The best SaaS release notes and changelog examples and tips
Changelogs and release notes are a common place part of SaaS for both users and developers now. Users don’t settle for a one and done solution anymore. Changes, developments, new integrations, and swift fixes and updates are an integral part of your product experience and customer service. Without this, customers will be looking for alternatives. While your team is working hard to make sure that your product is consistently improving, pivoting with market changes, and meeting customers’ expectations, it’s vital that you keep users in the know and aware of the improvements that your team is making to your product.
Now, what are the best ways for SaaS to communicate product changes and updates?
Here are some great SaaS changelog and release notes examples:
Intercom makes their changelog and release notes very clean, simple, and condensed. They have a “What’s New” page on their main site where users can scroll through recent updates of all types. They use a Beamer standalone page integrated into their site where they can display a description, an image, categories and tags, etc. The updates are visual and can be quickly digested or users can click on a link to read more in a longer post. Users can leave their reactions and comments on updates like a social feed. Intercom can take a look at data on users reactions and open rates to better understand how users feel about changes.
Check it out here: https://www.intercom.com/changes/
What they get right:
Organized navigation and segmentation:
You have a really simple fixed navigation that sits on the side of the feed that you can scroll through. Users can filter down by products, add-ons, update topics, and can search from here to easily find that interests them.
Intercom has created a really visual display within their updates by adding photos, videos, and GIFs to updates. These really help both grab users’ attention but better explain updates and new features. They help keep updates as simple as possible.
Show the direct impact for the user:
Instead of just describing the product change, Intercom’s changelog focuses on how it will impact end users and optimize their daily work. They introduce the benefit and give you more details with a “read more” option for those who want to check more information on the improvement. This is a great way to keep the changelog announcements short, actionable and make sure interested users have all the details easily available.
Mailchimp has a section on their site also accessible for logged in users called “What’s New”. They organize their product updates in a really clean, simple and visual style that is friendly for anyone to explore.
You can check it out here: https://mailchimp.com/whats-new/
What they get right:
The latest and greatest is at the top like a big announcement.
They have a main update at the top that is very visual with a short description and CTA to go on to the full update post with more information. It’s not overwhelming but it’s still intriguing.
Updates are chronological below:
Below the latest update, they break the rest into chronological order by month. You can also jump down months through a really simple navigation which makes it manageable. The updates are all very simple with short, actionable titles that get to the point of the update. For example, instead of “Update to domains” they say “We’ll help you find the right custom domain for your business”. The value is communicated right away.
Hubspot takes a little bit of a different approach utilizing both the chronological flow and update segmentation by product to make navigating updates easier. Hubspot has multiple “sections” or “products” within their platform that they have to keep organized for users. This way, users don’t have to scroll through updates to find what they’re looking for.
Check it out here: https://www.hubspot.com/product-updates
What they get right:
A handy navigation system:
There is a navigation box that breaks updates down by product (Hubspot Marketing, Sales, and Marketing Free), and then by “Feature Updates” and “All Updates”. This is great because a lot of users looking at a changelog are looking for new feature updates instead of say API updates or big fixes which more developers are focused on. Because the vast majority of Hubspot users are end users in marketing and sales positions, they focus on new features.
Within their update previews, they include screenshots and images to make them more interesting than just a text preview. Once you click in, the long text is broken up by relevant screenshots that help explain the update better.
The titles used focus less on the actual change or update itself, but describe the end value to the end user. For example: “Keep Marketing Organized with Team Permissions for Emails, Forms and CTAs”. They tell users directly what they can now do with Hubspot instead of describing how – because users likely don’t care. They want to know why the product is now better.
Short and to the point:
Hubspot’s updates are very short and to the point. There’s no unneeded extra paragraphs of fluff. They are less than one page in length and really rely on visual elements to get the point across. They include CTAs to get straight to the new feature so that users can start engaging right away. Your changelog is not your blog – it should be to the point of how your product is better.
Tips for creating your own changelog:
Decide who your priority audiences are:
It’s important to know who is most interested in your updates as to not miss the mark for either group and alienate them. For many SaaS products, you are communicating changes to both users directly and developers who are working on a higher level with your product. Your updates will need to give both these parties the information they need. Some choose to write updates for users and focus on sharing the value of changes rather than the technical details. If your product is more developer-facing, you may want to be more technical. Segmentation of updates really helps to keep things focused and interesting for each user in this case.
All test updates are a nightmare for both a developer or user. They also get lower engagement. Include screenshots or videos to break up text. It’s also harder to understand what you’re describing in your update without adding a visual element. Videos and GIFs are great for showing functionality and giving a brief tutorial on the new change and where to find it.
Focus on the end benefit for the audience:
Regardless of whether you’re speaking with developers or users, it’s best to focus on the added value of the change you’ve made – even if it’s a fix. Focus on how the experience has improved for the user and what pain point has been eliminated or new functionality has been added as a result. For example: “Now you can target the right customers more effectively with new segmentation”. The focus isn’t new segmentation but what the user is able to do with that feature.
Make it short and sweet:
It really is best to keep things short, especially when it’s important information. Eliminate fluffy text and opening paragraphs and keep updates as short and informative as possible. They should be quick reads that are easy to digest and apply for users.
Make it actionable:
It really helps to include clear CTAs and next steps for users in your changelog and release notes. This helps to keep them moving and exploring your product. The more they start interacting with your changes and new features, the more likely they are to be a success. Immediate interaction helps increase engagement and adoption.
Offer more information if they want:
It’s great to have a short to-the-point preview and then allow more information if the reader is interested. This is especially helpful for situations where you want to communicate a change to both end users and more technical roles. You can offer the gist of a change or new feature and it’s benefit in a short preview and then allow users to click through to a more technical document if they want.
Allow comments and feedback:
Updates are an excellent opportunity for feedback. Users’ reactions and comments on your recent changes can provide your team with a lot of important data for what’s working and what’s not. Open up the opportunity to provide feedback within your changelog and release notes in a way that’s convenient for users.
Host it somewhere that makes sense for everyone:
Your changelog should not be hard to find. It should be accessible for users both on your website not logged in and within your app or platform. They should see updates intuitively and not have to go out of their way to find them. Sending emails for updates and changes used to be the usual practice but it can be annoying and the open and engagement rates for those are fairly low.
Beamer is a much more intuitive way to update users on changes, bug fixes, updates, etc. Beamer is an in-app changelog that sits in your website and app interface. Users can open Beamer by clicking “What’s New” or an icon in your interface. The changelog discreetly opens on any page with a list of updates in chronological order. You can include photos, screenshots, or videos in your updates to make them more engaging. You can add CTAs to a longer post or page with more information or to the feature itself. You can also use segmentation to send targeted updates for users based on plan, demographic, location, language, and past behavior. With Beamer, you can send out push notifications every time you post an update to bring users back to explore your update. It’s much more intuitive and in context than an email and a page somewhere on your site away from activity.
A changelog and consistent updates can be a great way to boost engagement, show users that your product is improving for them, and make sure your updates are noticed and adopted by your users. An evolving product is what keeps customers loyal. Your changelog is what communicates that consistently. For the best way to present changes and updates in a changelog, try Beamer on your site and in your app.