Release notes are documents that people receive when they buy and/or download software products. Nowadays, they're often distributed virtually.
In the modern world, release notes are more important than ever. This is because buying software products isn't as straightforward a process as it used to be. Buying software products is now an ongoing process as you can count on the fact that you'll be sent product updates, bug fixes, new features, and more after your initial purchase.
Unfortunately, many companies don't use release notes to their full advantage. This is a huge missed opportunity. Great release notes should be written intentionally and not as afterthoughts.
Release notes vary considerably depending on the software, company branding, and how they're distributed, but often include the following elements:
Release notes are important for a myriad of reasons. Below, we discuss all the benefits associated with distributing release notes with your software products.
However, we’ll make things simple for you. The one factor that makes release notes documentation so important is the fact that they help people use your software product to its full potential. Make your current users aware of your last developments, give updates on most-known bugs, and turn your existing users into champions.
Whether it’s an end-user or team member reading your release notes, your ultimate goal is to communicate information about your software product and help someone understand it better.
It doesn’t matter how great a new software product is if no one knows how to use it to its fullest potential. That’s why release notes are so important. Everyone should be able to use your software just the way it was designed.
Release notes are incredibly beneficial to the software development and launch process because they:
Don’t underestimate the power of having a direct line of communication between you and your customers. This opportunity is key and you should be taking full advantage of it. It allows you to send them additional information as it comes up, as well as nurturing your (hopefully long-term) customer relationships.
Done well, release notes:
Release notes can be used to share information with your customers, rather than them having to contact you through other means. This is beneficial to both your company and your customers.
Many companies don’t have the opportunity to follow up with customers after their purchase, at least not directly. Especially when any issues or bugs arise, release notes give you the ability to explain yourself after the fact.
Basically, they help prevent your customers from feeling like they're in the dark. They give you the opportunity to explain what fixes and features are being released and worked on. They also give customers the impression that their voices are being heard and that your company is invested in delivering an excellent product.
Excellent release notes are a massively untapped resource. Many companies don’t put them together at all, while others produce release notes that are confusing, lacklustre or just downright insufficient.
Owing to this (and the fact that release notes are so useful to both end users and internal parties when they’re done right), writing excellent release notes will improve both your software and your company’s reputation overall.
At the end of the day, it looks a lot more professional if your new software goes along with clear, comprehensive, and aesthetically appealing release notes.
Release notes are often overlooked and thrown together as afterthoughts. That's why we want you to care about it.
Our release notes template is a great product management tool and gives you a solid basis to start from. It also has a sleek look, is 100% customizable, is perfect for collaborative work... and did we mention that it's free?
You can begin customizing your release notes template by:
Before you start writing your release notes, make sure that you have an excellent understanding of the updates you need to communicate to your end users. This is especially important because you should avoid technical jargon, so you'll likely need to put the updates in your own words.
Remember, most of your end users don't have degrees in computer science.
If it's your first time putting together release notes, it's a good idea to do a quick Google search and check out some examples of great release notes put together by some of your favourite companies. This will help you take note of what works and what doesn't. You can also check out some of the examples we’ve provided below.
If you have anyone on your team or at your company who does have experience with release notes, now would be a great time to consult them. Make an outline and ask for their feedback. They can even give your release notes a final review further down the road.
It's worthwhile to consult your marketing and/or content marketing teams in the early stages of putting together release notes in order to determine whether there are any branding elements or visuals that you can bring out in your release notes.
It’s also a good idea to brainstorm your release notes with other team members before you get started. This ensures that you won’t miss anything important and that everyone is on board.
On top of this page, you can use our Release Notes Template by clicking “start with this doc” when you’re ready to begin.