If you are on a software development or testing team, do you ever find yourself asking: What build files need to be updated? What features are ready for testing? Is this a known issue? Or do you keep hearing, “That’s a known issue; we don’t test that feature.” If your answer is yes, then you will appreciate the value of release notes.
Software release notes convey two important things:
1. They explain what changes, deficiencies and defects were addressed in a product release
2. They inform the reader about installation and deployment.
The audience for release notes can be testers, support staff and management. There are generally two types of release notes:
1. Internal for Management, Testers, DB Administrators – summarizes the changes made so the project team is all on the same page.
2. External for the Client and End Users – summarizes the changes made so users can see how development has affected the way they interact with the system.
As a tester for Segue Technologies, I’m going to focus on Internal release notes and how they support a development project.
The Benefits of Release Notes
Release notes are a pivotal piece of project documentation that aren’t often created. They can increase your project’s efficiency by establishing expectations. By including a list of recognized complications, you enable Quality Control (QC) to center their testing efforts on relevant features that were related to testing. Additionally, you can refrain from wasting valuable QC hours investigating and reporting problems that have already been identified. When such information isn’t provided in release notes, jarring speed bumps in the project’s life cycle often occur as the team pauses to sync up information.
Since there are many things that need to be included in release notes, a template can be a hassle-free way to generate your notes with all the information that people need to know. Release notes should be simple, concise, and they should, at minimum, include the following information:
- A Build Identifier: A build identifier helps a person keep track of what changes occurred in which release of the product.
- Installation Instructions: Instructions for installation can be in the release notes if they are short and need to be done for the version you are releasing. If the instructions are long, place a link to them in the release notes.
- Update Instructions: This is only applicable when a full installation is not required. Identify the changes for this release. For example, if a library needs to be updated, indicate in the instructions how this is done.
- Advice for Testers: For example, let your testers know that a change was made to feature ‘A’ and this may have a ripple effect through other features. This allows your testers to improve their testing efforts.
- New Functionality: Include information on new features or functionality that you’ve added in this release.
- Removed Functionality: Detail the features or functionality that you’ve taken out in this release.
- Implementation Notes: Explain any features that you’ve implemented in a way that differs from the requirements.
- Fixes: Discuss any errors or bugs that have been fixed in this release and their ticket number.
- Outstanding Issues: Include features that are not fully implemented or that are released with known errors. When applicable, let your tester know the workarounds for these issues/
A good set of release notes can help make a release cycle smooth and more efficient. A lack of or insufficient release notes can lead to delays, repetitive reporting of issues and increased project hours. When you begin using release notes you will quickly see the benefits. Remember to ask your readers for feedback. You’ll find your project runs more efficiently when your audience isn’t left wondering what, how, and when things are happening.