Product Management

Some Fruitful Thoughts On How to Prepare Release Notes

Some Fruitful Thoughts On How to Prepare Release Notes

Product managers and product owners use different kinds of professional documents during the products’ lifecycles. Each document in product management has a special meaning and strategic importance. Release notes are also a part of this story.

We have already described the details and meanings of many PM documents in our previous posts, all of them help to make release management perfect. You already know how to prepare a product specification, how to build great plans and strategies using smart roadmaps, prioritize tasks and objectives, create product requirements document (PRD) and so on and so forth. It’s time to pay some attention to one more document – Release Notes.

Release Notes are tech documents that accompany products (basically, software) in beta stages or any product that has been enhanced or optimized. The notes explain to customers or users all the details of the particular version of the product they are using. They are aimed to assist clients with installing the update and provide confidence regarding it.

Writing release notes can be a tricky process. They shouldn’t be obliging as just a must-have, they should be effective and useful.

 

Key goals of Release Notes

In most cases, Release Notes explain what was changed with the new version of your product.

How to write release notes?

In addition, the document is aimed to:

  • inform users about bug fixes and functionality extension.
  • focus testers on the bugs fixes and verification and features correction.
  • prepare changes for user manuals, training materials, and descriptions.
  • assist in advertising a new product version.

If you use any issue-tracking system or a product management tool such as all-in-one product management platform Hygger.io, you may definitely apply it to generate your Release Notes.

Product management platform

Your development team should be the main contributor to Release Notes. It’s a good practice to allow developers and QA specialists to capture any release notes related info against your working items.

 

How do we use Release Notes?

Release Notes are distributed with products. Sometimes – when products are still in the development or testing. The document can be delivered to customers when an update is released (for products that have already been in use by customers).

You may find different variations of release notes writing, as there is no standard format or a single template for it. Companies usually adopt their own formats based on product requirements and information types.

 

How to write Release Notes?

The content depends on the release type as well. Here’s the example of content for release notes:

  • Header title – the name of the document. Here you may note a product name, release date and its number, note version, etc.
  • Brief – an overview of the product and changes.
  • Links to installation instructions, a user manual, an archive.
  • Goals – a brief overview of the Release Notes goals with a listing of what is new in this release, (bug fixes and new features).
  • Summary – a short description of the bugs and issues.
  • Steps to reproduce that were followed when the bugs were encountered.
  • Resolution – optimization that was made to fix the bugs.
  • Users’ and support impact – the actions needed by the end-users.
  • Notes – all the notes concerning a product installation, its upgrades and documentation.
  • Contacts – support contact info.

In short, you can use the following steps to prepare Release Notes (again, there is no specific standards here and this can vary for each company and each project):

  1. Clarify and detail product requirements.
  2. Explain how to install the update.
  3. Add extra info about updating vs installing.
  4. Describe what is new.
  5. Note the changes in the release.
  6. Clarify outstanding issues with the product and propose troubleshooting tips if possible.
  7. Add contacts at the bottom of the release note document.

Look at a part of Release Motes of Firefox projects:

Release Notes example

How to organize archival Release Notes?

All Release Notes from the prior versions of products should be archived (on your website) so you and your customers can get to them.

If your Release Notes are brief, you may place each version on a single page. It’d be better if the most recent Notes were at the top of the page.

Do you have your own examples or a special format for release notes? Feel free to share them or comment how you do it!

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  • Kate

    Hi Pavel. We try to keep our release notes short, intuitive and easy to read. We usually avoid technical terms and try to include pictures or videos, to make them more engaging. I recommend a tool we’re using to post our release notes called Beamer.