Tim's Weblog
Tim Strehle’s links and thoughts on Web apps, software development and Digital Asset Management, since 2002.

What DAM software release notes should look like

As you can see on Planet DAM, many DAM software vendors have a blog. Some of them use it to inform their customers about new product versions – software developers are calling this “release notes” or a “ChangeLog”. For existing customers, this is extremely important information. They need to know about the availability of a new version of their DAM software, about new features, changes in existing features, and bug fixes.

I assume all of you DAM vendors are providing your customers with release notes for new versions, with most of you distributing them by e-mail, not making them publicly available. Probably because you’re afraid that competitors will steal your features, and that the inevitable list of bug fixes will drive prospects away. I’d like to encourage you to rethink this decision: Publicly available release notes get you free and highly relevant “content marketing”, i.e. less need for making up pseudo-educational blog posts (that’s not you, of course). They’re great for your customer experience, helping you reach the “end users” who don’t receive your lovingly-crafted e-mail. And you’ll show prospective customers that you care and make constant progress, giving them a glimpse into your “support and maintenance” practices. (You do have great customer service, I’m sure!)

Regardless of how you’re distributing your release notes, you should make sure they’re concise, complete, and well-illustrated. They should not just list changes, but also explain the business reasoning behind major changes. As a bonus, you might want to add an outlook on what’s planned for the next releases.

Screenshots – or even better, screencasts (video) – are an indispensable part of your release notes. It’s pretty stupid if we in the DAM industry talk about the importance of visual content and video in our marketing material all the time (it’s our raison d'être, after all), yet fail to embrace it when it comes to informing and educating our customers.

Please check out:

Let me know if you have pointers to other good, public DAM release notes. I’m happy to add them to this list.

As you probably know, I’m working for a DAM vendor too. We’re still struggling with providing good release notes: There’s an extremely technical ChangeLog and the occasional, more customer-friendly summary, both distributed in private. And recently, thanks to Nina in marketing, blog posts like this (incomplete, with reasoning but no outlook, screenshots but no video). There’s definitely room for improvement.