Attention all software lovers and release note enthusiasts! Are you tired of writing release notes that read like a 17th-century tome, complete with archaic language and never-ending paragraphs? Fear not, my friends, for help is at hand!
In this article, we'll show you how to write release notes that won't put your users to sleep faster than a boring history lecture. We'll give you tips and tricks to make your release notes informative, engaging, and dare we say it, even a little bit fun.
So, grab your quill, dust off your inkwell, and let's get cracking on writing release notes that will make your users sit up and take notice. Who knows, maybe you'll even earn the coveted title of "Best Release Notes Writer" in your company - or, at the very least, a pat on the back from your boss.
Why even make release notes?
We advise to write release notes to inform users about the changes, new features, and bug fixes made to a product. This helps to reduce confusion, increase new feature adoption, build trust, and provide a historical record of updates.
Steps for making release notes
Release notes are a critical component of software development that communicate changes and updates to users, stakeholders, and other relevant parties. Here are some steps to follow when writing release notes:
- Start with a clear heading: The heading should include the version number and date of the release.
- Provide an overview of the release: This should include a brief description of the changes made in the release and the goals of the release.
- List the changes made: This section should provide a detailed list of the features, improvements, bug fixes, and other changes made in the release.
- Provide instructions for new features: If there are new features, provide instructions on how to use them and any other relevant information.
- List known issues: If there are any known issues that were not resolved in the release, list them and provide any workarounds or solutions.
- Include credits: This is an opportunity to recognize the contributions of team members or other parties who contributed to the release.
- End with a call to action: This can be a request for feedback, a call to try out the new features, or any other relevant action.
Example release notes
Do's and don'ts for writing release notes
- Do be concise and clear: Use simple language and avoid using technical jargon that can be confusing for users.
- Do highlight the most important changes: Make sure to emphasize the most significant changes and new features in the release notes.
- Do use a consistent format: Use a format that you will use consistently across all releases, including headings, subheadings, bullet points, and other formatting elements.
- Do provide context: Explain why changes were made or features added, and how they fit into the overall product roadmap.
- Do consider your audience: Tailor the language and level of detail to your target audience, whether they are technical experts or non-technical users.
- Do include screenshots or videos: Visual aids like screenshots or videos can help users understand how to use new features and changes.
- Do test your release notes: Before publishing the release notes, have someone who is not familiar with the changes review them to ensure they are clear and understandable.
- Don't use too much technical language: Avoid using technical terms that may be difficult for the average user to understand.
- Don't provide too much information: Only include information that is relevant to the changes made in the release.
- Don't use ambiguous language: Use clear and specific language to describe changes and new features.
- Don't forget to proofread: Check for grammatical or spelling errors before publishing the release notes.
- Don't ignore the user experience: Make sure to consider how users will interact with the changes and new features, and provide instructions and tips for using them.
- Don't ignore feedback: Encourage users to provide feedback and address any issues or concerns that are raised.
Remember, release notes are an important communication tool between the development team and users, so taking the time to write them effectively can improve user satisfaction and adoption of new features.
Can you use AI to write release notes?
As an AI language model, ChatGPT can be used to generate release notes by providing it with information about the changes made in a release.
Here is an example of what you can ask ChatGPT.
Here are the steps to use ChatGPT to write release notes:
- Start by gathering information about the changes made in the release. This can include new features, bug fixes, and improvements.
- Choose a format for your release notes. You can use the tips I provided earlier to create a consistent format.
- Write a brief overview of the release, including the version number and date.
- Provide a list of changes made in the release. You can input this list into ChatGPT and ask it to generate descriptions for each change.
- Review and edit the generated descriptions. ChatGPT's output may not always be perfect, so it's important to review and edit the generated content as needed to ensure it's accurate and understandable.
- Add any additional information, such as instructions for new features or known issues.
- Finally, proofread the release notes to ensure there are no grammatical or spelling errors.
Remember that ChatGPT is a tool to assist with writing release notes, but it's still important to have a human review and edit the content to ensure accuracy and clarity.
Tools to use for writing release notes
There are several tools that can be used to write release notes, including:
- ProductLift: ProductLift is an all-in-one tool designed for SaaS product managers, project managers, and marketing strategists who want to streamline their product development process. With ProductLift, you can prioritize features, create a roadmap, and keep your team and users up-to-date with product updates.
- Google Docs: Google Docs is a free cloud-based word processing program that allows multiple users to collaborate and edit documents in real-time. It's a great option for teams that want to work together to create release notes.
- Confluence: Confluence is a popular team collaboration tool that includes features for writing and organizing release notes. It allows teams to create, edit, and publish release notes, as well as track changes and version history.
- Jira: Jira is a project management tool that includes features for tracking software development tasks and creating release notes. It allows teams to link tasks and issues to specific releases, making it easy to see what changeswere made in each release.
- GitHub: GitHub is a web-based platform that allows developers to host and review code, manage projects, and create release notes. It includes features for creating and publishing release notes, as well as tracking changes and version history.
- Trello: Trello is a popular project management tool that includes features for creating and organizing release notes. It allows teams to collaborate and track changes in real-time, making it easy to stay up-to-date on the latest changes.
The best tool for writing release notes will depend on the specific needs and preferences of your team. It's important to choose a tool that is easy to use and allows for collaboration and version control.
How do customers benefit from good release notes?
Good release notes can help customers better understand and use the product, avoid issues, provide feedback, and enhance trust in the product and the product team.
Understanding new features and changes
Good release notes should provide customers with a clear understanding of the new features and changes made in a release. This can help them better understand how to use the product and take advantage of new capabilities.
Knowing about bug fixes and improvements: Release notes should also highlight any bug fixes and improvements made in a release. This can help customers avoid issues they may have experienced in the past and improve their overall experience with the product.
Preparing for changes
Customers may need to prepare for changes, such as updates to their workflows or modifications to existing features. Good release notes can provide advanced notice of these changes, allowing customers to prepare and adjust accordingly.
Release notes can also provide customers with an opportunity to provide feedback and suggestions for future releases. This can help the product team understand customer needs and make improvements based on customer feedback.
Good release notes can also enhance customer trust in the product and the product team. By providing clear and informative release notes, customers can feel confident that the product team is actively working to improve the product and is transparent about the changes being made.
How do development teams benefit of good release notes?
Good release notes can help development teams with documentation, collaboration, bug fixing, quality assurance, and user feedback. They can ensure that everyone is on the same page, make the development process more efficient, and lead to a better overall product.
- Documentation: Good release notes can serve as a form of documentation for the changes made in a release. This can be helpful for developers who need to refer back to past releases or understand the context of a particular change.
- Collaboration: Good release notes can facilitate collaboration between different teams within an organization. They can provide a shared understanding of the changes being made and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
- Bug fixing: Release notes can also help developers identify and fix bugs more efficiently. By providing clear information about the changes made in a release, developers can quickly identify potential sources of issues and fix them.
- Quality assurance: Good release notes can also help with quality assurance. By providing detailed information about the changes made in a release, developers can better test the product and ensure that everything is working as expected.
- User feedback: Release notes can also provide valuable feedback from users. If users are experiencing issues or have suggestions for improvement, they can provide feedback based on the release notes. This can help developers understand how the changes are being received and make improvements based on user feedback.
Components of release notes
The components of release notes should provide users with a clear understanding of the changes made in the release, how to use new features, and any issues or limitations they may encounter.
Introduction: A brief introduction to the release and its purpose.
Version number: The version number or name of the release.
Date: The date the release was published or made available.
New features: A list of new features or major changes made in the release. This may include screenshots or examples to help users understand how to use the new features.
Bug fixes: A list of bugs that were fixed in the release.
Known issues: A list of known issues that were not fixed in the release. This may include workarounds or instructions for dealing with the issues.
Compatibility: Information on the compatibility of the release with other software or hardware systems.
Upgrade instructions: Instructions for upgrading to the new release, including any system requirements or dependencies.
Release notes history: A history of past releases and their changes. You can easily see an overview of this in tools like ProductLift.
Contact information: Contact information for support or feedback.
Release note template for SaaS
Product Name [Version Number] Release Notes
Briefly describe the release and its purpose.
List any new features or major changes made in the release. Include screenshots or examples to help users understand how to use the new features.
List any bugs that were fixed in the release.
List any known issues that were not fixed in the release. Include any workarounds or instructions for dealing with the issues.
Provide contact information for support or feedback.
Why write known issues in release notes?
Writing known issues in release notes is important because it helps users understand any potential problems they may encounter while using the product after the release. By documenting known issues, users can be informed of potential limitations or bugs in the product, and can take steps to avoid or mitigate any negative impact.
Documenting known issues in release notes also helps to manage users' expectations and reduces the number of support requests or negative reviews that may result from unexpected issues. Users appreciate transparency and honesty, and by being upfront about known issues, you can demonstrate that you are actively working to improve the product.
Furthermore, documenting known issues can help development teams prioritize and plan for future releases. By understanding the most common issues and limitations, they can focus on addressing those in future releases, thus improving the overall quality and reliability of the product.
In conclusion, writing good release notes is like writing a love letter to your users. You need to be clear, concise, and show your users that you care. Think of your release notes as your chance to woo your users and show them all the amazing new features and bug fixes that you've been working on.
Don't be shy about your feelings - tell your users how much you appreciate them and how hard you've worked to improve the product. And just like in a love letter, it's important to be honest about any flaws or issues you may have. Nobody's perfect, after all!
So, put on your writing cap, grab a cup of coffee (or your favorite love potion), and start crafting those release notes that will make your users swoon. Remember, a good release note can make all the difference in the success of your product - and who knows, you might even get a love letter back from your users in return!