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Last Updated on
December 18, 2023

How To Write Release Notes - The Ultimate Guide

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Every one of us has read some release notes at some point in our lives. It’s a critical document that could bring major benefits to product companies but very few take it seriously. In fact, most release notes are hastily cobbled-together lists that look like a robot wrote them in a few seconds.

And this is why they fail.

Great release notes inform your customers about new features, keep them excited about what’s coming, and remind them about why they’re your customers in the first place. If you care about your customers, additional time spent on release notes can have a massive ROI later on.

Here is how to write them well and what you need to know before starting.

What are release notes?

A release note is an official document published at the time of releasing a new product or an update to an existing product. If you’ve launched a full new product, the release notes are a summary of the most important features offered. If you’re updating an existing one, the release notes will contain a brief list of changes.

Typically, release notes are fairly brief lists of the most important product updates for the end-user. They are also typically distributed within the app (web or mobile) or within your website. Once customers go to your dedicated release notes page, they’ll see a chronological overview of your most recent updates.

This is a good way to let your customers know that you’re continuously working on your product and that you’re a company that cares about its customers.

Why is a Release Notes Page Important?

You’ll see all the biggest SaaS companies in the world pushing release notes, no matter how big their audience is. No one is too important or too big for release notes because they can be a really powerful tool to engage with your target audience. Here are some of the major reasons why release notes are so important.

Keeping customers up to date

This is one of the best ways to let your customers know that you launched a new feature or fixed a bug. Perhaps this is something that they requested and want to know about. Or it could be a feature that is massively useful but they don’t even know they need it just yet. Release notes let them know what you’ve been cooking up behind the scenes.

Driving product adoption

How are your customers going to use a feature if they don’t even know that you launched it? When you mention new features and updates in your release notes, you’re showing customers what they can expect the next time they launch your app or website.

Showing that you’re constantly evolving your product

A release notes page filled with fresh entries shows customers that you’re actively working on your product and constantly making improvements. While it may not make a world of difference for new signups, it is reassuring to know that once you purchase a plan, you can expect frequent updates and fixes.

What Should be Included in a Release Note?

You can show some individuality and brand voice and tone in your release notes, but for the most part, good ones have the same content and structure. Here are the elements you need to include to make your release notes work:

  • The date (so everything is ordered chronologically)
  • The new updates and bug fixes (of course)
  • The benefits that your customers have from these changes

For the most part, this is it. We’ll go over some best practices in a little bit.

How Can You Create a Release Notes Page?

Where and how you will create a release notes page will depend on your channels of distribution. If you have a web-based SaaS application, you’ll have the notes hosted on a separate page, for example.

This can be a dedicated landing page on your website. For example, Slack has an entire list of pages, each one for a specific platform:

slack for mac release notes

If you have an iOS or Android app, you add notes for each new version and it automatically populates in the App Store. Here’s an example from the Apple App store page for Trello:

trello mobile app release notes

You can also send out your release notes as an email or create a blog post to explain the new releases in more detail.

What’s the Difference Between Release Notes and a Changelog?

A changelog is a common element in SaaS product management and in theory, it’s similar to release notes. However, there is one major difference.

A changelog is a much more detailed, technical overview of product updates. It focuses on all the updates made in a release without paying specific attention to the benefits for the end-user. The one thing that they have in common with release notes is that they are both ordered chronologically.

You can have both release notes and a changelog for your product, but ideally, you want the release notes to be the document that the majority of your customers get to see.

changelog in feedbear

If you are looking for a changelog feature on top of your existing feedback tools, we have one in FeedBear! It looks great and it’s super easy to use if you already make use of other FeedBear features.

What are some Tips for Creating Release Notes?

If you take a look around at the release notes from major SaaS companies and analyze them, you can notice a few common things. Here are some tips to make yours stand out.

  • Be brief and to the point

Release notes should be a short summary of your most important product updates. Short is the keyword here so don’t go overboard. If you do want to write in length about new features or bug fixes, do so in a blog post, a video, or a social media post.

  • Make it easy to understand

Your customers don’t know what a staging website is or what APIs are. Use the kind of language that you would use in an everyday conversation and don’t get too technical. You’re writing for customers, not developers.

  • Focus on the benefits

If you’ve just launched a native integration with Jira, for example, don’t just add “Jira integration” to your release notes. Explain the practical benefits and write something along the lines of “Jira integration to help you create roadmaps directly from Jira boards”.

  • Use a template

While the format of a typical release note isn’t very strict, you can help yourself by creating a template that you can follow every time you start writing. This can be a set of basic guidelines to follow for your product team.

  • Keep things organized

Notice how this section is split up into bullet points with short paragraphs? No one wants to read a wall of text so keep your release notes easy to read and skim through. Use headings, bullet points, tables, bold text, and everything to make things easier to read.

  • Use images where appropriate

If you can illustrate a new feature with an image, seize this opportunity. A .gif image can speak volumes about how to use a new feature without writing much or recording a video.

Great Examples of Release Notes

To get you inspired and thinking in the right direction, here are some examples of great release notes from SaaS companies in different niches.

release notes in intercom

Intercom is a great example of a company that puts massive effort into its release notes. Each of them is formatted as a blog post, with detailed descriptions of new features and fixes. They also include a search bar for easy access and the ability to tick different boxes for product areas.

release notes in miro

Miro is a whiteboard SaaS product that is pretty active with its release notes. They push them out weekly and each of them is short, snappy, and shows specific benefits for customers. They also include links for readers who want to get more details.

release notes in xero

Xero is another example of a company that keeps its release notes fresh and up to date. As you can see, the page is pretty bare-bones with minimal design and just a line or two dedicated to specific benefits a user can have from the new features and fixes.

Wrapping up

While most businesses treat release notes as an afterthought, this is an excellent way to keep customers informed about new features and updates and drive product adoption. Given how little effort and time it takes to write great release notes, they should be a part of every product release you launch.

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