release notes best practices

Release Notes Best practices for 2019

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Spencer Coon
Sep 04, 2019 | Last Updated Sep 05, 2019

If you think about SaaS release notes, the first thing that probably comes to your mind is…BORING. Release notes are traditionally associated with tedious technical explanations, lots of details and documentation and something that bores users and doesn’t really drive value. But is that really the case? 

Your engineering and development teams work really hard to add new features, improve your product, fix bugs and provide more value for your customers, so you simply can’t afford that all your important updates go unnoticed or get ignored. That’s why interesting, fun and effective release notes are incredibly important and are a key element to engage users and attract new ones, driving revenue, feature discovery and reducing churn

unopenned email

Writing appealing release notes is not that hard: there are a few useful tips that you can apply in your release notes process to make them attractive, engaging and fun: Want to know how to do it? Keep on reading…

Here are the best practices for release notes for 2019: 

Keep it as simple as possible: 

With technology and new features and updates, it’s hard to keep it simple sometimes. You want to go into every detail and with a lot of documentation you really need to. But the attention span of the average reader these days, even the technical ones, is shorter than it used to be. We’ve become experts at scanning and are more likely to read and digest something that is organized and simplified in a way that helps us scan. When writing release notes or any other product documentation, make sure it is well segmented with good use of headings and sections that allow the reader to scan the document and get the info that interests them out of it. If you can, making documentation digital and easy to navigate directly on your site without having to download. It’s a great way to release notes actually helpful. 

simple release notes 

Lead with the core value of the update: 

Users are customers and they’re always interested in what this does for them specifically. They don’t necessarily care about the update or feature. When trying to get their attention and introduce your improvement, lead with the core value for them and then get into the details of how it works and what it does. For example, don’t say “we’ve added advanced segmentation” right away. Instead, say “engage your customers with better focused content” and then talk about how your users can now do that with your feature or update and the specifics behind the new technology for those who are more technically oriented. Most technical roles these days really wear a lot of different hats and blend into other roles like marketing and sales. They are interested in the value to the business and the bottom line beyond the code.  

Incorporate visual elements where you can: 

With really wordy updates and release notes, it’s hard to really get a grasp for what you’re talking about within your product specifically. It’s a lot easier to digest the information if you include some visual context. Add photos, GIFs, and create a short demo video to help solidify the note and make it clear what improvement has been made and where they can find it. It also helps with visually being able to digest the whole release note if it is broken up by visual elements. Anyone will be more inclined to take a look which is what your team wants. 

visual release notes

Notify users somewhere intuitive: 

Email isn’t even the most intuitive place to update users anyways. Email open rates are very low and don’t get the engagement you want to get users exploring your product. What do we mean by intuitive? Intuitive is where the information you’re sharing is relevant, in context, and helpful. Someone checking their email may not be intrigued by your new update while they’re answering work emails. It’s better to make an announcement of an update or new features within your product. This way, they can check it out right away and your update is in context to what they’re doing at that moment. You’re much more likely to get higher engagement with new features this way. 

intuitive release notes

Give users a central place they can reference your changes: 

A great way to make sure your updates are always relevant and your users can always find them is by keeping them all in one central place. You can use a changelog like Beamer. Beamer is a newsfeed of updates that opens up right within your app’s interface or on your site when users click an icon. It opens up a rolling feed with all your updates in chronological order. You can create updates for release notes, new features, company news, etc. You can make your updates really visual with videos, GIFs, photos, and screenshots so that they are engaging and more explanatory. You can add CTAs to more information like a full release note or white paper so users are kept in the loop but not just being sent a ton of information. What’s great is it’s all in one central place that is intuitive and always available to your users. You can also send out push notifications to bring user back to your product and your Beamer feed when you release an update so you boost engagement while sending out release notes. 

changelog

Use release notes as a way to re-engage, not annoy by segmenting: 

Another way to get even more relevant and in context with your release note notifications is to segment them for users based on what they’re seen from you, how long they’ve been a user, and what they’ve engaged with in the past. You can do this using Beamer. With Beamer, you can segment you updates so they are appearing for the most relevant users. For example, you can send your eCommerce customers an update that show them how your latest feature helps them maximize engagement. You can make updates very specific and relevant to your users this way. They are likely to react much more positively to your updates and new features with segmentation. 

It’s still important to keep your users in the loop with all the information as your product develops and grows so they feel like they know what is happening. When you do it using the tips above in ways that are intuitive and interesting, release notes and updates will actually be a benefit to you and not a burden because it will be a way to re-engage users with product changes and gain loyalty as you show they you are improving your product. For an easy way to keep users updated and boost engagement, try Beamer today.