Release Notes Template for SaaS

What, how, and where you communicate the latest changes for your SaaS can be a massive source of user engagement. That’s where using a release notes template can help you consistently show your users how to get more value out of your product.

Think about it — would you rather sign up for a product that has detailed documents for every release or one where you’re always left wondering what’s new or what bugs have been fixed?

Exactly. Let’s dive into how to craft amazing release notes that not only engage your existing users but also attract new users to your SaaS.

TL;DR

  • Release notes are technical documentation that a SaaS company creates and distributes for each product release.
  • Release notes are important because they communicate new functionality to users who’ve bought an everchanging product and show your customers you’re listening to their requests.
  • You need to include the following in your release notes: header, overview, issue summary, resolution, impact, and additional resources.
  • There are several best practices for writing great release notes including using simple language, incorporating video tutorials, and linking to additional more detailed resources.
  • Using a template for your release notes is important to stay consistent in your communication, so we’ve put together a template for you to use.
  • You can distribute your release notes within your app, via email, on your website, on your blog, and on social media.
  • Mailchimp has a well-organized section called “What’s New” on their website where they publish all product updates.
  • Retool categorizes its release notes so users can easily search for changes that are most relevant to them.
  • UiPath uses a Table of Contents to improve the navigation within their release notes.
  • Amplitude incorporates video into their release notes to accelerate the knowledge transfer for new product features.
  • Sparktoro uses a combination of a simple text-only email and blog posts to communicate product changes to users.

What are release notes?

Product release notes are technical documentation that a SaaS company creates and distributes alongside a new product release or product update. They contain any of the following information:

  • New features and functionality
  • New use cases supported
  • Bug fixes
  • Bugs not yet fixed
Release notes template example funny
https://i.redd.it/uyf1x1m2akv41.jpg
An example of a funny release note

The primary need for release notes is for the customer but release notes can be adapted slightly to be used internally within the company. It’s worth noting though that they’re not a replacement for a product’s support documentation, which covers all documentation about a product, not just the last release.

Writing release notes usually falls on the product manager because they’re most familiar with what’s in the release.

So why are product release notes important?

Why are release notes important for SaaS?

With SaaS, customers know they’re buying a product that will change over time. So it’s important for a SaaS company to communicate all ongoing changes for an app to its end users.

Release notes are also an opportunity to show customers what you’ve been working on. If a lot of customers have been requesting a new feature and you’ve finally launched it, it’s great to call that out in the release notes to show customers you’re listening. Look at release notes as an opportunity to retain user engagement and possibly even increase it.

Release notes template for Slite.com
https://assets-global.website-files.com/5fda3048302e579473bfb454/6081822b29a8f272932a0883_CleanShot%20Safari%20New%20in%20Slite%20%E2%9C%A8%20-%20Slite%20at%2016.31.20.png
Example: release notes for Slite.com

Next up let’s take a look at what you should include in your product release notes.

What to include in your SaaS release notes

Release notes need to be succinct and only contain information that’s absolutely necessary. Here are five elements to include in a release notes template:

  1. Header: Product name, release number, date of release, and who the release notes were prepared by.
  2. Overview: Brief description to explain the main changes happening as part of the release.
  3. Issue summary: A short description of each change made as part of the release (new feature, enhancement, bug fix.)
  4. Resolution: The exact modifications that were made to the software to implement the change.
  5. Impact: Specify any steps users or admins needs to take to support the new release (e.g. configuration changes, prerequisites, hardware, etc.)
  6. Additional resources: Links to detailed blog posts, video tutorials, or documents on new features or enhancements.

Now let’s dive into some best practices for release notes.

How to write release notes & best practices

As we mentioned, it’s important for the release notes to be succinct. Technical documentation is usually boring for users to read so make your release notes quick and easy to read.

GIF of woman saying "wow this is boring"

Here are seven best practices:

  • Use casual language that’s easy to understand as a non-technical person.
  • Make sure they reflect your brand personality (e.g. humorous, friendly, sophisticated.)
  • Focus on the user and what benefits this release will bring them.
  • Use a consistent release notes template for every release.
  • Include images and screenshots where possible.
  • Create video tutorials for optimal engagement and knowledge transfer.
  • For bugs, document the steps to reproduce.
  • If there are revisions to your release notes, version them.
  • Direct users to relevant links with more detailed information (e.g. user guide, video tutorial, support documentation.)
  • Invite feedback from your end-users.

To help you write the most effective release notes, we’ve come up with a release notes template for SaaS for you.

Release notes template for SaaS

Following a template is important because it creates consistency. You want to be disseminating release information to your customers in the same way for every release so it’s as easy as possible to consume the information.

Here’s an example of a release note template with any internal-only information in italics.

<Date>

  • Date of release.
  • <Deployment tag number from GitHub>

<Preface>

  • Time period of changes (e.g. two weeks, one month.)

Shoutouts to people internally who have done a particularly good job on the release.

<New features>

  • The main “big bang” new features and how to access them.
  • Title of any new features (e.g. “Onboarding UI builder”)
  • The main objective of any new features (e.g. “Onboarding UI builder helps you create onboarding flows without bothering your developers.”)
  • Benefits of features using language like “You can…” instead of “Users should be able to…”

<Feature enhancements>

  • Important changes to existing features with any limitations clearly communicated.
  • Title of enhancement (e.g. “Dedicated URLs for Academy Articles.”)
  • The main benefit of the enhancement (e.g. “You can now provide your visitors with specific URLs to Academy pages, instead of the Academy homepage.”)

<Bug fixes>

  • Bug fixes for issues customers have reported ordered by level of impact to users.
  • One-liner description of the issue with a focus on impact (e.g. “Fixed: Users can now update their email address without having to fill out a phone number field.”)

<Additional resources>

  • Links to detailed blog posts, video tutorials, or documents about new features or enhancements.

<Ops>

  • Changes or improvements made to infrastructure for stability or security reasons.

NOTE: These are only released publicly if there’s a significant impact to users (e.g. “Guides now save 3x faster.”)

Now that you know what to include in your release notes and have a clear template to use, let’s take a look at where to distribute your release notes.

Where to distribute your release notes

Your release notes are not of much use if none of your customers can access them. So it’s important to distribute them in multiple places for maximum discoverability. To do this, you need to meet your different users where they are.

Here are five places you can distribute your release notes.

#1 — In-app

There are a few options for distributing your release notes within your app. Here are four options:

  • Announcement bar
  • Slideout
  • Modal
  • Tooltip

Userpilot happens to be a great tool for building these types of in-app release notes without any coding involved. It’s great because it lets you leverage the user analytics data and NPS scores to personalize your release notes.

For example, Postfity was able to target users who expressed disappointment in a missing feature through an NPS survey and display a slideout to them when the new feature became available.

Example of release notes modal from Postify

Applying personalization to release notes like this can be extremely effective in increasing user engagement.

#2 — Email

You may choose to distribute your release notes to your email list of customers. This ensures they get the release notes as soon as possible, as opposed to hoping they’ll go into the app and discover them on their own. Email is a good way to bring disengaged users back into your app.

Hubspot sends its product release notes via email along with other channels.

Example of Hubspot email about new features

#3 — Website

Every SaaS should have product release notes on their website, although many don’t. It’s an effective way to show you’re maintaining your SaaS and are consistently rolling out new features and bug fixes to users. Bonus points if they’re searchable — remember, good user experience is always important.

A tool called Releasenotes.io does a great job of displaying their release notes in a modal.

Release notes template in modal from releasenotes.io

Releasenotes.io also effectively markets its release notes in the navigation bar at the top of its website.

Release notes template in nav bar from releasenotes.io

#4 — Blog

A great way to communicate release notes to your customers is to put them in a blog post. That way they can be discoverable on your website and by search engines.

Medium uses its own platform to publish product updates in its dedicated publication titled Medium Release Notes.

Release notes template via blog from Medium

#5 — Social media

Publishing release notes on social media is an effective way of accelerating your reach and starting conversations around product improvements.

AJ, the founder of carrd.co, a no-code website builder, uses his Twitter account to communicate all new product improvements. You can see his release notes on Twitter get a lot of engagement.

Next up let’s take a look at some more examples of SaaS release notes.

Examples of great release notes for SaaS

The best SaaS release notes are brief, informative, and reflect the brand’s personality. Here are five great release notes to inspire your own!

#1 — Mailchimp’s “What’s New” section on their website

Mailchimp has a dedicated section to their website called “What’s New” that organizes all their product release notes in a simple and visually appealing way.

Release notes template on website from Mailchimp

All their product updates are organized into individual posts with an image and a CTA to go to the full post for a detailed overview of the new functionality. The updates are organized in chronological order and Mailchimp focuses on the benefit that each feature brings to the user. For example, instead of “update to domains”, they write “we’ll help you find the right custom domain for your business.”

Mailchimp release notes site

#2 — Retool categorizes types of changes for easy user skimming

Retool makes it really easy to skim through their changelog by grouping updates according to categories like “minor”, “improvement” and “new.”

Retool example of changelog

Going a step further, Retool gives users the chance to provide feedback on the release note to capture sentiment about the release.

#3 — UiPath includes a Table of Contents for easy navigation

Using a Table of Contents to organize release notes is an effective way to improve navigation. UiPath does this with its release notes to allow users to navigate the changes within the current release.

UiPath example of changelog

It also uses bright red arrows to draw attention to parts of the release notes that are most important for the user to review.

#4 — Amplitude incorporates video into their product release notes

Amplitude combines a set of short videos and screenshots in their product updates to accelerate the knowledge transfer with users. People are much more likely to watch videos than reading text so this is a clever way to increase engagement.

Amplitude example of video tutorials in release notes

Each short video starts with an animated introduction to give users a clear idea of what the new feature is. It then shows the feature in action in the application.

#5 — Sparktoro uses a simple email to direct users to their blog

Rand Fishkin uses a combination of email and a blog article to announce upcoming changes to Sparktoro. This process allows him to inform his end-user on more than one channel.

You can see he uses a simple text-based email to mention upcoming changes in a list format and links to an article discussing each change in detail. Users can then dig deeper into the change they’re particularly interested in.

Sparktoro example of email release notes

You’ll also notice his tone is very friendly and he shares Netflix show recommendations in the end to build a personal relationship with the reader.

Wrapping up — product release notes

Now you know how to create great release notes, we’re going to let you in on a little secret.

Release notes don’t have to be boring just because they’re technical documents. You can talk about your product improvements in a fun and engaging way that lets a customer connect with your company.

Use your release notes as an opportunity to delight your customer. And there’s no better example for this than Slack. So we’ll leave you with this awesome example from May 21, 2020 in which the Slack team uses conversational language to explain upcoming changes to their platform.

Example of entertaining Slack release notes

These release notes are sure to put a smile on any customer’s face.

Want to build product experiences code-free? Book a demo call with our team and get started!

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Userpilot is a Product Growth Platform designed to help product teams improve product metrics through in-app experiences without code. Check out userpilot.com

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Userpilot is a Product Growth Platform designed to help product teams improve product metrics through in-app experiences without code. Check out userpilot.com

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