Release Notes: An Overlooked Tool In Your Mobile App Development

Release notes are as old as software development itself. From operating systems to the simplest of applications, users have come to expect release notes detailing the features, fixes, and improvements that come with new versions.

Unfortunately, as software development has moved to mobile devices and development cycles have shortened, proper release notes have become a casualty. All too often, release notes only list miscellaneous new features and “performance improvements.”

While this may be a common trend, there are a number of reasons why you should still include detailed information.

Creates Value

One of the main reasons to include detailed release notes is the value they create in the customer’s mind. It’s been estimated that, on average, users install at least 1.5 apps per month. With that many apps—and their subsequent updates—vying for attention, including detailed release notes help your customers see the value in a given update.

Whether it’s a new feature or improved performance, letting your customers know why they should download the update can encourage more to do so.

Helps Prevent Unhappy Customers

Another, closely related benefit is preventing unhappy customers. While many customers will give feedback, or register a complaint, unless they know an update addresses their concern they may never realize the feature or improvement they wanted has been added.

Improved Security

Mobile users represent a potential gold mine for hackers and malware authors. This makes keeping up with the latest security improvements an important step in safeguarding end-users’ data and privacy.

Detailing what security improvements an app includes, as well as why it’s important for users to install it, can mean the difference between a critical app being adopted or ignored by users.

Build You Application’s Brand

An often overlooked reason to include detailed release notes is the potential to use those notes as a way to build your application’s brand. Medium, Tumblr, Slack, City Mapper and Transit App are just a few of the apps that have gained a reputation for including jokes and other comedic commentaries in their notes. Tumblr even took it farther by including a short fan fiction story about the founder, David Karp.

Ultimately, by making them smile or offering something interesting to look forward to, instead of ignoring an update notificiation, release notes like these engage users and ensure they take the time to check out a new update.

Apple and Google Are Pushing For It

Person holding their mobile phone with app icons showing.

One of the main reasons why developers should include more detailed release notes is because Apple and Google encourage it. Both companies provide guidelines on how to create effective release notes, and nowhere does either company endorse “performance improvements” as effective release notes.

Keep It Balanced

While virtually every company can improve the quality of the information included with their updates to some degree or another, it’s important to keep everything in balance. While two-word notes are far too short to be practical, convoluted, overly lengthy release notes can be just as frustrating to the user.

Similarly, while humor, jokes and even short stories are a great way to build an app’s brand, it shouldn’t be done at the expense of important information. Companies looking to adopt this approach do well to take a page from Slack’s developers. As TechCrunch points out, Slack strikes the perfect balance of informing and entertaining users at the same time. Always be sure that users who want to get straight to the facts can do so quickly, while at the same time providing the jokes or entertainment other users look forward to.

Whatever approach you go with, serious or light, recognize release notes for what they are: an important way to engage with customers and build your app’s brand and value. With the Embrace platform, you can keep track of changes and know what your customers need, and the best way to describe it in the release notes. Take it for a test drive today to see how it can help you improve your application releases.

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