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Tips to Write a Perfect Release Note for Your Product

Industry practice says to include release notes with new features and launches. Here's how to do it right.

Introduction

If you are a SaaS company, your main focus would be to develop robust software or application.

Ideally, such companies aim to provide a perfect product that offers a seamless experience. However, what these companies miss out on is a good release note. When a SaaS product is close to completion, we devote energy to testing and server load.

It's hardly the case when companies invest a good amount of time into release notes, which is a rookie mistake, to say the least. 

Being a product-based company, your main focus should be client relations.

For this reason, it is crucial that you form a holistic relationship with your clients. This is where release notes come in. When we do not pay attention to release notes, we end up including a lot of unnecessary information laid down in a haphazard manner. This makes it difficult for the end-users to understand the functioning of the product, and they end up facing difficulties navigating it. In a way, the release note is a handbook for the common man. 

Keeping it simple and easy will send a message that you were devoted to your project and towards your commitment to the client. Moreover, simple and articulated release notes will result in lesser IT incidents because your client will be able to resolve minor issues internally. In this article, we will give you some handy tips and tricks to write a perfect release note for your product. 

What are release notes?

Before going into the nuances of release notes, let’s understand the basics first. If you are a new product-based company, it is possible that you haven’t been acquainted with release notes. Therefore, it is important to understand what release notes are exactly. So, suppose you have developed a sophisticated product or a tool, and you are about to release it. 

The industry practice dictates that you attach a release note with your product. The release note contains information about new features, updates, developments, and a brief summary of the product. This information helps the end-user understand the product and acts as a guide for him to navigate seamlessly through the product. 

Most high-end companies attach their release note in the application itself, which makes it simpler for the end-user to access. Moreover, with every update or improvement, a new release note is attached and added to the running list of previous release notes. 

The primary advantage of keeping a running list is that users can compare the previous versions with the new ones and understand the improvements being made. Additionally, it also gives an impression that your company is dynamic and focuses on improving the product while keeping user feedback in mind. This will make your end-users feel more valued in the ecosystem.  

However, if your application has undergone frequent developments and upgrades, keeping a running list might meddle with the UX. In such a case, it is diligent in exploring other ways of release note distribution. Some of these distribution methods are discussed below: 

  • Email: Emails are a great way to engage with the end-users/client directly. When you attach the release notes with your application, you will have to wait for the client to access the application. With an email newsletter, you can instantly catch the attention of the end-users. This distribution method is mostly used for announcing exciting updates and revolutionary features and developments. 
  • Blog post: Blog posts are an ideal method of distribution when you have incorporated significant changes in your backend. If you think that a certain update requires detailed explanation and clarification, blog posts are the way to go. 
  • Social media: Social media is the ideal distribution platform for public use applications. They are a great marketing tool where you can create aesthetic videos and snapshots to create hype around your product or new updates. Social media is the ideal way to ensure huge traffic on new releases.
  • App store: App stores are your ideal platform if you want to simulate voluminous downloads. Moreover, a lot of applications distribute their release notes through app stores only because it is informative for new users as well as existing users. Additionally, it offers straightforward exposure to end-users who are just looking to update the application through the app store.

Examples of good release notes

If you are bored with the theory and want to look at some great release note examples of perfect release notes to emulate their strategy, you are in for a great ride in this part of this article. Let’s take a look at how some of the popular applications/websites are forming and distributing their release notes:

  • Help Scout: When Help Scout launches an update, it attaches a release note with it. While this may sound like standard industry practice, Help Scout also reminds the users of the existing feature that they may not be using. This is a great way to engage with your audience and tell them about the wider applications of your product. When Help Scout released its update on the bulleted list, it also released a short note about the messaging app to improve its traffic in other departments. Additionally, Help Scout uses the Markdown feature in its distribution system to educate its end-users about how to use new tools and features. Markdown acts like a detailed guide, so the users don’t have to search aimlessly and waste their time.
  • Retool: Retool believes in an organized and articulated note so the users can navigate through the new changes without any hassle. In the Retool’s release note, you will find a categorization of new changes. This means that Retool classifies its developments into three categories, minor, improvements, and new. This helps the user in skimming through the things he doesn’t need. It essentially means that if a user wants to just experience the new features added to the product, he can skip to that part directly. Categorizing the new developments and updates is a great way to educate your end-users.
  • Scribe: Scribe’s distribution method is probably the most efficient because it eliminates unnecessary hassle and switching. Additionally, if your goal is to not bore the users with unnecessary details, you can draw inspiration from Scribe’s release notes. Scribe uses in-app release note announcements through slide-outs, which doesn’t take the user out of the application. Moreover, the user doesn’t have to read unnecessary information. The information given in in-app announcements is short and crisp to keep the users hooked.

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Why do release notes matter?

It might spring to your mind that you have already done the hard part in developing a complicated product, why invest more time and energy into release notes. Well, we are here to clear your doubts about why release notes matter. To put it plainly, release notes matter to create clout around your product or upgrades. 

Additionally, release notes also garner media attention, thereby leading to more traffic to your application. However, the main purpose of an articulated release note is to educate the users about your new product, which results in deeper engagement. 

If you don’t want to push yourself in the grunt task of writing a lengthy release note, you can simply sign in to Scribe and download a template of your choice and fill in the necessary information. The scribe library is full of relevant material that will suit your organization’s objectives. Additionally, all these templates have been developed after thorough research, so they are right on the money.

Best practices to write a perfect release note

Let’s take a look at how to write a perfect release note for your product:

  • Clear intentions: If you have made significant changes to the product, you must explain your intentions behind this revolutionary decision. Sometimes, users get accustomed to a particular UX, and a material change to that UX can tip those users off. Therefore, you must clearly communicate your intentions and convey to the users how the new changes will affect them. 
  • Focus on the user: Remember, release notes are for your users and not for your internal communication. Therefore, you must draft your release note from your user’s point of view. 
  • Incorporate visuals: A lengthy reading guide can become boring and difficult to follow. Visual teaching is a proven method to catch the attention of users. Therefore, use snapshots from the application and write your research note around, so your users can follow them. These are some of the release note best practices that you must bear in mind.