6 Reasons Companies Like Customer.io & Intercom.io Spend so Much Time on Their Changelogs

December 3, 2015 Comments


Impact Index

Initial Effort LowHigh
Ongoing Effort LowHigh

Getting your team on board with updating customers and implementing a solution are the biggest first steps, so this is rated Low to Medium on Initial Effort.

Once implemented, you will need to keep your customers updated on an ongoing basis, so this is rated Medium on Ongoing Effort.


The term Changelog (aka Release Notes) has been around in the software development world for a long time. There, it is a list of changes to a piece of software. It is usually associated with a particular “release” and ordered chronologically. Here’s the Changelog for an open source software project called Sidekiq.

Changelogs don’t have to be that nerdy, however. In SaaS world, many successful products like CustomerIO and Intercom have taken the idea of a Changelog and applied it their products. They regularly publish updates on the changes they make, why they made the change, and explain how the change will affect customers.

Customer.io Release Notes

 

Anyone who has ever produced content can look at the example above and immediately tell that these are not quick posts. They take a lot of time. These are full blown blog posts with collateral and editing.

Why do companies spend their time on this? Why do we agree that they should?

Because Changelogs are super important for a lot of reasons.

Reason 1: It informs customers what is changing

What good is fixing a bug if nobody knows about it because they’ve been avoiding “that buggy part of the app”? What good is a new feature if your existing customers don’t even know it’s there?

David Cancel and the team at Driffft have been blogging lately that the future of marketing is marketing to your customers and not strangers. They call it Relationship Marketing.

And they’re right.

Changelogs are a part of Relationship Marketing.

Reason 2: It informs customers that there is change

How many times have you came to a new SaaS product website, saw their last blog post was 6 months ago and their last tweet was 4 months ago, and thought to yourself “NOPE”?

Customers like knowing the lights are on even if the things being changed are not something they’d use.

Product Fail Yeti says:

But customers are like children and they might get mad if other bugs get fixed before their bugs. Better to stay completely silent and never risk getting anyone annoyed.

Can you believe that guy? Don't listen to the Yeti. #FightTheYeti

Reason 3: It shows prospective customers how you communicate

For people like myself, an awesome changelog can make someone fall in love with a product before even using it. Changelogs are an opportunity to explain how you think about your product. It might not be a sexy marketing tag line that’ll convert you a billion users at a 90% conversion rate in 3 days, but it’ll make the astute reader respect the hell out of you, your team, and your product.

Intercom Product Changes
Intercom’s changelog includes thoughts on how and why one might want to use the new feature.

 

Reason 4: Because it forces your product team to think about things discretely

It’s a sign of maturity when a company is thinking about what they’re changing in discrete chunks. CustomerIO recently released version 5.5.12. Ok. These guys aren’t some young pups. They’re not screwing around. They are rigorous. I trust them.

Reason 5: It sets expectations and fosters accountability

“We released XYZ” -Company
“Oh really? XYZ is crap and doesn’t work in IE at all” -Customer comment

Just like email receipts are awesome because they make your customers ask themselves “do I really need to pay for this?” (which, trust me, you really do want happening) Changelogs are awesome because they make your customers think “oh ok cool that’s out now, I expect that it’s ready for me to use, and I’ll complain if that expectation isn’t met.”

You want these complaints.

Reason 6: It shows you care, and encourages your customers to reciprocate

Finally, we circle back the definition of Product Success: Product Success is about being thoughtful when it comes to what a product does at the periphery — outside the core product — and how those peripheral interactions foster an environment through which many direct and indirect forces carefully nudge the product to get better and better over time.

 

Setting up your own Changelog

Intercom and Customer.io both made their own, custom Changelog but that’s not required. Setting up your own Changelog can be pretty easy. Here are some tools you can use to hold that content:

Tumblr & WordPress

It’s interesting how many times a thematic, well-maintained Tumblr or WordPress blog can quickly and cheaply solve a problem, and that’s the case here too. Remember, at the end of the day, the Changelog is really just a series of entries listed chronologically.

Headway (Coming Jan 2016)

Headway is a very slick-looking app from the creator of jsFiddle. It’s not released the public yet, but it’s coming soon.

Oskar Krawczyk on Twitter

@angilly releasing to public after new years

Knowtify.io

Knowtify has a bunch of different tools, but one of them, called Inbox, can be used for new feature notifications: http://www.knowtify.io/inbox

Knowtify Inbox

[marketing alert]

Ramen

We started Ramen with the idea to help SaaS product people be successful, and as part of that we built something we call “Product Center”. Product center allows you to share product ideas and updates, as well as getting your customers to comment on them. You can try out Ramen for free.

[/marketing alert]

 

Who Else?

We’d like to turn this post into an archive of awesome Changelogs. If you know a product that has an awesome Changelog or Release Notes, let us know in the comments and we’ll add them.
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