Release Notes Full Guide & Templates
You’ve done all the hard work, reached the end of your development cycle and you’re ready to launch your next product or update then this happens:
“Hey, guys did anyone make the release note?”
“Ah, no we totally forgot!”
“Not to worry I’ll knock one up now quickly.”
This is how terrible release notes happen. They land in your customer’s inbox with all the excitement of a high-speed chase on a golf cart and quickly end up in the virtual trash, where they deserve to be.
So how do you give your new creations the love they deserve and start creating a buzz with your customers? Simple, Beamer has created this detailed guide on how you can write release notes that go the extra mile and includes a template you can follow to create your own.
A full guide on how to write better release notes!
Why do you need to write release notes?
Release notes act as a quickly digestible way for customers to find out about updates to a product or a new release.
Well-written release notes should convey the following:
- What people can expect from your latest release
- Any amendments or bug fixes actioned from the previous version
- What if any action you would like them to take
In this example for a soon-to-be-released advanced segmentation beta, we’ve gone a step further and used a GIF to quickly show our users what they can expect and included a call to action for beta testers.
How to write release notes.
Writing release notes should be a fun exercise, not a chore. With that in mind let’s look at some tips on how you should write to engage your audience and create excitement around a new development cycle.
Highlight any changes.
This goes without saying but the core focus of your release note should be exactly what’s new or what’s changed.
Write for the user.
Informing users about your actions is rarely as effective as telling users about the new functionality or increased performance your actions created.
Remember to stay away from explaining what you’ve fixed and really focus on how your actions will benefit the user. Things to highlight include new functionality, time-saving features, and fixes to any bugs that have been severely affecting usability or workflow.
Display the change or new product.
Copywriting can only get you so far, for most release notes it can be beneficial to include a GIF, screenshot, picture, or video that helps explain exactly what’s changed in the latest version.
Promote your brand.
Release notes are a form of marketing, whatever your method of distribution (we’ll cover this later) you should be taking advantage of your current audience.
Create a call-to-action for your release notes that encourages upsells. This could be a percentage discount, a free trial for an enterprise plan, or a heavily reduced add-on to their current package. It’s much easier to upgrade a current customer’s plan than find a new customer.
Use a template.
Using a template like the one I’m about to share with you is a surefire way to create consistently awesome release notes that people actually read!
A software release note template.
Now we’ve covered why and how you should be writing release notes let’s look at a software release note template that you can easily modify and customize to fit your needs.
Release notes format.
- Date of the release note
- Eye-catching headline
- Coming soon section to create excitement about future releases
- New features of fixes section
- Image or video to support your statements
- Clear and concise call to action
- Opportunity for feedback
Let’s take our template and apply it to an example, in this case, we’ll be using a recent feature we introduced to allow our users to change their default post settings.
Here’s the finished product.
Now let’s take a closer look at how we applied the template to create our release note and how you can leverage each section to help your users.
Date of the release note.
This needs to be included on every release note you send.
Without a date on your release note users have no idea when the changes will occur and what time frame they’ll be happening in, two key elements of a release note.
Your headline needs to help the reader ascertain exactly what your release note is about.
Pick one of the headlines below to add to your template:
- (insert product or new feature) has lift-off! 🚀
- The wait is over (insert product or new feature) has arrived…
- (insert product or new feature) just got a whole lot better
- Introducing (insert product or new feature)
- We can’t wait for you to meet (insert product or new feature)
Don’t forget you can add emojis to really stop people scrolling! 🚀🚀🚀🚀
New features or fixes section.
Detail changes and what they’ll mean for the user. The key here is to always relate changes to your audience and keep it short. Talk about what’s been changed and how it will benefit them in as few words as possible.
We recommend a text-image-text model. Quickly highlight the feature, and back up it with an image or video followed by more reinforcing details.
Image or video to support your statements.
Use screenshots, pictures, GIFs, or videos to quickly show new features or bug fixes in action.
If you’re low on budget, consider using a service like Loom which allows you to record your screen for free and create a short instructional video to visually display new features or updates.
Clear and concise call to action.
Make it clear exactly what the next step is and what is required.
Opportunity for feedback.
Offer an opportunity to feedback on any issues or questions regarding your release note or the product as a whole.
If you’re on a budget you can add a simple mailto: link directly to your customer support; alternatively, you can use a tool like Beamer to add simple feedback forms to your release notes.
Fed up with creating your release notes manually? Take your release notes to the next level with Beamer’s release note tools that let you easily create release notes, segment your audience and get feedback in no time, all without knowing a single line of code.
How to distribute your release notes.
Now that you’ve created your release note, you need to get it sent out to your audience as effectively as possible.
Email gives you access to all your customers at once making it quite possibly the most effective route for your release note.
Don’t forget to include your old churned customers who may have left due to a bug or issue you have fixed. This is a great way to acquire customers previously lost to competitors.
Here’s a fantastic example from RankMath that uses a release note to upsell its premium offering.
In-app alerts allow you to place your release notes where users will undoubtedly see them.
In-app alerts are great for release notes that will drastically affect UX and need to be communicated to 100% of active users. Unlike email though, in-app release notes do not allow you to target old customers who no longer use the app.
Sharing your release notes on your social channels is a fantastic way of creating conversation around your updates and getting direct feedback from your users.
Social media provides you with a fantastic platform to encourage discussion around your product or service that can affect future changes. Unlike the channels above, you are at the whims of the various social media algorithms that control the reach and audience of your posts.
Articles and blog posts.
Web content sits on your website and allows you to really dive into detail with long-form content that can take the form of tutorials, how-tos, and more technical guides.
Web content has the added benefit of being indexed by search engines to allow your users to find release notes with a simple Google search. This is a double-edged sword; without the right online visibility, your release notes may not appear for the search terms you want them to, or worse yet, not appear on Google at all.
Make sure your brand gets the visibility it deserves by incorporating SEO with Beamer’s helpful beginner guide. Here you can see our detailed look at the Zapier integration that helps our users really understand the changes and action them using a guide.
Best practices for writing release notes.
- Avoid technical jargon – Speak in words your audience understands, and avoid using technical terms, abbreviations, or acronyms.
- Focus on your value proposition – Your release note should clearly communicate what is new and how it will help the user.
- Use your brand design kit – Keep your release note design consistent with font, font size, color palette, and design.
- Keep your release notes consistent in format – Once you’ve created your first release note make sure to keep any subsequent releases consistent across format and design.
- Use images and videos to say more – People value their time and being able to digest information alongside videos or images.
- Segmentation – If you have a large audience consider customizing your release notes for demographics like age, location, or software plan.
- Responsibility – Head over to our release notes best practices guide for a deeper dive into who’s best placed to be writing regular release notes.
Now you’ve got all the tools you need to create consistent, eye-catching release notes that will keep your users engaged and in the loop. Head over to our blog for other great guides to help you build your business the right way.