One of the first things people say when I tell them to invest time in writing meaningful release notes is, “But Aleen, people don’t read them.” I hear you, and you’re right! Most people don’t read release notes, but the ones who do are the ones that matter.
People who write about apps read release notes to learn about what’s changed. Great release notes reduce friction for people who want to write about your update. When your app is reviewed on well-read tech blogs, more people will download it. More people downloading and using your app means even more growth as your new users tell even more people about it.
Keep in mind that tech journalists are busy people, and they may look at dozens of apps on a given day. If you don’t provide meaningful release notes, you’ll force them to make a choice: either dig into the app and come up with a list of improvements on their own or skip writing about your app altogether. Why take the chance? Make it easy for them to feature your app!
The people who read your release notes are often your most enthusiastic users. They’re the ones who want to know what’s new. They’re the ones who read to see if the bug they reported has been fixed in your latest release. They’re the ones who will tell their friends and family about your app; maybe they even help other people install it and walk them through using it.
Just like good release notes help journalists write about your app, good release notes give your users guidance on how they can talk about your app. They’re also a way to drum up excitement; users can read the app’s release notes and see a new feature or fix they’ve been asking for. One of the major ways that people talk about release notes is over social media, and that can also help your app get more attention.
Further, your release notes show that you respect your users. They demonstrate that you want everyone to know what’s going on with the software they love and maybe even depend on.
In short, great release notes get the right people talking.
While fun release notes (see 1Password for Mac’s version 6.8 release notes) can garner a lot of attention for an app, what’s most important is that they are informative and that they make sense to non-technical readers. We’ll talk more about release notes in later blog posts and, of course, the Field Guide will cover them in even more detail.