While release notes themselves look streamlined and straightforward to the casual observer, there are many moving parts that need to stay organized, so the whole process doesn’t go off the rails. Here are a few helpful guidelines that can help you manage your template and make creating release notes faster and easier over time.
The Release Note Title
The title needs to be thought out. Do you tie it to the date or the version number of the update? How about both!
By tying your release note to both the release date and the version number, you’re more able to easily reference changes that make sense to you and the user. A release note title might look something like this:
v3.33, Jul 22, 2021
This shows the user which version number was updated, and on which day, and they can cross-reference it against their own version to see what changes have been made. Be aware some users, if they are aware of a bug or issue within a release, may not wish to update until that bug or issue has been addressed. The release note allows them to easily compare, at a glance, between their existing version and any new update.
The Main Sections
Every release note should be sub-divided into sections to help users pinpoint certain aspects of the update. From a glace, they should get a sense of:
- What is new (ex: UI/UX changes, feature additions, etc.)
- What issues were resolved (ex: bugs, fixes)
- What known issues are ongoing (ex: items you are aware of but have yet to resolve)
Style and Wording
Most release notes should be in a bulleted format and be comprised of clear, concise sentences that are easy to read and free of jargon (or weird acronyms only insiders recognize). There’s no need to add fluff, such as introductory or closing paragraphs. The best release notes are divided out into sections and jump right into the task at hand – explaining any updates and fixes.
If you feel it’s warranted, it’s always advisable to hyperlink out to further details or tie-in information such as ancillary blogs, past release notes, or product data. The inclusion of hyperlinks invites users to dive deeper – but only if they want to!
Don’t Forget to Check Your Content and Edit!
Once you’ve created a release note, don’t forget to take a moment to edit the document – or to send it out to get fresh eyes on the content.
If you are from the marketing team, it’s good to circle back to the development team to make sure the content is accurate and complete. Sharing incorrect information could lead to frustrated users, so double check your facts with those in the know.
Then, look over the work and edit for grammar, punctuation, and spelling. When you are in a hurry, it’s easy to fire off a quick bulleted list, but typos make the entire company look sloppy, so it’s essential to do a quick scan of the work to make sure everything looks good and makes sense.
Pull Sections for Repurposing
As we’ve mentioned, again and again, release notes make for great marketing material. If there’s a particular section that could be expanded into an entire blog or an update that deserves mentioning in an upcoming newsletter, pull out those sections for repurposing and get to work making more great company content.