The Changelog

The Changelog

Luis
by Luis

The changelog is one of the most visited pages on our website. It's visually appealing, informative, and recently a new way to distribute content to our users.

We are using it as a new marketing channel and you can too.

"Your changelog is one of the best I know because it's transparent, you can always see what's going on and see that the app keeps improving fast..."

Simon M.

What is a changelog?

For those who aren't familiar with the concept, a changelog is a tool used to announce changes to a project in a chronological order. Most websites out there with changelogs usually limit to technical updates for current users, but not us. We want ours to be a detailed timeline of our company's journey for new and existing users.

Our changelog

We're not reinventing the wheel here; we are only experimenting with this format of updating customers but with a twist, and we're sharing our experience with you.

Here are a few takeaways and a free goodie for you as well!

Be succinct

Try to keep it short, preferably with only one line of text. The tags (for example IMPROVEDBETANEW) immediately tell the user what the change is about, helping you to go straight to the point.

Improved changelog entry

Sometimes notes are needed to complement the text. We opted for formatting them in smaller font size and different color.

If one line and note is not enough, add a read more link and bring the user to a separate in-depth article.

Add images, gifs, or videos.

Without graphics, it's just a long list of boring text. Try adding images or short videos to enhance the content.

But you don't want to cover the changelog with images. Otherwise, it will become hard to read, losing its appeal.

We usually add images to make the content clearer. For example, if you see this:

You have no idea what this is about; you have no context. But when adding a zoomed-in screenshot, you immediately understand it all.

Entry with image

Make it more than just the product.

Traditional changelogs usually contain modifications to the software like new features, bug fixes, and improved functionality. But this is where you can be creative.

We weren't getting many views on our blog posts and we knew people liked the changelog page, so we added a BLOGtag to the changelog, and people started reading our posts more!

Other tags have been added recently as well. We hired a new employee, so we added a HIREDtag, and one of our users took the time to write an email, welcoming the new teammate!

Email it too!

It's an excellent alternative to the classic overused email newsletter. At the end of 2019, we sent a newsletter formatted as the changelog. It turned out to be a success. The email open-rate was good, our blog post views went up, and we even received encouraging messages to keep this going!

Changelog email newsletter

Some of our users liked the email template so much that they asked us about the email marketing service we used to design it. We didn't use any, we built it in-house, using simple HTML tables to ensure top rendering results.

<!-- Changelog entry  -->
<table align="center" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%" style="max-width: 600px">
  <tr>
    <td bgcolor="#ffffff" align="center">
      <table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%" style="max-width: 600px">
        <tr>
          <td class="label-container"></td>
          <td class="changelog-date">
            December 3, 2019 <span class="app-version">v9.10.1</span>
          </td>
        </tr>
        <tr>
          <td class="label-container">
            <table width="100%">
              <tr>
                <td>
                  <table align="right">
                      <td class="label fixed">
                        FIXED
                      </td>
                  </table>
                </td>
              </tr>
            </table>
          </td>
          <td>
            <table >
              <tr>
                <td class="changelog-text end-of-entry">
                “Save as…” not working on desktop since previous release
                </td>
              </tr>
            </table>
          </td>
        </tr>
      </table>
    </td>
  </tr>
</table>
<!-- End changelog entry -->

You can download and use the free editable HTML by clicking the button below.

One note. Email clients and service providers have tricky relationships with emails that contain internal styling. Therefore it's recommended to do inline styling. But let's be honest, this is very painful to create and difficult to maintain. So our HTML template includes internal CSS.

Fortunately, you can use tools, like this one, to turn internal CSS to inline with the click of a button. Some email marketing services will do this for you automatically.

Are you convinced?

Yes! But how can you implement it? Well, there are many changelog SAAS that offer precisely this. Here are three great options:

  • Canny: A single service to that lets you implement a changelog, a roadmap, and a feature requests system.
  • Beamer
  • Changefeed

Or you can build your own like us! It's a simple YAML file in our Rails app. Maybe we can do another blog post about it. Reach out if you would like that.

We hope your users enjoy this as much as ours did!

Luis
Luis Manjarrez

Growth at Missive
Follow me on Twitter