Release Notes

Need for software release notes templates

By on January 11, 2022

Being current is the currency of the app-first world, and a common side effect of this constant need to keep up the pace is constant feature upgrades and bug fixes. Customers invest in the product or solution with the expectation that the features will improve to take advantage of the developments in the industry, and they might also have good ideas and suggestions about improving the product or solution. The number of avenues available to them to interact with brands, means that they not only expect organizations to act on those suggestions and grievances, but to be held responsible on social media too. Publishing software release notes can help in letting them know of all the minor changes and improvements that have taken place, and templates make the process easier.

What are software release notes?

Software release notes are the technical documentation that accompanies regular updates – and product launches. These release notes succinctly describe changes included in the latest version. Since the level of articulation involves understanding of technical terms, product managers end up with the job of drafting them. While they consider product users as primary customers, a release note may not be addressed to them alone. It can also be used internally, as it provides relevant information about a new product or product update. But while including information in the software release note, product managers have to be careful of not turning into technical writers and produce a user guide that offers in-depth product related documentation.

When is the software release notes template needed?

After discussion with the developers and identifying the changes, finding the right release note template can reduce the burden on product managers. There are many varieties of templates, where some include a lot of sections from feature introduction to bug fixes, while some others take a more minimalistic approach. Depending upon the users who are expected to read the release notes, the template can be decided on.

Why are software release notes so important?

Software release notes are not just documentation – they provide a direct line of communication to customers. They can be a unique channel to build engaging relationships with users. As users pay for the software products they use, they expect to be kept up to date with the norms on an ongoing basis. By sharing product release notes at regular intervals, they will know where to check for app updates if they need to. Software release notes that highlight features added from the requested list, let users know that their feedback is valuable.

What to include in a software release note?

A software release note, at its most basic, is outlining product changes or solutions from the last release. These changes can be bug fixes, new features, optimization efforts, or something else. While these sound like a lot to include in an internal release note, care should be taken to keep the release notes brief and informative. There is no specific release notes format that works for all – organizations, even teams within organizations, have their own product release notes formats. Having said that, there are certain aspects that are usually present in release notes of all shapes and sizes. They are:

  • A header that includes name, release number and date.
  • An overview section that provides a brief description of new features.
  • An issue summary section that gives a short description for each issue addressed, bug solved (including steps on how to reproduce the bug), or enhancement introduced.
  • The resolution section describes the changes made to address the enhancement or bug.
  • The impacts list in the product release notes any actions that need to be performed by users or stakeholders – like configuration changes, hardware requirements or something else.

These fields can be completed in any program – even Microsoft word. But doing the process manually can take a long time and effort. The headings of these sections and important updates need to be highlighted, as users might skim down to the features that matter to them. Thinking of the release note or product update as a blog post might help in crafting creative yet impactful headlines – in fact, the marketing team might be able to help. Adding screenshots can simplify the process of visualizing the changes for users. A complex or significant change can be linked to a short video tutorial too.

 

How do I create a software release note?

There are no hard and fast rules of writing release notes: a popular trend is to use an irreverent narrative, but that might not be everyone’s cup of tea. The idea is to include essential information, but also to have a little fun with it. Most templates cover these, but it pays to note down some best practices.

Starting right

Using jargon is a big no while writing good release notes. Aiming to focus on the impact on the users instead of the internal implementation tends to provide best results. Each note should be a sentence or two long for maximum impact without going into a detailed explanation. The most common way to start is with the version number and release date, which are present in any software release note template. Major releases can get special mentions here as additional sections – a significant release might have a name that means something internally, for example.

Necessary changes

If the new release involves significant change to the UI or app behaviour, it is called out immediately in a great release note. The best way to do so is to describe the behaviour change cases in user engagement, how to address them, and the repercussions of not adopting the change. This template structure can be left out for minor releases that wouldn’t impact user experience in a big way.

Enhancement with the features

Once the major changes are out, the time is right to showcase the new features that have been included as templates might have. Highlighting the advantage to users is better accepted. Saying ‘added feature to increase app sleep’ means nothing to users, who may be interested in knowing more about ‘reduced boot idle times by 0.8 seconds’.

Resolved issues

The issues that were either reported or discovered are usually listed next in templates. These sections should include as much detail as possible, including where the bug was introduced, how to replicate it, and measures taken to remedy it.

Known issues

If any issues that were discovered since the last release, mentioning them here would be important. Listing the measures to remedy the situation and the expected timeline of remedy can also be posted, and it can be moved to the resolved issues section in the next release.

 

 

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