what is a changelog

What is a Changelog?

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Spencer Coon
Jan 13, 2021 | Last Updated Mar 03, 2021

If you’re a developer, you likely have a good idea and expectation of what a changelog is. But changelogs and their role has evolved a bit now that users are more savvy than ever and work with products as an integral part of their own work. They’re much more invested in the evolution and fine tuning of a product they’re using. 

Changelogs are now for SaaS users too and they’re a powerful tool in improving communication and user engagement. 

So, from an end user context, what exactly is a changelog and why do you need one? Let’s take a look.  

A changelog is where users can see the progression of your product:

For your end users, your changelog is where they can keep in the loop on:

  • what new features you’re releasing, 
  • bug fixes and product updates 
  • News from your team
  • New content and more  

It should be the central place for general announcements from your team to your users. Without a changelog, big milestones in your product’s development and exciting news from your team get lost in the mix. A changelog is a place where, even if they miss an email or message, new and existing users can see the progression of your product and feel connected to your team. 

 

changelog to communicate updates

Your changelog should be central and easy to access: 

Typically, a technical changelog would be hidden somewhere on your site where more extensive documentation can live away from “normal” users. Your product’s changelog for users should be the opposite. It should be somewhere central and in context of both your product and website. It should be easily accessible from your navigation both on your site and within your product. You should also be able to easily link to it to reference in update emails, etc. 

 

With Beamer, you can add your changelog to both your website and product. Beamer is a no-code changelog that can be implemented into both your product and website interface as a native-looking sidebar where users can scroll through your latest updates. Users can open your Beamer changelog by clicking a tab in your navigation or an icon in your interface. You can create visual, engaging updates for new features, updates and bug fixes, new content, etc. Using Beamer, your changelog is in an easy to access, central place where both users and prospective leads can check out the latest from your team. 

Beamer changelog

Your changelog should touch on technical details but focus on how changes benefit users: 

The old school meaning of “changelog” is all the technical changes that developers need to be aware of as a product grows and changes and adds new features or fixes bugs. But changelogs for users are different. They don’t really care what’s going on behind the scenes, they want to know how your team is going to improve their experience. 

 

What you present on your changelog should focus on:

  • The direct benefit to the user
  • The problem solved 
  • The functionality of a new feature 
  • How they can put what you’ve created to use right away

 

You can save technical details on another technical documentation section. You can direct technical users here with a simple link included in your central, user changelog. 

 

The focus really should be to get users wanting to try out new features and see progress in your product. Adding CTAs directly away from the changelog and to the new features and updates is key to increasing engagement. With Beamer, you can add CTAs and links to your updates that go to different areas of your product or other pages. 

Include a CTA

Users should interact with your changelog and team: 

User changelogs can take on an even more complex and powerful role. They are also a great place for users to share their feedback and engage with your team through updates. For example, on Beamer you users can leave reactions and comments on your updates like on a social feed. Your team can read and respond. Beamer also collects data on user behaviour with your changelog including open and click through rates so that your team can better understand what users are interested in and what they’re not. You can also track comments and reactions to get direct feedback from users. The more interactive your changelog the more users will engage.

 

Your changelog should include visual elements: 

You users definitely don’t want to interact with an all-text documentation style changelog. Keep that for developers! You want your changelog to include a lot of visual elements that not only capture the attention of your users but also help to explain your updates easily. For example, if you’re announcing a new feature, you should include screenshots, GIFs, or a demo video if possible. Keep words to a minimum and show users instead. This will help them “get it” right away and understand how to put your new feature or update to work. Beamer supports GIFs, photos, and embedded videos on your updates so you can focus on visual elements and CTAs to boost engagement. 

 

You can make your changelog work for you off your site and product as well:

Your changelog can become a central place of communication and work to bring users back by communicating with them off your website and product. New exciting updates and features are a great reason to reach out to users and entice them to engage with your product. Send emails or push notifications for important updates and use your changelog as a central landing place for users coming back to either your product as users or your website as leads. 

 

With Beamer, you can send push notifications that go right back to your opened Beamer feed with more information about the update. You can also send links to your Beamer feed via email. This brings users back to your product and they can engage right away. It puts update messages and push notifications into context. Your changelog can act like a central update landing page for all the different ways you reach out to users. With Beamer, you can enable a standalone page for your changelog that you can link to. 

 

Make your changelog interact with other platforms: 

You can use your changelog and the data it collects for you beyond your website within your marketing and user engagement efforts. With Beamer API, you can retrieve information from users that you can use to segment updates and communication with users for more personalized interactions. You can also share your updates on Beamer across social media platforms or through your email system to save your team time in creating different announcements. You can also set up integrations with many other tools with Zapier.

Beamer changelog integrations

 

 

Different users, “different” changelogs: leverage segmentation: 

Finally, your changelog doesn’t need to be static and shouldn’t be in order to continually engage different user groups. With Saas, you likely have more than one user group. 

For example, different groups you might want to differentiate updates for are: 

  • Sellers and buyers 
  • different industries
  • Paying and free users 
  • Logged in users and leads on your site 
  • New and older users  

 

changelog segmentation

You can make your changelog dynamic and show different user groups different content with Beamer. Beamer allows you to segment updates by demographics, location, language, URL, and past behaviour on your site. This way, you can be intentional about what content and updates you share to ensure they are interesting to your users. This practice is especially important for products that have a mix of vendors and customers or a set up similar to this. You don’t want to have mixed information. With Beamer, you can share different updates for different groups. 

 

The old definition of a changelog doesn’t fit anymore! Your changelog is not just for technical notes any more but really should be a central, dynamic part of your communication system with your users. It can be a powerful tool for your team in engaging with users are getting important direct feedback from them. For an easy way to add a dynamic changelog to your website and product, try Beamer.