and constantly updated 💛.
With Beamer you can…
- Announce new features, notable changes, and release notes.
- Announce product updates, and bug fixes.
- Share new content, product ideas, and news.
Beamer allows your team to share release notes or changelog posts, in a place that is visible and in context for users to stay informed and engaged.
2. Make sure your changelog is not a static page.
The issue: Stale changelogs.
Ok, so you don’t want your changelog to be a separate page that users have to access in order to see if you have a new update. If you do, it’s very unlikely that users will be checking that release out to see the latest changes and what’s new. You need tools to engage them!
Also, you don’t want your changelog to look abandoned and left there to rot from version to new version, until the next “big changelog entry”.
We’ve seen them! A white page (or a sad text file) in unformatted text that says “latest version” or has a “version number” and a list of incomprehensible “improvements”. As SaaS companies are dynamic, the best changelog tool has to be dynamic too.
Let’s be real, product managers know that bug fixes and security issues don’t happen just once in a blue moon, and a good SaaS product usually has lots of release notes and new features to promote if they are keeping up with the competition.
Are you sitting on a pile of unreleased changes? There’s no reason for your changelog to get stale.
The solution: A dynamic changelog tool.
Your Beamer widget allows you to show updates and release notes within your product and on your website in a sidebar. When users click on a CTA on an update or release, they can go to your standalone page and read more.
This way, your stand alone page gets engagement and users can stay in the loop. When there are unread release notes, you can have a red notification icon appear to remind users that there is a release to check.
You control both in-context widget and standalone page from the same account so you can easily post in both at the same time or reserve content for one or the other.
A few tips…
- Keep your changelog updated with little manual work using scheduling.
- Save time by having a in-context widget connected with a standalone changelog page.
- Use automation software integrations to transform actions into posts and communicate technical details (e.g. commit messages into release notes).
- Get user feedback on each release notes to improve engagement.
3. Add visual elements: images, videos, GIFs.
The issue: Uninteresting release notes.
There’s nothing worse than an all-text changelog. There is nothing enticing about that. It will get you no attention and your release notes will go unnoticed.
The goal is user engagement! You should add visual elements to make your own announcements and changelog updates interesting and easily understandable.
For example, if you’re announcing a new feature, including a GIF or screenshot of it in action helps users to understand where and what it is.
Even better, including a tutorial video on how to use it will help to get users seeing the value of a release or new features right away. They will learn how to put them to use and be enticed to do so. It makes feature adoption easier and faster.
The solution: A multimedia-compatible changelog tool.
With Beamer, you can embed videos, photos, and GIFs to your Beamer release notes to make changelog entries more engaging. For example, if you go to our own changelog (built with Beamer, of course!) you’ll see that all of our new release notes –both company news and technical updates– include either an eye-catching image or a screenshot to illustrate what the upgrade is all about.
4. Always include a clear CTA.
The issue: Low engagement.
It’s one thing to get people reading, it’s another to get them to take action. 💪
A changelog tool can be great for user engagement if (and only if) you get users to do something as a result of checking it out.
Include a clear “call to action” (CTA) in the form of a link or button. A button is more obvious, of course. But you can add relevant links to get people clicking through like any other body of content.
Include obvious CTA language as well. For example, if you’re sharing a new feature, invite users to “try it out”. If you’re sharing an update, remind developers they can “read more” about the new features, documentation, and technical details with a button.
Keep your release short and use CTAs to get users engaging again with your product right away. Learn more about using your changelog to announce new features.
The solution: A changelog tool with action links.
In Beamer, you can easily add a button or link to your updates and release notes. It’s easy to track “click throughs” as well so you can improve CTAs.
Some Beamer examples…
- Add CTA’s to relevant links (like the new feature your are announcing, or a signup page).
- Send users to read more (e.g. a blog, documentation, or your Beamer standalone page).
- Track and follow the performance of your release notes.
- Add a link to download a file or other promotional marketing content.
5. Write updates in a tone that resonates with the users.
The issue: Lack of connection.
It’s probably not wise to just have your dev team write boring, technical changelog release notes full of code all the time. Probably, this isn’t going to excite or make any sense to your end users if they aren’t developers themselves 🤓.
You probably want to write your changelog in a way that is for everyone in your audience and gets the most crucial point across. It’s all about communicating with your audience!
The solution: A changelog tool for your audience.
For example, if you’re sharing a technical update or bug fix, your dev team might be able to give a best overview of what’s changed for more technical teams.
If you’re sharing a new feature, you might want your sales, product teams, or marketing team to write from an end users perspective to drive home the value. Your changelog should be the work of all your team as your product is.
With Beamer you can get the best of both options, making sure each release includes instead of excludes your target audience. This doesn’t mean writing in ambiguous ways, just writing release notes in different styles and target the audience that will value them the most. That’s segmentation and Beamer can help you with that.
With Beamer you can…
- Segment release notes and show them to a specific group of users and customers (e.g. free plan, admins, app users only).
- Translate your release notes and changelog into multiple languages.
- Get comments and reactions on each release to measure engagement and close the feedback loop (more on that in this post).
6. Personalize your updates as much as possible.
The issue: Too generic release notes.
Have you ever gotten an email from a company that felt really off the mark in terms of what you like? Don’t do that with your emails or your changelog. 📨
Not all SaaS users are the same. As we explored in the previous section, users will be much more excited to engage with your changelog if the release notes are made for them. From content to container.
Also, a if you use third-party changelog tools inside your app or software (like a changelog as a service tool) that’s not branded or doesn’t have the same type of design that your product, it may look from unprofessional to untrustworthy.
The solution: A personalized changelog tool. And again – follow release notes best practices.
No matter if you created your own changelog tool or you’re using a changelog as a service software, you need to make it fit seamlessly with your website or app design.
For example, with Beamer you can tailor your changelog with ease. You can segment who sees each release on their changelog by demographic, location, and past behavior on your site.
You can also send each user a release in their own language. With this, your changelog can literally be personalized for different users and your release notes will reach a wider audience.
And even more, Beamer offers different appearance personalization options to make your product changes look homegrown. Change colors, add your own code, and make your customers feel like they haven’t abandoned your site each time they read a new release.
Some Beamer examples… which are also release notes best practices.
- Use segmentation to show different release notes to different customers.
- Change the changelog appearance to fit your brand with no code required, or include your own custom CSS.
- Translate release notes and show customers your announcements in their preferred language.
7. Use push notifications to bring users back with your changelog.
The issue: Users not returning.
Every time you make a product improvement, it can be an excuse to bring back users or leads who are slipping away.
Push notifications can help with that! 📢
The solution: A push notification tool.
With Beamer, you can easily set up notifications for your changelog. Whenever you post an update, a push notification goes out to users who have opted in.
What’s great about Beamer is that when they come back, they have a full changelog feed within your product to land on. There are release notes for them to read and explore.
It’s a great way to make your changelog actionable and alive. Learn more about how to send successful push notifications.
8. Give users the gist and a place to read more.
The issue: TL;DR.
Too long! Your changelog is not a blog. Release notes are similar to tweets in the sense that they need to convey information but in quick catchy way.
The Solution: Write better release notes and follow release notes best practices.
The release notes on your changelog should be short, fun, and actionable. Your entire release note update shouldn’t be visible on your feed. That’s not what gets people engaging.
Think of it as a literal newsfeed. What catches your attention? The headline and how well they convey the value? Your changelog should do the same.
Changelog release notes best practices. A changelog should include:
- A compelling headline that captures the gist of the release.
- Some visual elements (e.g. image, GIF, and videos).
- A short, to-the-value description of what’s the release is all about.
- A CTA to take action, provide feedback or read more about the release.
And that’s it! If you need more help, you can learn to write better release notes for SaaS in this post.
The best changelog tool.
Prior to Beamer, our changelogs were basically a bin of release notes we wrote and never saw again. Our users likely didn’t either.
After using Beamer to share release notes, we’ve changed the way we update users and show the growth of our product. It’s a sales and engagement tool within itself.
We created Beamer as a love letter to product marketing 💌. That’s why it’s not just a powerful changelog tool but also includes release note management, user feedback, surveys, feature requests, notifications and more. All tools available for you next big project.
Again, if you’re going to need to be writing a changelog anyways, you’ll want to make it work for your team. Try Beamer to create a changelog that engages users.