If you're a product-led team or even a product-led business, then you're probably familiar with release notes and what they're for—no worries if not, we'll get to that.
The art of writing release notes that rock is a tricky form of writing to conquer. Fear not, this article is here to guide you through writing perfect release notes and share some leading examples.
What are release notes?
A release note is an ongoing instructions manual that guides the user on how to get the most out of a new product or product update.
Today, rapid prototyping leads to early releases of products or at least MVPs, and data feedback drives many renditions, consumers are no longer buying software product for life. They're expecting to buy a version of that product in its current state, knowing bug fixes and improvements will continue to evolve as they do.
Product updates, app updates, status updates, or new features come into play here as well. A business can't implement a new feature or changes to a software product without informing the user of the changes they've made. Product release notes act as an user guide to inform users of everything that's changing, why, and what new benefits this brings the consumer.
Why are release notes important?
Release notes are a customer-facing technical documentation; they're a reflection of all the hard work your software product developers, engineers, and researchers have put in behind the scenes to bring your customers the most valuable product possible. They are your business's opportunity to show users that you care and that consumers have the latest version of your product.
Plus, release notes are an educational piece of material for your users. New feature releases in digital products can often be frustrating if not communicated clearly—especially when customers are used to things being a certain way.
Notes of release are your opportunity to retain user engagement, and potentially build it, while focusing on performance improvement and building a more valuable product.
Best practices for writing release notes that rock
Let's dive into the thick of it all and explore some best practices for creating your release notes that serve their purpose with style.
1. Keep them brief
Firstly, try to keep your notes as brief as possible. Think about the length of a tweet. Can you fit your release notes into 280 characters? If you can, while still getting across everything you need to, then go for it.
The shorter, the better—just don't cut information or lose personality in the process.
2. Avoid jargon
Keep this in mind and write as plainly as possible.
3. Stay educational
Yes, our notes of release are an opportunity to engage with customers and showcase our charming, witty, kind, branded tone of voice, but remember this content is educational.
Ensure your release notes serve their purpose and keep them informative.
4. Show customers you care
You're announcing product updates because you've learned that your product can be a better solution. You care about your customers and their experience with your business, so showcase it.
Let customers know you're putting them first, and you've implemented changes to help them.
5. Keep distribution channels in mind
There are so many different ways of announcing release notes and product changes:
- Social Media
- Web pages
- Product faqs
- Web apps
- Security updates
- In-app messaging
- Android play store bios
- Apple macOS or ios app store bios
The list is long. Consider your distribution strategy and the amount of info you can provide on that channel before linking to more information, or even if you need to.
6. Get visual
The mind processes images 6,000x quicker than it does text. If you can explain something better with an image over copy, then do so. Let images lift the overall experience of your customers and the notes of release.
If you're writing for a channel that doesn't support images, then consider emojis, or font formatting options instead.
7. Make them fun
Admittedly, release notes don't have the most exciting of names. However, don't let this affect the view your customers have of them. Make your release notes fun, engaging, and even something that customers look forward to.
Think of innovative ways you can showcase change, and lighten what is stereotypically a dull experience.
8. Get feedback on them
Lastly, on our list for best practices when writing good release notes, is to ask for feedback. Find ways to survey your customers and get their feedback on how you're delivering release notes and product changes.
Try to target an array of customers, from those that have only been with you for a couple of months to those that were there from day one. Everyone will have interesting insights to share—if they have the time and incentive to share them.
Who should write release notes?
Release notes are essentially customer-facing marketing material and need to be treated specifically with end users in mind. Don't let your developers or engineers write your release notes. Yes, they can write briefs of them, but these briefs need to go to your content marketing team.
Release notes need to radiate your brand, be understandable for consumers, and delivered with a tone of voice people recognize. They need to be written with the end user experience in mind, as much as the same thoughts lead product innovation.
Let your writers understand what's new and suitably explain the change to your audience, just ensure your product launch team can proofread their work before launching.
What is the best way to share release notes?
The best way to share your release notes and let your users know about your product updates is the following:
- Newsletter: Instantly let your most loyal users know about important updates on your product.
- Facebook Groups: Create a buzz about your awesome new product features by creating a sharable post.
- Website Home Page: let every visitor know there's more to try.
Wrapping up our guide on how to write release notes
That's everything you need to know on release notes. Remember, from the android play store to the company blog, keep them brief, on-brand, and innovative where you can. Release notes don't need to be on every communication channel you have; it's down to your business to decide where's best to publish them, as well as how to do so.
If you're looking to create release notes for your product or product features, then we've got you covered. Use this free release notes template and start writing release notes that elevate your brand and your customers' experience with your product.