Product Management

How to Write Release Notes: Best Practices, Template, Tools, and Examples for Product Releases

Discover the importance of release notes, learn best practices for writing and distributing them, and explore top tools to streamline the process of writing product release notes.

Ayush Jangra
Ayush Jangra
Master release notes: best practices, top tools, and effective communication.

Crafting effective release notes is an essential skill for software developers, product managers, and technical writers. In this guide, we will explore how to write release notes, release note format, sample release notes, examples of release notes, software release notes format, what are release notes, and who writes release notes. Let's dive in!

What are Release Notes?

Release notes are documents that provide users with information about the latest updates, enhancements, bug fixes, and other changes in a software update or release. They help users understand the new features and improvements.

They typically include a detailed list of changes made to the software since the previous version, along with any known issues or bugs that may still exist in the current release. Release notes are useful for users and developers alike, as they help to ensure that everyone understands the changes that have been made and can properly test, configure, and use the updated software.

Who Writes Release Notes?

The responsibility for writing release notes can vary depending on the organization and the development process. Typically, release notes are written by a combination of software developers, project managers, and product managers.

Developers are involved in documenting the technical aspects of the changes, such as bug fixes, new features, and improvements. They provide the necessary details about the changes made in the software update.

Project managers play a role in coordinating the release process and ensuring that the release notes accurately reflect the changes made in the software. They may also add information about the impact of the changes on project timelines or dependencies.

Product managers contribute to the release notes by providing context about the new features or enhancements, such as the problems they solve, the benefits they bring to users, and any relevant instructions or guidelines.

By involving these different roles in the process, organizations can ensure that the release notes are comprehensive, accurate, and useful for the intended audience.

Why are Release Notes Important?

Release notes help users stay informed about the product's development progress and enable them to make educated decisions about whether to update their software or wait for the next release. Additionally, they also serve as an essential communication tool between the development team and the users, promoting transparency and trust.

Release notes are important for several reasons:

Communication

Release notes serve as a communication tool between the software developers and the users. They provide a clear and concise summary of the changes made to the software, ensuring that users are informed about the new features, bug fixes, and known issues.

Transparency

Release notes promote transparency by providing insight into the development process and demonstrating that the software is actively maintained and improved. Users can see the progress being made and have a better understanding of what to expect from the software.

Knowledge transfer

Release notes help transfer knowledge between the development team and the users. They document the changes made and serve as a reference for users, developers, and support teams, allowing them to quickly understand and troubleshoot any issues that may arise.

Risk management

Release notes help users assess the risks associated with upgrading to the new version. By detailing any known issues or bugs, users can make informed decisions about whether or not to install the update and how it may impact their workflow or system stability.

User empowerment

Release notes empower users by providing them with the information they need to fully utilize the software's new features and improvements. This encourages user engagement and helps them maximize the value they get from the software.

Overall, release notes are essential for fostering effective communication, transparency, and user empowerment in software development. They help both developers and users by providing a clear understanding of the changes and ensuring that software updates are well-informed decisions.

How to distribute release notes

When it comes to distributing release notes, there are several best practices that can help you effectively communicate product updates to your users. Here are some recommendations:

Choose the Right Medium

Consider using a combination of channels to distribute release notes, such as email newsletters, blog posts, in-app notifications, and social media announcements. This ensures that you reach a wider audience and accommodate different user preferences.

Keep it Simple and Concise

Make sure your release notes are easy to read and understand. Use clear and concise language. Avoid technical jargon and focus on highlighting the key changes and improvements that users need to be aware of.

Provide Context and Clarity

It's important to provide context for each release note item. Explain why the update was made, how it benefits the users, and any potential impacts on their workflows. This helps users understand the value of the update and sets the right expectations.

Use a Clear Structure

Organize your release notes in a structured format, with headings, subheadings, and bullet points. This makes it easier for users to skim through the notes and quickly find the information they need.

Highlight Key Changes: Identify the most significant changes or new features and highlight them at the beginning of the release notes. This ensures that users immediately see the important updates and can delve into more details if desired.

Provide Links and Resources

Include links to relevant documentation, support articles, or tutorials that provide more information about the updates. This helps users find additional resources to fully understand and take advantage of the new features.

Encourage Feedback

Create a feedback loop by encouraging users to provide feedback on the release notes or the updates themselves. This can be done through in-app feedback forms, email, or dedicated feedback platforms. Actively listening to user feedback helps improve future updates and fosters a sense of collaboration and engagement with your user base.

Remember, effective distribution of release notes plays a crucial role in keeping your users informed and engaged with your product updates. By following these best practices, you can ensure that your release notes effectively communicate the value of the updates and help users make the most of your product.

How to Write Product Release Notes: Best Practices

Follow these best practices when writing release notes to ensure that your users can easily understand and benefit from the information you provide.

Release Note Format

  1. Heading: Start with a clear and concise heading that includes the product name, version number, and release date.

  2. Introduction: Provide a brief introduction summarizing the key highlights of the release.

  3. New Features and Enhancements: List new features and enhancements, using clear and concise language to describe each update.

  4. Bug Fixes: Document any bug fixes, including a brief description of the issue and how it was resolved.

  5. Known Issues: Mention any known issues that are not resolved in the current release, along with any workarounds or plans for future fixes.

  6. Upgrade Instructions: If applicable, provide users with information on how to upgrade their software to the latest version.

Use Clear and Concise Language

When writing release notes, use clear and concise language to ensure that your users can quickly understand the updates and changes. Avoid using technical jargon or industry-specific terms that may confuse your users.

Organize Information Logically

Organize release notes in a logical manner, making it easy for users to find the information they need. Start with the most significant updates and changes, followed by minor updates and bug fixes.

Use a consistent format

Follow a consistent format for presenting the information. This could include headings for new features, bug fixes, improvements, and known issues. Use bullet points or numbered lists to provide a clear and structured overview.

Start with a summary

Begin with a summary of the release that highlights the most significant changes or features. This provides a quick overview for readers who want to understand the update at a glance.

Be specific and detailed

Provide specific details about each change, including what was actually changed, added, or fixed. Include relevant information such as module names, version numbers, and any dependencies.

Highlight new features

Clearly describe the new features or enhancements and explain why they are important or beneficial to the users. Include any instructions or guidelines to help users effectively utilize the new features.

Mention bug fixes and improvements

Describe the bug fixes and improvements made in the release. Specify the bugs that were addressed and elaborate on the enhancements made to existing features or performance.

Include known issues or limitations

Document any known issues or limitations in the release. Be transparent about any known bugs or issues that are still present, and provide any workarounds or mitigation strategies if available.

Provide links or references: Include links or references to relevant documentation, user guides, or support resources that can provide additional information or assistance.

Include visual elements

Use screenshots, images, or diagrams to illustrate new features or changes whenever relevant. Visual elements help users better understand and visualize the changes.

Seek feedback

Encourage users to provide feedback or report any issues they encounter with the new release. Include contact information or a link where users can provide feedback or seek support.

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8 Great Release Notes Examples

To illustrate the best practices in action, here are five examples of well-written release notes from various software products:

Slack

Slack's release notes are known for their clear and concise language, as well as their engaging and friendly tone. They provide a brief summary of the updates, followed by a list of new features, improvements, and bug fixes. They provide a clear overview of each feature, including step-by-step instructions and links to further documentation or user guides. They also include screenshots and GIFs to demonstrate how to use the new features.

Trello

Trello's release notes follow a consistent format, with headings for new features, improvements, and bug fixes. They also include visual elements, such as screenshots and GIFs, to help users better understand the changes.

GitHub

GitHub's release notes are well-structured and easy to follow, providing a clear and concise summary of each update. They use bullet points to list new features, improvements, and bug fixes, as well as any known issues or limitations. They also include links to relevant documentation and user guides for further information and support.

Notion

Notion is a collaboration tool that combines notes, tasks, and databases. Their release notes stand out because they include not only the highlights of the release but also a comprehensive list of smaller changes and bug fixes. This level of detail shows that Notion values transparency and makes an effort to keep its users informed about every change, no matter how small.

Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office's release notes are organized logically, starting with the most significant updates and changes. They use clear and concise language to describe each update, making it easy for users to understand the changes.

Retool

Retool's release notes are comprehensive and informative, providing users with a clear understanding of the changes made in each release. They follow a consistent format, with headings for new features, improvements, and bug fixes, and use bullet points to present the information in an organized manner.

Intercom

Intercom's release notes are known for their user-centric approach, focusing on the benefits and improvements that each update brings to the users. They use clear and concise language to describe new features, enhancements, and bug fixes, and include visual elements such as screenshots and GIFs to help users better understand the changes. They also provide links to relevant documentation and support resources, making it easy for users to find additional information or assistance.

Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe's release notes highlight new features and enhancements, explaining their benefits and providing instructions on how to use them. They also mention bug fixes and improvements, as well as any known issues or limitations.

These examples demonstrate the importance of following best practices when writing release notes, ensuring that users can easily understand and benefit from the information provided.

Top 5 Tools for Writing & Publishing Release Notes in 2024

Supahub

Supahub is a powerful tool for writing and publishing release notes. With its centralized feedback collection, dedicated product changelogs, collaboration features, seamless integration, and emphasis on customer feedback, Supahub empowers businesses to effectively communicate product updates and engage with their user base. Supahub allows for customization, making it easy to brand the release notes to match a company's unique style and voice.

Easy Collaboration and Transparency:

Supahub fosters collaboration within teams by allowing for internal comments and discussions related to release notes. This feature ensures that the entire team is on the same page, resulting in more accurate and comprehensive release notes. Additionally, Supahub enables businesses to share their product roadmap directly with customers, providing transparency and keeping them informed about what features are being developed and when they can expect them.

Seamless Integration

Supahub makes it easy to embed feedback boards and release notes directly into your website or application. This seamless integration ensures that customers can access release notes and provide feedback without leaving the platform, enhancing the user experience and engagement. Furthermore, Supahub offers customization options, enabling businesses to match the look and feel of their website or application.

By utilizing Supahub, companies can streamline their release notes process, prioritize features based on customer feedback, and ultimately improve customer satisfaction and retention. Give Supahub a try and revolutionize your release notes experience today!

Headway

Headway is another popular tool for writing and publishing release notes. It offers a clean and intuitive interface, making it easy to create and manage release notes. Headway also provides options for customization, including the ability to add branding elements to make your release notes visually appealing.

Rapidr

Rapidr is a dedicated release notes tool that simplifies the process of creating, editing, and publishing release notes. With its user-friendly interface and collaboration features, teams can work together to produce accurate and comprehensive release notes. Additionally, Rapidr allows users to track updates and receive notifications, ensuring they stay informed about the latest changes and improvements.

Beamer

Beamer is a tool that focuses on delivering release notes directly to users. It offers a widget that can be integrated into your website or application, allowing users to access release notes directly from your platform. Beamer also supports segmentation, so you can target specific user groups with relevant updates.

AnnounceKit

AnnounceKit is a tool that helps companies create and deliver release notes effectively. It offers customizable templates and allows for easy integration into websites and applications. AnnounceKit also provides user segmentation and analytics to track user engagement with release notes.

LaunchNotes

LaunchNotes is a comprehensive release note management tool with features like version control, change tracking, and collaboration. It provides a centralized platform to create, manage, and publish release notes. LaunchNotes also allows users to provide feedback and receive updates on specific features.

GitLab

GitLab is primarily known as a version control system but also provides a robust release notes feature. It allows teams to create release notes directly from GitLab's interface, providing seamless integration with the development workflow. GitLab also supports customization options, including the ability to add release descriptions and update highlights.

Intercom

Intercom is a customer messaging platform that includes features for creating and delivering release notes. It allows for targeted messaging to specific user segments and provides the ability to collect user feedback directly within the release notes.

These tools offer various features and functionalities to help streamline the process of writing and publishing release notes, ensuring effective communication with users about updates and improvements.

Release Notes Template

Effective release notes are essential for keeping users informed about product updates and changes. A well-crafted release notes template ensures that your communication is clear, and concise, and provides the necessary information to users. In this blog post, we will explore a comprehensive template for creating release notes that effectively communicate the value of updates and engage users with your product.

Overview

Begin the release notes with a brief overview section. This should provide a high-level summary of the release, including the version number or release name, and the date of the release. The overview sets the context and helps users quickly understand the purpose of the release.

New Features

List the major new features introduced in this release. It's important to provide a concise description of each feature, highlighting its benefits or value to the users. Using bullet points or subheadings can make this section easy to skim through, ensuring users can quickly identify the new features that interest them.

Enhancements and Improvements

Highlight the enhancements and improvements made to existing features in this release. Similar to the new features section, provide a brief description of each enhancement or improvement and how it enhances the user experience or addresses user feedback. This section demonstrates a commitment to continuously improving the product.

Bug Fixes

List the bugs that were resolved in this release. Briefly describe each bug fix and its impact on user experience. This section showcases your dedication to maintaining product quality and responsiveness to user-reported issues.

Known Issues

Transparently communicate any known issues or limitations that users should be aware of. Briefly describe each known issue and provide any available workarounds. This section helps manage user expectations and equips users with the necessary information to mitigate potential issues.

Getting Help

Include contact information or links to support resources where users can seek further assistance or report any issues they encounter. This section encourages users to reach out for help and shows that you value their feedback and concerns.

Feedback

Prominently encourage users to provide feedback on the release notes or the updates themselves. This can be a simple prompt at the end of the release notes, inviting users to share their thoughts and suggestions. Actively listening to user feedback helps improve future releases and creates a collaborative relationship with your user base.

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FAQ

How long should product release notes be?

Product release notes should be concise and to the point. A good rule of thumb is to keep release notes under 500 words, with clear headings and bullet points.

Should product release notes be written for technical or non-technical users?

Product release notes should be written to cater to a non-technical audience so that most users can easily understand the updates and their impact on their experience.

How often should release notes be published?

This can depend on a product's update schedule, but typically release notes should be published after every significant update or release.

What information should be included in product release notes?

Product release notes should include information such as the version number or release name, new features, improvements, bug fixes, known issues, and any resources for getting help or providing feedback.

Should product release notes be translated for different languages?

If you have an international user base, it's essential to translate your product release notes into the appropriate languages for those users. This ensures that users across different regions can easily access and understand the updates made to the product.

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