When teams are looking to template or organize their release notes, the first question is, “how should I present them to our audience?” The short answer is: it depends. You may have to ask yourself a few basic questions first. These might include:
- Who is my intended audience? (Are they a specific segment of users?)
- How do I typically communicate with my audience? (Do I find them on social media? Blogs? Do I interact with them via in-app pop-ups? Am I on an app store?)
- What is the tone of my product? (Is it casual? Professional? Technical?)
- How much information do I need to share? (will I be directing users to other web pages for further details?)
- What information will my release notes typically cover? (New features? Bug fixes? Language updates?)
By clarifying these questions, you’ll have already begun to develop a set of parameters that can help you write and release captivating release notes in an organized, timely fashion.
However, it’s also helpful to look at a few examples from successful companies at writing release notes. If you have a few go-to apps or platforms you admire, it’s a good idea to check out how they navigate a release note. They may be an excellent place to pick up some helpful ideas regarding layout and communication style.
However, if you need a head-start, here are a few that we’ve found helpful and worth taking a look at.
Jira has been in the game a long time, and when they make changes, they make sure that their audience has very granular in-depth information. However, they don’t throw it all at you all at once. Instead, they simplify the changes to the highest level (using a bulleted list) and then link out to much more detailed information for those on the platform that need to get into the nuts and bolts.
Here’s what a user will see when they first visit Jira’s Release Notes page:
Should they decide to continue, they can click on the Release notes hyperlink to give more information about the change (complete with screenshots) to make the update easy to understand. If a customer still needs more information (as illustrated in Release Note 8.16), they include a Learn More link at the bottom of the description to keep investigating.
If your team has various segments of users, such as those divided along with platforms (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.), an excellent example of how to organize your release notes is Slack. Slack divides its notes according to the platform. Therefore, if you are a Windows user, you don’t need to sift through Mac information to determine what changes specifically affect you.
Slack also keeps things very high-level by adopting the bulleted list method of communication. They also divide out their information under specific headings such as Bug Fixes or New Features (What’s New):
And, like Jira, Slack will add links to further information as required. For example, when they offer Security Guidance with a release note, they’ll link to a guidance statement that will help users understand if it’s critical to update their Slack…or not.
According to the version of Firefox, Firefox organizes its release notes, making it easy for those on older versions to check changes according to their particular version.
They also offer a CTA right off the top once you click on a specific release note. This invites user feedback, provides a link for reporting a bug, gives insights into system requirements, and allows you to download the browser (if you haven’t already) right from the top of the page. Firefox makes it dead-simple to not only adopt their product but offer constructive feedback. It shows they care about what their customers experience on the site and invites them to help make Firefox even better.
Then, in simple one-liners (broken up by topic), Firefox explains the adjustments/additions and links to more information about the specific update.
Teamwork takes a newsletter-style approach to release notes, with each update laid out under a high-level one-liner and a short, more descriptive paragraph. Images help illustrate the changes further, and a Learn More CTA invites users to dig a bit deeper into the changes. Release notes are released monthly and contain links to support, integrations, their blog, and website so that users can click in various areas to learn more about the product in multiple ways.
Asana doesn’t just write tight, informative, bulleted release notes. They link out to more information and summarize everything in a quick, informative, easy-to-access video.
Remember, there’s more than one way to design your release notes and multiple ways to put them in front of customers. While a dedicated web page is a good starting point, don’t forget you can also use newsletters, blogs, pop-ups, and various other touchpoints to let your customers know changes have been made to the product.
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