release notes best practices

Release Notes Best practices for 2020

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Spencer Coon
Apr 08, 2020 | Last Updated Oct 26, 2020

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? 

In times of crisis you need to stand out from the competition and one of the best ways to do it is by showing your users your latest releases in an intuitive and easy to find way.

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. 

release notes

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 on how to write release notes for 2020: 

Keep it simple: 

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

Show 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: 

Let’s face it: users usually don’t have time to go through pages and pages of documentation. They want to understand what you’re talking about right away, and there’s an easy way to do it. 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’s a lot easier to digest the information if you include some visual context. Anyone will be more inclined to take a look which is what your team wants. You can also include call to actions to the feature itself or login to encourage your users’ feature discovery

visual elements

 

Implement a changelog: 

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, or in-app changelog.

The first advantage is that users will know exactly where to go when they want to find out your latest updates. They will be able to instantly check the evolution of your product, and you will be able to show them how committed your team is to improve it.

Secondly, the updates will be intuitive and in context. Many products are still using emails or blog posts to communicate product changes, but they are usually ignored and engagement is really low. Someone checking their email may not be intrigued by your new update. However, if your announcement occurs within your product they can check it out right away. If your update is in context to what they’re doing at that moment, you’re much more likely to get higher engagement. 

Call your users’ attention

You’ve done a great job so far! You have implemented a changelog and kept your release notes simple, value-driven and visual. Now you have to make sure they are actually noticed by your users.

A great and easy way to do it is by using Beamer. Beamer is a changelog 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 and add CTA to make your updates more engaging.

Beamer has different options in term of notification types. You can just implement the changelog that will show the number of unread release notes for each user, or you can go one step further and use boosted announcements like pop-ups, top bar, snippets and tooltips to catch your users’ attention for your most important announcements.

call users' attention

Segment your release notes as a way to re-engage, not annoy: 

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.