Ever since people started updating software there was a need to document those updates with software release notes. Back in the day, those software release notes were usually read by IT people who manually updated the software.
Today, when every user is responsible for updating their software themselves, companies have to start paying attention to how they write their software release notes. That’s why we’ll be looking at 6 of the best software release notes examples.
What are software release notes?
But first, before showing you great software release notes examples, we need to define what they are.
Software release notes are documentation that is created and distributed along with a product this is launching or a product that is getting an update. They usually describe all of the changes and known issues that come with that update. They can be created for both internal and external use.
Why are software release notes so important?
Today, users pay for the software they use on an ongoing basis and they expect to gets updates in the same fashion and if you don’t provide those updates, they are ready to leave if you don’t deliver on their expectations.
Software release notes act as a kind of direct line of communication between you and your customers. If they are used effectively, they can be a unique and engaging channel to build better relationships with your users by keeping them excited about the software you are building.
By sharing your release notes regularly, you also set realistic expectations. Release notes are a great way to keep users informed and to try to retain those users that might be frustrated because a certain bug hasn’t been fixed yet or because a feature they want isn’t added yet. That’s why software release notes are great for letting users know that their feedback was heard and used to make changes and improve the software.
What makes some software release notes stand out from others?
As you probably know, most software release notes tend to be uneventful:
“Bug fixes and performance improvements.”
“This update brings performance and stability updates.”
Yawn. This is boring. No one wants to read this, not even your most devoted users. Plus you are not saying anything. All users know that new updates bring bug fixes, performance, and stability updates.
Writing release notes can be a daunting task. Sometimes, they're an afterthought, written only the second before a dev team is ready to publish the new version of their app. This results in many release notes being bored.
Software release notes that stand out from the rest almost always tend to be very interesting. You want to read them even when you know that you are reading something that was originally intended to be read by the people who updated the software. Stand-out software release notes tend to show some personality. Also, some of them are quite humorous.
6 best software release notes examples to take inspiration from
Now that we know what are software release notes, why are they so important and what makes some of them stand out, let’s take a look at the 6 best software release notes examples.
1. How Slack writes release notes?
Slack takes an interesting approach to their release notes which is the reason why so many people list it as one of their favorite software release notes examples. They want you - the user - to see the info about their new update, no matter where you hang out. They do this by posting updates on all their social channels, write blog posts, a changelog, to the App Store and even utilize their own in-app update center.
On Twitter, they focus on posting about one specific thing that they have updated. They keep the same simple theme throughout all of their social media and in-app posts, while at the same time posting longer, more detailed blog posts and changelogs. This way they are able to notify the regular users (via social), as well as those that are interested in reading more (blog posts and changelogs).
The language that they use on social and in App Store is short, sweet, and natural-sounding. By writing like this, they are letting users know that they are actually fixing bugs and improving the app continually. Of course, the language throughout all channels is on-brand and their personality really shines through.
Pros and cons of Slack’s release notes
Pro: Updates are posted on multiple channels, which ensures most users don’t miss them
Con: Not all of their users are fans of the silly style of the release notes
2. How Teamwork made their features and development roadmap publicly visible?
Another one of the great software release notes examples comes from Teamwork who have created a roadmap format for their release notes. This gives customers insight into Teamwork's overall vision for the future of their product. A roadmap lets their user know everything that has been done up to a specific date plus everything that lies ahead.
In their release notes, their copy briefly and clearly expresses the intent of everything they did. By writing in this style, they are able to fit a huge amount of information on a single page. This also lets users know that they can count on updates in the future. For those that are interested in learning more, they link to in-depth blog posts for each update.
Pros and cons of Teamwork’s release notes
Pro: A roadmap with all of their release notes written in a brief and clear ways builds user trust
Con: Due to the specific way of organizing notes, they aren’t able to show all of the updates
3. How Intercom blends webinars with software release notes?
Intercom takes an interesting approach to their release notes which is why it’s one the favorite software release notes examples on any list. Recently, they have started grouping similar new features and improvements into a sort of 'wrap-up' announcement. This way, they are able to maximize all the touchpoints they have with customers by pretty much creating a list of all relevant updates.
This wrap-up announcement can be in a few forms, from a simple email or a blog post to even a webinar - which is one of their specialties. Almost all of their release notes include a changelog.
These “New in Intercom” webinars occur on a regular basis and usually last under an hour. If you are not able to attend the webinar but have registered for it, they will send you a recording. This is also useful if you want to reiterate on a specific feature that you are interested in.
Pros and cons of Intercom’s release notes
Pro: Similar and smaller new features get grouped into a “wrap-up announcement” and can be in multiple formats - from a simple email to a full-fledged webinar
Con: Having so many different ways of announcing new improvements can be very time- and budget-consuming
4. How Missive’s releases notes are more like a journey of their existence
The Missive team has probably taken a cue from Teamwork as the style of both of their release notes are quite similar. They use their changelog as an opportunity not only to showcase all the bug fixes and features they have introduced but also to showcase their latest blog posts, announcements, company retreats, and pretty much anything else related to Missive. This is a great way to build better brand trust and stronger relationships with their users as their users are able to see something different than just technical schpiel.
The words they use are short and to the point and they never include any other unnecessary info. When appropriate, they also use emojis which are very on-brand. Also, all of the items listed in the changelog (it's a pretty long list) are labeled accordingly.
Pros and cons of Missive’s release notes
Pro: Their changelog consists of new features and bug fixes, as well as their latest blog posts and other company-related content
Con: Some people just want to see what’s new and improved
5. Hubspot’s in-depth release notes
A bit different than the other software release notes examples in this list, Hubspot posts long-form blog posts that highlight major feature releases that could change the way their users use the product.
They also post shorter blog posts with step-by-step tutorials to teach users how to use those groundbreaking features. Also, they have a great filter on the blog which allows users to categorize feature updates and only see ones relevant to their work.
These help documents (short blog posts) are also searchable and SEO-friendly which is great to get more marketing value from them in the long run.
Pros and cons of Hubspot’s release notes
Pro: A unique approach to their release notes — they post long-form blog posts about new features
Con: Some people want to read shorter and more concise release notes
Medium's software release notes is an example about which people have very different opinions due to the creative and off-the-wall style. These notes are definitely an extension of their overall company mission of inspiring creativity in the people who use their platform. Their notes include everything from haiku to ASCII illustrations of a bug.
However, even though their release notes are quite funny, not all users are fans. Some of them even expressed their dissatisfaction because they “don’t get it” and can’t actually figure out what the update is about.
Pros and cons of Medium’s release notes
Pro: Very on-brand, funny and interesting for some people
Con: Hard to understand and usually not informative for other people
A few takeaways…
All release notes are subjective. Some people read them, some don’t. Some like a certain style, others don’t. Almost all people want to be informed, but only some want to be entertained as well.
However, we believe that all software release note examples in this post:
- Are always informative and sometimes engaging (when appropriate).
- Sound like they were written by a human.
- Are well formated and designed, as no one likes walls of text.
- Rewarding for those that are have read them.
In the end, it is up to you and your company to figure out which style works best for you. Just make sure that your release notes provide users with informative and meaningful content that is and worth your users to read them.