Changelogs are considered a “must have” when starting a company. They are a way of logging a product's history in chronological order, documenting every change made to a product from the first bug discovered to new improvements made.
The following article discusses the multiple options a startup company has when considering where to start when in search of a changelog.
A changelog can be the most beneficial part of a company, providing transparency between the customer and developers and educating the client more on the product they intend to use by making them more aware of changes made on the product. That transparency then improves communication between the company and customer. The customer will feel more involved in the product’s development and as a result will be more satisfied with the product itself.
Changelogs also improve the feedback provided by customers since they are aware that their opinions and concerns are being addressed and taken into consideration. This is proven by the improvements and issues addressed and documented in the changelog.
Finally, changelogs are an effective way to boost morale within the development team as the history of the product (including updates, resolved issues and bugs) will encourage individuals to work more diligently on making the best product. This means that not only are the customers benefiting, the team is as well.
Examples of Changelogs
Now that you have an understanding of what a changelog is and what the benefits are, here is a list of five well-known changelogs that your company can use as templates moving forward.
Intercom is known for having a clear, concise and simple changelog. Easy access is presented through the ‘What’s New’ page provided on the site’s main page, displaying new changes and updates the product has undergone.
Intercom also provides visually appealing and easily accessible updates which have an image, description, tags and other features to help distinguish it from other updates. The addition of photos, videos and GIFs to the updates helps better explain new updates to the product and attract customer’s attention. This style of updates ensures the information is memorable, easy to understand or process and provides features where customers can react to the changes.
Intercom also has organized navigation and segmentation, a simple fixed navigation system. This system allows you to scroll through and filter products according to different features such as updates, date, product type, etc. Through both the visuals and customer-focused style of portraying information, Intercom puts the focus on what the customer needs moving forward and how it will help optimize work moving forward. They achieve this by providing articles, and sections labeled “read more” to learn more on the improvements being made and how they affect the product itself.
Mailchimp, similar to Intercom, has a section on the website named “What’s New” that organizes updates into a clean and simple layout that is user friendly and visually appealing to the audience. An example of this is presenting the newest announcement in larger font at the top of the list as the “latest and greatest” update so far. Updates at the top are shown to have a small description that links to a larger article with more information.
Mailchimp is definitely the best changelog if you are looking for a product that revolves around a chronological presentation of the updates and changes to the product. Underneath the latest update, the remaining updates are broken down and organized in chronological order by month. The style of navigation allows the user to jump back and forth between months, which is made easier by the succinct titles which create a short but simple explanation as to what has been changed.
Mailchimp values both a user friendly product and a ‘short and sweet’ style of communication that is appreciated by users.
Hubspot is a little different from Intercom or MailChimp, taking a unique approach by breaking the updates down into each individual product so the changes made are documented in separate sections. The changelog then uses chronological order to organize each section, ensuring that users can easily locate updates for the specific product they are looking for.
In addition to the different approach Hubspot uses it provides an effective navigation system, utilizes helpful visual elements and provides short and succinct titles, and descriptions to the audience. The navigation box Hubspot uses divides the information by product, further breaking down the information with “Featured Updates” and “All Updates” headings. This ensures customers can find what they are searching for as quickly as possible without having to scroll through weeks’ worth of updates.
The visual elements and the succinct titles go hand in hand. The screenshots act as previews, breaking up text to provide a visual understanding of what is being discussed in the update. Meanwhile the titles focus on what the customer can now do with the update provided, while the text provides the information without additional fluff. This kind of changelog is straight to the point, discussing how the update will make the product better for the customer.
Slack uses a combination of the previously mentioned changelogs to provide a simple, user-friendly, and effective style of presenting changes made to the product. Slack uses different “threads” to separate different kinds of updates or products, then organizing the information in chronological order, by month and by year.
Unlike other changelogs Slack has detailed outlines on the changes being made, how customers can prepare for said changes, the risks or concerns associated with not updating with the product and a specific date as to when this change will take place. This kind of detail effectively eases any concerns customers may have and keeps them informed of new changes the company is planning on making on the product as they are confirmed.
In addition, Slack has organized the changelog further by colour coding the updates as pink, purple, or green. Pink represents depreciations or features that have been removed while green refers to new additions or updates to the product. Meanwhile purple is used to represent previews of newer changes to be made to the product.
UserVitals does a creative job of incorporating all of the features people love about changelogs into their product. Product changes are made visible and are easy for customers to access, through the chronological order presented via a website widget or the customer portal. The changelog widget allows customers to view the most recent updates to a product as they happen, while the customer portal updates customers providing an entire history of previous updates as well. To ensure customers are comfortable using the new features or changes made to the product, links provide documentation to guide customers.
UserVitals allows companies to easily create and manage their changelog posts. These entries can include a hero image and explanation images throughout. Also, they can be organized via tags and custom labels created by each company to best fit the update being provided. Companies are also able to link changelogs to feedback stories to allow customers to see how the feedback they provided affected the further changes made to the product.
Finally, UserVitals enables your customers to subscribe to updates, which sends them an automatic email every time you publish a new changelog entry. Whenever a changelog is published the customer can instantly view the change, saving hours of additional work for the team and encouraging better customer engagement. With UserVitals, the feedback loop can be effectively closed and communicated to customers.
Changelogs are an effective way of boosting morale within the development team and providing the customers with important updates in real time. The history of the product (e.g. new features, product improvements, and bug fixes) will encourage the team to work more diligently and will persuade customers to continue to use the product and provide feedback, because it is clear to them that their concerns are being addressed. The previous five examples are the top five changelogs, but nothing quite beats UserVitals.