Writing a dry matter of fact changelog may seem to be the quick thing to do, but it's missing out on an oppertunity to increase your brand's personality
Change logs give a rare chance for users to connect with the development of a product, and connect directly with that product's team. Obviously a change log needs to be informative, but if you want a user to read it, it also has to be enjoyable to read.
This interdependence between information and personality within what otherwise might be a relatively stale document becomes the recipe for writing good change logs.
I’m sure like me you’ve got way to many apps installed on your phone with each having an update every week or so. Maybe like me you also like to keep up to date with what’s happening with those apps, to be presented with drab, uninformative and sporadically mysterious patch notes like “Changes''. “Fixes” “Several improvements''.
It tells you nothing, either about the product or about the team behind it. Well, maybe it tells you the team doesn't think it’s worth their time to keep you in the loop about the tool you’ve put the energy and trust into. That's not to say you need to make a changelog for every single line of code. It's more that you should either write something worth reading, or skip that update altogether.
These one or two word enigmas, which I guess the developers might consider are ‘change notes’ do more to damage the brand or product than having no log at all. Sure you’ve told me there are changes but am I now expected to route round the software trying to find them?
Adding in a giant popup advert for my latest free to play fishing combat game in my app is technically a change, an update, or a patch, but not one many users would be too happy about, unless they're really into combat fishing. Adding obscurity to changelogs presents a window for miscommunication that can be and has been death knells for fledgling companies.
Lacking change notes is something the larger tech giants have been doing for nearly half a decade now, with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all providing limited or no information about what the changes entail. As we move into a world where more and more people are growing distrustful of the power of big tech, we also enter a world where people are seeking out smaller more transparent alternatives and - to bring this round to a marketing point - hosting a free change log can do just that.
I mentioned earlier how personality is key to a successful changelog. Don’t get me wron,g I understand right now I likely have a horde of developers shouting at me that “no, you put it in bullet points with no padding” and for some use cases that very well may be the right approach.
I’m by no means saying all change logs have to read like a poorly written comedy sketch so no need to post comments telling me why I’m wrong. Which would be hard at any rate as we haven't enabled comments on this blog.
If you're trying to build a real company though, not just a tool, you can’t afford to miss the opportunity to push your company personality. One of the ways we’ve found works is to think about the changes you want to express to your users and then imagine you're telling your friend at the pub when he asks you how the app is going.
You want to communicate what you've been working on, but not sound like a computer. To use a Star Trek reference, you want to be less Data and more Riker. Not too much Riker though, keep your clothes on.
You may have discussed the finer points of why you’ve moved to a red link colour rather than blue as a team, but your visitors weren’t privy to that discussion (unless you’ve got a serious data leak, in which case, you may want to go sort that out first).
Not only does explaining to your users your reasoning behind the change help increase your transparency and trustworthiness but you’ll also be surprised how much you can find it becomes a useful task to drill down into your own decision making. On ChangeCrab, you can create a free changelog today to try this out, and we offer free changelog feedback so you can even find out what your users think.
As always, until next time.
Dan @ CrabTeam